*Trigger warning: discussion of suicidal ideation.*
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City has had no shortage of real life drama during its recent seasons thanks to cast member Jen Shah's ongoing legal troubles. ICYMI, during season 2, the housewives were preparing to escape on a girls' trip to Vail, Colorado, when police arrived on scene looking for Jen Shah. Twelve minutes later, Jen was arrested for her role in a telemarketing scam—and it all went downhill from there.
On Jan. 6, 2023, Jen was sentenced to serve 6.5 years in prison for running the telemarketing scheme, NBC News reported. She will also have to complete a five-year supervised release and a mental health program, after she finishes her term, per Today. The judge has not yet said where Jen will be serving her time, but her lawyers have requested FPC Bryan, the prison where former Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will begin serving her sentence this year, per People.
During season 3 of RHOSLC, Jen talked openly about the heavy mental toll her legal stress has taken, even sharing that she was suicidal at one point after an incident with a fake Instagram account bearing Jen's name.
But there's a lot more to learn about the fraud case, so here’s everything you need to know about Jen's current legal issues, her arrest, her time in court, sentencing details—and how much you actually see on the show:
When was Jen arrested?.
Jen, 47, and her assistant, Stuart Smith, 43, were arrested on March 30, 2021, while Bravo cameras continued rolling. They were both charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, per People.
Jen and Stuart were accused of building a telemarketing scheme that targeted at least 10 people over the age of 55 for at least 10 years. The pair reportedly created lists of "potential victims" called "leads." Then, they sold those leads to telemarketing companies, per People. According to the indictment, Jen and Stuart "received as profit a share of the fraudulent revenue per the terms of their agreement with those participants."
"Shah and Smith objectified their very real human victims as ‘leads’ to be bought and sold, offering their personal information for sale to other members of their fraud ring,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh, according to Us Weekly.
What happened when she was arrested?
Viewers saw footage of Jen's arrest, at which time she thought she was "being kidnapped."
"I didn't think I needed an attorney or anything like that because I didn't do anything," Jen explained, per People.
Jen also said on the show that authorities arrived at her home and "held [my] son at gunpoint." After they "barged into the house," she told co-star Heather Gay that one of her sons "saw a red laser pointed at his chest."
When did the investigation begin?
Homeland Security Investigations' El Dorado Task Force had been pursuing the case with the help of the New York Police Department and other officials since 2016, according to ABC News.
A narcotics arrest in New Jersey led investigators to indict multiple telemarketers in 2017, ABC News reported. After those indictments resulted in more than 15 guilty pleas, another ten people were charged with participating in a nationwide telemarketing scheme in November 2019—including Jen and her assistant, Stuart.
When did Jen plead guilty?
Jen had maintained her innocence throughout her legal drama, but she changed her plea to guilty on July 11, 2022, according to NBC Connecticut.
"Jen pled guilty because she wants to pay her debt to society and put this ordeal behind her and her family" said Shah's attorney, Priya Chaudhry, told People.
Jen’s trial was scheduled to start on July 18, 2022, and was expected to last five weeks, according to Us Weekly. It was originally expected to take place in 2021 but was postponed due to COVID protocols.
Jen appeared in front of US District Judge Sidney Stein at 10:30 a.m. on July 11, 2022, in Manhattan federal court for the surprise hearing, where she changed her previous not guilty plea, according to Page Six.
She pled guilty to count one, conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing. The US attorney dropped count two, conspiracy to commit money laundering, per Page Six. Jen apologized for her actions.
When asked what she did, Shah responded: “Wire fraud, offering services with little to no value. We used interstate telephones and emails. I knew many of the purchasers were over the age of 55. I am so sorry,” according to Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press.
She also admitted she knew what she was doing was “wrong and illegal.”
How long will Jen Shah be in prison?
