[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
Jen Shah’s victims are speaking out ahead of her January 6 sentencing.
The Real Housewives Oof Salt Lake City alum has been facing legal issues ever since March 2021 when she and her assistant, Stuart Smith, were arrested in Utah for allegedly orchestrating a phone scam to fraud people over the age of 55. She entered a guilty plea in July and on Friday, the United States government requested that she receive 10 years in prison, calling that a “sufficient” punishment. With just one week to go until a judge makes the final decision, many of her victims are now speaking out about the heartbreaking circumstances they faced following the expensive scam.
In court documents obtained by People on Wednesday, several victims — such as a widow, a retiree, and a person forced into homelessness because of the fraud — opened up about the consequences of the star’s actions. Hear from those who suffered the most (below).
One woman was “exhausted, overwhelmed, and frustrated” amid a year-and-a-half grieving period when she came across an email that appeared to be the answer to her prayers. A company was offering a tutoring course for a salaried position. Thinking it would be “an investment into [her] future,” she joined the program. Sadly, it quickly turned into a nightmare.
The individual was required to pay thousands of dollars, noting how each person who tutored her through the service “charged a different amount.” Even though she was unable to keep up with the pace of the program and she wasn’t “confident enough” to proceed alone, she soon discovered she was being “snowballed” as the “e services tried to set up a business for [her] on a website” without her awareness. Then she became depressed and feared it was “going to make [her] suicidal.” She expressed candidly:
“Your sanity is in doubt, your confidence eroded, your independence, what limited amount there is, curbed and you can’t trust anybody. You are not the same person you were before this experience. Whoever these telemarketers are, should cease stealing money and repay what they stolen, and perform acts of restitution, such as living as we are, doing what we do with what limited resources we have, and pay for medical services, such as therapy or psychiatric meds.”
“The mental anguish is still with me, today, and the guilt I harbor from being so vulnerable and easy prey to such sharks, still swim in my mind. I do not want the next person to suffer any of these mental anxieties, such as I have. What is normal? I do not know anymore. Let the punishment fit the crime. Replace what you have taken and correct the consequences, the action caused.”
In another letter, a 75-year-old retiree issued a letter to the courts of behalf of himself and “the many other seniors who were scammed by Mrs. Jennifer Shah.” He claims years ago he received “an unsolicited call from Vision Solutions Management with promises of teaching and leading [him] to success with their coaching.” The timing was perfect since he was trying to lift his business off the group amid the digital age, and he wasn’t great at internet marketing.
After undergoing “several weeks” of coaching, he heard from another company, Vision Management Group (a company claiming to NOT be affiliated with Vision Solutions Management), who were going to pick up services where he left off. But then things grew strange as more companies reached out with similar offers, such as Position Gurus, 5 Star Quest, and MPG. He noted:
“Each business followed in sequence of what would have been the next steps for sales.”
He then noticed multiple things appeared to be “duplicated” across the services. He later realized he’d been “conned” and “wasted about $40,000 trying to do good for [his] family.” So sad. He wrote:
“Each person scammed has their own story with a dream of a better retirement and life. That was taken away when they were [coerced] to give their money for false promises. Please consider the suffering caused to these seniors possibly because of now not having the money for food, medicine or medical treatment they need. All who had their money stolen cannot use that money to increase their quality of life in retirement.”
He pled to the court:
“Please consider this when passing judgment on Mrs. Jennifer Shah. Her restitution and time served should put her into the same or similar hardship as her victims. It was her choice to commit the crime for fame, drinks, fun and [luxury]. You are the Judge. I request that your judgment carry the same hardships she has caused her victims.”
Heart Attack Victim
Another individual who was once “excited […] about beginning a new career” in 2017, now feels like their “overall health is forever changed” by the scheme. They were on an unsuccessful job hunt back in the day when they received a call from one of Shah’s partners about the chance to launch an e-commerce business from home. It “seemed promising and legitimate,” leading them to buy “several services.” This, they now know, was a major mistake:
“This was the biggest mistake I had ever made in my adult life because from that point on, my life began to spiral out-of-control. I had accumulated a little over $35,000 in credit card debt by early January 2018, with no profits to show. It all felt so surreal.”
While they “worked diligently by devoting more than 10 hours a day” to the business, they couldn’t turn a profit. Once they realized it was a scam, “it was too late because Jennifer and her partners already had [their] money.” The victim then became “worried all the time” about their financial situation, causing them to lose sleep and eventually suffer a heart attack which was “brought on by extreme stress” and required them to take four separate medications. After learning relaxation techniques, the person actually went back to working on their e-commerce business — but was suddenly “locked out of [their] own website for several weeks.” When they eventually regained access, everything had vanished since the “website’s hosting service had changed hands.”
As a result of this mess, they want to receive full restitution for what they invested (and lost) in Shah’s services. They also believe Shah should “pay restitution” and be given “the maximum prison sentence allowed by law.”
Family In Ruins
A fourth person nearly lost their entire family due to the scam. In their letter, he detailed “the emotional, mental, physical and financial anguish” caused by the ordeal, saying:
“I almost lost everything that I worked for, as well as my life and almost cost me my marriage as well as ruining my kids lives for eternity. What I thought started out to be an investment in a company that I could pass on to my children if the business got off the ground successfully, ended up almost ruining ALL OF OUR LIVES. When I thought you were all legitimate business people, helping me start out a new business that would be a great venture, totally turned our lives upside down within a very short period of time.”
The father lost more than $100,000 “due to the cost of starting up the business, [their] educational programs to get a successful business going, supplies, amongst other things and taxes.” He had to re-mortgage his home and his marriage almost ended up in divorce. He also claimed he had to “make excuses as to why [he] had so many bills [he] had to pay.” Heartbreakingly, he contemplated ending his own life so his family wouldn’t face his “financial burden.” Addressing the reality star directly, he stated:
“You sounded sympathetic and convincing, so I trusted you. I was such an idiot. The courts may have some form of punishment for the lawless activities that have been committed, but even when you have served your due punishment, whatever that may be, our God and heavenly creator of all things will be the one, in the long run, who you will truly have to answer to.”
A fifth victim claimed they eventually became homeless after they accumulated over $30,000 in debt due to the scheme, adding:
“I could go on and on but the point is I have the problem of faith and trust.”
Whoa. These are so tough to read. This telemarketing scheme caused so many people great pain. We hope Jen’s upcoming sentencing brings them some justice and a chance to begin healing from this ordeal.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, help is available. Consider contacting the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988, by calling, texting, or chatting, or go to 988lifeline.org.