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Shah, a polarizing member of the “Real Housewives” franchise, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to a plea agreement, federal sentencing guidelines range from 135 months to 168 months, or 11 to 14 years, in prison. The guidelines are only advisory, and the judge could depart from them when he sentences her later this year.
“I knew this was wrong, I know many people were harmed, and I am so sorry,” Shah told the judge.
As part of a plea agreement, Shah will pay $6.5 million in forfeiture and up to $9.5 million in restitution.
“Jennifer Shah was a key participant in a nationwide scheme that targeted elderly, vulnerable victims. 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,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement Monday. “This Office is committed to rooting out these schemes whatever form they take.”
Shah was arrested in 2021 while Bravo was filming the second season of the reality TV series, with episodes of the show featuring Shah and her castmates speculating — and sparring — over her culpability. Shah had, at the time episodes aired, consistently professed her innocence, going as far as to state in a tagline for show promos that, “the only thing I’m guilty of is being Shah-mazing.”
Her guilty plea comes as she was set to go to trial in federal court in Manhattan.
Prosecutors said since 2012 Shah and others sold so-called “business services” to the alleged victims, including website design services to some elderly individuals who didn’t own computers. Shah and others also identified and sold as “leads” the names of individuals who, prosecutors allege, they knew would be defrauded by others involved in the alleged scheme. Prosecutors said Shah oversaw a sales floor personally and supervised the salespeople who lied directly to the victims of the scheme.
Shah sought to hide her role in the fraud by using encrypted messaging apps, placing companies in the name of family and others, and setting up an offshore bank account and business operations in Kosovo, according to court filings and prosecutors. Shah also underreported her income on tax returns for several years by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Prosecutors said Shah spent the proceeds from the fraud on her extravagant lifestyle, as portrayed in the reality show.
Sentencing in the case is scheduled for November 28.