In a decision handed down by New York-based federal Judge Sidney H. Stein, Jen was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison, Forbes reported. Jen also agreed to pay up to $9.5 million in restitution and forfeit $6.5 million, the outlet said. Once Jen gets out, she'll be subject to five years of supervised release, NBC reported.
Jen at one point faced a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and five years of supervised release. Her initial plea deal called for 11 to 14 years in prison and restitution of up to $9.5 million, per ABC News.
Her legal team previously asked for a 3-year sentence, per The Cut. Jen had agreed not to file an appeal if her sentence was 14 months or less, per The Sun. There's no update yet about her plans on filing an appeal.
On the other hand, the government asked for 10 year sentence and a probation report recommended six years, Forbes reported.
Where will she go to prison?
On Feb. 17, Jen has to surrender herself to the Bureau of Prisons. At that time, she will begin her prison sentence in the "Texas region," People reported.
While the judge hasn't announced where she will serve her sentence, Jen's lawyers are asking she be placed at FPC Bryan in Bryan, Texas. This just so happens to be the same place where Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will start serving her own 11-year term in April.
Jen has to complete a mental health program.
After she's released from prison, Jen will have a five-year-long supervised release where she'll be required to complete a mental health program approved by the U.S. Probation Office, per Today. Jen has previously discussed her struggle with mental health, and her use of antidepressants on RHOSLC.
“You must continue to take any prescribed medications unless otherwise instructed by the health care provider,” the order states. “You must contribute to the cost of services rendered based on your ability to pay and the availability of third-party payments.” There is currently no word on where she will go for treatment.
Andy Cohen wants to interview Jen before she goes to prison.
"I'm hoping to go talk to Jen this weekend," he said on a podcast, per People. I'm hopeful that I can do that sit down with her in front of some cameras and deliver that to you. I'm really hoping to do that."
He then discussed what's next for RHOSLC, explaining that they have "excellent casting for next season."
"I'm feeling good. But I am saying it is a loss," he added. "It's a loss to lose her from the show."
Jen didn't attend the RHOSLC Season 3 reunion.
In an Instagram announcing her decision not to attend the reunion, Jen claimed that she wasn’t originally asked to attend. She called it a snub that left her “disappointed” because she would have “no venue to confront inaccuracies.”
Plot twist: Jen claims she received a surprise invite a few weeks ago. However, her lawyers told her not to answer questions about her legal drama. But Bravo had other ideas, she says.
“I was clear with Bravo that out of respect of the courts and a standing judicial order, I would not be in a position to discuss anything related to my legal case or sentencing,” she wrote on Instagram. “Bravo found this unsatisfactory and said they expected me to discuss this ‘storyline.’” Shah added that she decided against attending the reunion “under legal advice,” adding, “I need to focus on the most important thing in my life-my family.”
When did Stuart plead guilty?
Attorney Ronald Richards, who is not involved with the case, confirmed that Stuart "pleaded guilty to three counts: conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice," on Nov. 19 2021, according to Us Weekly.
“He admitted to hiding ownership and money, defrauding elderly people and lying to the Federal Trade Commission in a deposition, which constituted perjury,” Richards said.
Stuart has been released on bail, and was supposed to be sentenced in March, per People. However, after nothing came of the original date, former NBC News legal analyst Ronald Richards tweeted that Stuart's sentencing was “moved past Jen Shah’s trial so he can get the benefit of his cooperation.”
The judge said that the maximum combined prison sentence for Stuart's three charges is 70 years.
Stuart revealed his involvement while reading a statement in court: "I knowingly and intentionally discussed and engaged with other individuals to develop a plan or operation to obtain money by false representation by offering and inducing individuals, many of whom were over 50 years of age or older, to provide money to entities that I and others were involved with," he said, per People.
Her fake designer bags and jewelry were confiscated in 2021.
Federal authorities confiscated more than 50 fake items from Jen's home in Utah just after her 2021 arrest, according to court documents recently obtained by Page Six.
