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Indian-American reality show star gets 78 months in prison for wire fraud

New York, Jan 11 (IANS) An Indian-American reality TV star has been sentenced to 78 months in prison for running a nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme that targeted “vulnerable, elderly victims”.

Jennifer Shah, 49, who starred in ‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’, previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing.

In addition to the prison term, Shah of Salt Lake City, Utah, has also been sentenced to five years of supervised release.

The court ordered her to forfeit $6,500,000, 30 luxury items, and 78 counterfeit luxury items, and to pay $6,645,251 in restitution.

“With today’s sentence, Jennifer Shah finally faces the consequences of the many years she spent targeting vulnerable, elderly victims,” Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement last week.

These individuals were lured in by false promises of financial security, but in reality, Shah and her co-conspirators defrauded them out of their savings and left them with nothing to show for it.

“This conviction and sentence demonstrate once again that we will continue to vigorously protect victims of financial fraud and hold accountable those who engage in fraudulent schemes,” Williams said.

According to court documents, from at least 2012 until her arrest in March 2021, Shah was an integral leader of a wide-ranging, nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme that victimised thousands of innocent people.

The scheme principally involved selling those victims so-called “business services” in connection with the victims’ purported online businesses (the “Business Opportunity Scheme”).

Shah knowingly and intentionally facilitated the sale of “leads” a” contact information for potential victims who had been identified as susceptible to the scheme’s lies — to sales floors that were perpetrating the Business Opportunity Scheme and, during the latter portion of her participation in the scheme, owned and operated one of the sales floors that was part of the scheme, the court noted.

Many of Shah’s victims were elderly or vulnerable, and suffered significant financial hardship and damage, a US attorney office statement said.

The victims were defrauded over and over again at Shah’s direction until they had nothing left.

She and her co-conspirators persisted in their conduct until the victims’ bank accounts were empty, their credit cards were at their limits, and there was nothing more to take.

The reality show star took a series of increasingly extravagant steps to conceal her criminal conduct from the authorities — she directed others to lie, she put businesses and bank accounts in the name of others, she required payment in cash, she instructed others to delete text messages and electronic documents, etc.

Shah also moved some of her operations overseas, and tried to put computers and other evidence beyond the reach of investigators,” the attorney office statement read.

“Jen Shah deeply regrets the mistakes that she has made and is profoundly sorry to the people she has hurt,” her defence lawyer Priya Chaudhry said in a statement.

Dozens of Shah’s co-conspirators have also been arrested by federal law enforcement.

Out of these, many pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme, and two were convicted at trial.

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