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Jen Shah Pleads Guilty

By Jordan Walker, J.D. | Last updated on
Jen Shah, star of "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City," appeared before a U.S. District Court judge and pleaded guilty in her federal fraud case. Shah was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in 2021. She originally pleaded not guilty to all charges and has adamantly denied any wrongdoing on her part until her court appearance this week.

Who Is Jen Shah?

Shah is best known for her role on the latest installment of the reality television franchise that documents the constant drama surrounding a select set of women with too much money and time on their hands. She portrays herself on the show as a successful businesswoman, but what exactly her "business" is has been a constant topic of discussion. Shah is married to Sharrieff Shah, an attorney and football coach at the University of Utah. He is not representing his wife. During season one, the couple lived with their two sons in a $3.9 million home Shah refers to as the "Shah Ski Chalet." The home is currently on the market for $7.6 million. Shah quickly became a fan favorite for her extravagance and constant drama with her friends. She once claimed to be spending up to $50,000 every month to maintain her lavish lifestyle, including throwing over-the-top parties (and sometimes wine glasses) for her friends and family. On season two, Shah redefined "frenemy" by gifting her castmates with diamond snowflake necklaces. But she isn't just another "Bravolebrity." Last year, ABC News and Hulu came together to release a documentary about Shah's life. The Housewife and the Shah Shocker examines her legal troubles and provides backstory to her finances and business ventures. In 2021, Shah and her assistant/partner Stuart Smith were indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering by operating a telemarketing scheme. Allegedly, Shah and Smith would create and sell "lead lists" to other participants in the telemarketing scheme with the knowledge these lists would be used to defraud hundreds of victims across the country. Smith originally pleaded not guilty but changed his plea to guilty a few months later. Presumably, he reached an agreement for a lighter sentence in exchange for information against Shah. If Shah didn't change her plea and the case went to trial, prosecutors would have to prove the following to establish she committed conspiracy to commit wire fraud:
  • Shah had an agreement with at least one other person to operate her telemarketing scheme
  • She deceived the victims for her own monetary gain
  • She used telecommunication (phone, email, social media, etc.) to operate the scheme
  • She or one of her coconspirators performed an overt act in furtherance of the scheme
To prove Shah committed conspiracy to commit money laundering, prosecutors would need to show Shah and at least one other person agreed to conduct financial transactions knowing that the money involved came from illegal activities.

Will Jen Shah Do Time?

The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit wire fraud is imprisonment for up to 30 years. For money laundering, the maximum sentence is 20 years. In exchange for pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, prosecutors dropped the money laundering charge. According to her plea agreement, Shah is facing up to 14 years in prison and will pay over $9 million in restitution payments to the victims.

Will Jen Shah Return to the 'Real Housewives'?

She's been spotted filming, so it's safe to assume we'll see Shah on our small screens when season three airs. But will the show document her legal struggles? You bet. In the past, "Housewives" hasn't shied away from televising the legal woes of other housewives. Remember when Teresa Giudice from "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" allowed cameras to document her emotional return from one year in prison for mail, wire, and bankruptcy fraud? In light of Shah's guilty plea, let's hope she is working on a new intro for the opening credits. Her former tagline, "The only thing I'm guilty of is being Shah-mazing" did not age well.

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