Some of the items included counterfeit purses marked “Louis Vuitton,” “Chanel,” “Fendi” and “Jimmy Choo,” per the documents. Jen also allegedly had fake accessories ostensibly from “Cartier,” “Tiffany & Co.,” “Louis Vuitton,” “Chanel,” “Dior,” “Hermés” and “Bulgari.”
The list of items, which also includes some real designer goods, were forfeited in an effort to have Jen pay $6.5 million of the $9.5 million in restitution she owes, per Page Six.
Is Jen returning to RHOSLC?
At BravoCon 2022, Andy hinted that Jen was missing during the RHOSLC panel because of her current legal issues, and some fans took his comments to mean that she might not be returning to the show.
“Once we wrapped [Season 3 and] she pled guilty, I think that was kind of, unfortunately, the end of, you know, the engagement there,” he told a fan in response to their question about Jen's absence, per Page Six. “But I hope to sit down with her and talk to her at some point on camera because I have a lot of questions for her.”
And when concerned fans started tweeting about her alleged departure, Jen was quick to respond.
One tweet said: "andy announced that @TheRealJenShah no longer works for bravo but teresa and her ex-husband literally got a spin-off when they did a crime. at what point do we stop letting the double standards for poc go on? #whiteprivilege #rhoslc."
Jen responded: "That’s a great question…"
ICYMI, the tweet is referring to the fact that RHONJ's Teresa Guidice and her now ex-husband Joe Guidice were indicted on federal fraud charges and sentenced to prison in 2014. Teresa was released in December of 2015 while Joe was released in 2019. Now, she's allegedly been green-lighted for a Bravo special about her wedding to Luis Ruelas.
What else has Jen done?
ABC News and Hulu (the same team behind The Housewife and The Hustler, a documentary about Beverly Hills housewife Erika Jayne's legal issues) released The Housewife & the Shah Shocker on Nov. 29, 2021. The film follows Jen Shah's arrest and dives into the legal drama surrounding her, according to Page Six.
The film's trailer shows plenty of drama going down. If you haven't seen it yet, here are some of the biggest takeaways.
First, Jen has been in trouble with federal authorities before. In 2015, she was deposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for work she did at Thrive, a telemarketing company. “Two years later, they fine Thrive $27 million for deceptive sales practices,” ABC correspondent Aaron Katersky revealed, per Us Weekly.
One of Jen's former employees, Koa Johnson, also claimed that she frequently screamed at her staff and failed to properly pay them after they stopped working for her.
The film also uncovered a company called Mastery Pro, which prosecutors believe is run by Jen and her assistant Stuart. Stuart has already admitted to “misleading customers,” saying that Mastery Pro was founded "to hide actual ownership of the corporation." The documentary claims that Mastery Pro has made more than $5 million.
Jen hosted a party at a strip club to pay off legal bills.
On Oct. 22 2021, Jen hosted a party at Hustler Club NYC alongside featured guest Alexis Monroe, an adult film star. Jen was available for meet-and-greets and autographs, the outlet reported.
“Shah was eager to host an event with us the moment we approached her team,” a representative for the club told Page Six. The source added that Jen will be “receiving a large sum [of money] in exchange for her appearance, most likely enough to put a dent in her legal bills," in the range of "tens of thousands."
How has the cast responded?
Over the summer of 2022, Jen’s RHOSLC co-stars Heather Gay and Meredith Marks were spotted in New York City supporting Jen. Heather shared an Instagram Story snapshot of the three of them in a dark restaurant that she captioned “My Coven,” per Page Six. She followed that up with a shot of the three of them in workout gear and another shot of Jen hanging on a leopard-print couch.
Heather has also shared pics of herself and Jen on Instagram over the past few months.
And Meredith just shared this message on her Instagram Stories, seemingly in reference to Jen. The post read: "For those of you who may not know this: I live in the United States of America. In the US, one has a right to trial and is presumed innocent until proven guilty."
More updates on Jen's prison sentence will be coming soon. Stay tuned!
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