Jen Shah is anxious to get her trial underway after several delays. Attorneys for the “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star have asked a New York federal judge to either start her fraud trial in July or recuse himself so another judge can, new court documents obtained by Heavy show.
The Park City, Utah-based reality star has been free on bond since her March 2021 arrest, which was documented on Bravo’s “RHOSLC.” She was charged alongside her assistant, Stuart Smith, and 11 others. Federal prosecutors said Shah was involved in a telemarketing scam that targeted elderly people. According to a press release, the fraud scheme is alleged to have begun in 2012 and resulted in “hundreds” of victims.
Shah told Andy Cohen during the season 2 “RHOSLC” reunion she hasn’t taken a plea deal because, “I’m fighting this. I am innocent. And I will fight for every person out there that can’t fight for themselves because they don’t have the resources or the means, so they don’t fight.”
Shah’s assistant has pleaded guilty, admitting to attempted conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of an official proceeding in November 2021. His sentencing was initially scheduled for March 2022, but it has been delayed. A date for his sentencing has not been set, court records show.
Jen Shah’s Attorneys Say the Trial Delays Have Been ‘Extremely Difficiltu for Her & Her Family’
Jen Shah’s trial is scheduled to begin July 18, 2022, at 09:30 AM in Courtroom 23A at the Southern District of New York’s 500 Pearl Street courthouse in Manhattan, court records show. A final pretrial conference is scheduled to take place on July 5, according to court records. The trial is expected to take four to five weeks, Shah’s attorneys said in a court filing.
The attorneys said in the filing that during a May 2022 conference they learned that because of Judge Sidney Stein’s schedule the trial could be delayed. Attorney Priya Chaudhry wrote, “I respectfully request that, should the Court be unable to begin this trial in July of this year, the Court reassign this matter to another judge whose schedule could accommodate a July start date for Ms. Shah’s 4-5-week trial.”
Chaudhry wrote in the letter to Stein that Shah’s trial was first set to begin in October 21 and then in March 22, but was moved twice because of COVID-19 protocols and courtroom availability. Chaudhry added, “Though Ms. Shah is not in custody, the continued long delays in her trial date have been extremely difficult for her and her family and have presented an undue hardship.”
Chaudry also wrote, “In addition, another delay of Ms. Shah’s trial date would pose a significant hardship on my small law firm. In order to effectively prepare for Ms. Shah’s trial, which requires months of preparation given the millions of documents produced in discovery, we all have adjusted our schedules and other cases to block out 4-5 weeks in October 2021, then in March 2022, and then again in July 2022. For a firm of our size, this poses a tremendous hardship because we do not have the resources to constantly reallocate our personnel when we need to be prepared for a trial of this length and complexity. Also, our firm has other potential trials which have been difficult to schedule due to the continued uncertainty of the trial date in this matter.”
The letter from Shah’s attorney continued, “I do not make this request lightly, but after three successive lengthy delays, we believe that the interests of justice and our client require that the trial in this matter move forward as expeditiously as possible. Based on my own experience, I know that it is not uncommon for cases to be reassigned in this district, even on the eve of trial, when a court’s calendar does not permit a trial to commence as scheduled. I am respectfully requesting that Your Honor take this into consideration and reassign the case if possible.”
One of Shah’s Co-Defendants Recently Had His Appeal of a 6-Year Prison Sentence Denied
One of Shah’s 12 co-defendants, Derrek Larkin, pleaded guilty in January 2021 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to court documents. Larkin was sentenced to 72 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $3.5 million in restitution to the victims. Larkin filed a request for a reduced sentence, citing health issues that he says prevent him from getting the COVID-19 vaccine, court records show, but it was denied in April 2022.
If found guilty, Shah faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison on the wire fraud charge and up to 20 years in prison on the money laundering charges. But a first-time offender like Shah would not be expected to face anywhere near the maximum penalty in a federal case. Her sentence would be decided by a federal judge based on sentencing guidelines.
At the time of her arrest, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said, “Jennifer Shah, who portrays herself as a wealthy and successful businessperson on ‘reality’ television, and Stuart Smith, who is portrayed as Shah’s ‘first assistant,’ allegedly generated and sold ‘lead lists’ of innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam. In actual reality and as alleged, the so-called business opportunities pushed on the victims by Shah, Smith, and their co-conspirators were just fraudulent schemes, motivated by greed, to steal victims’ money. Now, these defendants face time in prison for their alleged crimes.”
Then-NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea added, “These individuals allegedly targeted and defrauded hundreds of victims but thanks to the hard work of the NYPD and our law enforcement partners, this illegal scheme was brought to an end. I congratulate the NYPD detectives, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for their hard work in bringing these persons to justice.”
Peter Fitzhugh, of the Department of Homeland Security Investigations unit, who led the probe, said in a statement when charges against Shah were announced in 2021, “Shah and Smith flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their ‘success.’ In reality, they allegedly built their opulent lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people. As alleged, disturbingly, 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. Working with our partners at the NYPD and the United States Attorney’s Office, SDNY, and with the assistance of HSI Salt Lake City, HSI New York worked to ensure that Shah and Smith will answer for their alleged crimes. As a result, their new reality may very well turn out differently than they expected.”