(The Hill) – Reality TV star Jen Shah pleaded guilty Monday to running a telemarketing scheme, a charge that could land the 48-year-old in prison for more than a decade.
Shah, one of the stars of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” entered the plea to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in Manhattan federal court, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York announced Monday.
She told a judge that beginning in 2012, she participated in a massive telemarketing fraud for nearly a decade that prosecutors say cheated thousands of people nationwide.
“I knew this was wrong and that many people were harmed and I’m so sorry,” Shah told Judge Sidney H. Stein.
The “Housewives” cast member, along with her personal assistant, Stuart Smith, was arrested last year and accused of engaging in the scam that defrauded victims throughout the country by “selling those victims so-called ‘business services’ in connection with the victims’ purported online business.”
She said she knew that she was teaming up with others to market products to people “that had little or no value.”
Many of the victims were described by the U.S. attorney’s office as “elderly” and “vulnerable.”
In a statement afterward, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams called Shah a “key participant in a nationwide scheme that targeted elderly, vulnerable victims.”
He added: “These victims were sold false promises of financial security but instead Shah and her co-conspirators defrauded them out of their savings and left them with nothing to show for it.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kiersten Ann Fletcher said Shah acted as a “lead broker,” directing what sales workers said to their victims and sharing in illegal profits, using some of the money to pay for the New York City apartment where she lived and for other personal items.
The charge typically carries a prison sentence of up to 30 years, but under the terms of the guilty plea, prosecutors said they would recommend Shah serve between 11 to 14 years. The Park City resident — who flaunted her luxurious lifestyle as one of the “Housewives” — agreed to forfeit $6.5 million and pay up to $9.5 million in restitution, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Shah is scheduled to be sentenced in November.