Jen Shah is claiming that she did not properly understand her Miranda rights before she was arrested and charged for her alleged involvement in a nationwide telemarketing scheme.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star, 47, alleged in a signed declaration obtained by PEOPLE that she was suffering from “blurry vision” due to “dry” contact lenses when she was being notified of her Miranda rights, and thus “was unable to read” the waiver in front of her when she signed it.
Her claim came as part of a motion by her attorneys, filed on Monday in a Manhattan court, asking to dismiss her case.
In it, Shah’s outlines the event of her March 30-arrest.
According to the reality star, she was en route to film The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City when she received a call from an unidentified person, telling her they were speaking on behalf of her husband, Sharrieff, and that Sharrieff said she should immediately return home.
When she tired to call her husband and did not get an answer, Shah began to worry, she said.
“Soon after, I received another phone call, this time from a 917 number,” Shah recalled in her signed declaration. “The caller explained that his name was Detective Christopher Bastos and that he was with the New York Police Department.”
The reality star said her first thought was that the call was related to a restraining order case she has out in New York against someone – identified only as “Individual-1” in court documents – who allegedly stole from her in the past and “physically assaulted” her in 2017.
Rick Bowmer/AP/Shutterstock Jen Shah
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Shah claimed Bastos did not say why he was calling, but told her to pull over and the detective soon showed up along with other law enforcement agents.
“I was walked to the back of the car, placed in handcuffs, and told that they had a warrant for my arrest,” Shah alleged. “I was at this point very confused and emotionally off-balance from the strange series of events, and thought I might have been the victim of a false identification.”
“I repeatedly asked Det. Bastos clarification questions, including ‘Am I under arrest?’ and ‘Am I going to jail?’ which were phrases I used interchangeably and thought of as the same thing,” she said in her declaration.
The reality star alleged Bastos did not answer her questions, but “repeatedly said words to the effect of, ‘We just want to talk to you’ and ‘I promise we just want to talk to you.'” She claimed Bastos’ statements “led me to believe I might be in danger, and that the police might be there to help me.”
Shah claims then taken to an ICE headquarters, where she was allegedly handcuffed to a chair and given a printed copy of the Miranda warnings to sign as Bastos read them aloud to her.
It was there that Shah’s issue with her eyesight came into play, she alleged.
“Although I heard the words Det. Bastos read clearly, my contact lenses, which were in my eyes, were dry, and I did not have my reading glasses, so my vision was blurry and I was unable to read the paper in front of me,” she claimed in her declaration. “Even while being read my rights, I did not fully understand what was going on, and still thought that one explanation might be a potential misidentification.”
“I was eager to find out what was going on, what Det. Bastos ‘just wanted to talk to’ me about, and why he ‘wanted to make sure [I was] OK.’ Because I was not getting answers to my questions, I believed that the only way I was finally going to get an answer was to sign the paper and waive my rights,” Shah said.
According to Shah, she was told to initial next to each relevant statement as Bastos read them aloud. At one point, she signed the wrong line because she “could not see the paper” and Bastos had to re-read the missed line to make sure she knew what it said, Shah claimed.
After signing the waiver, Shah said she told Bastos her contact lenses were blurry and was uncuffed so she use some contact solution from her bag. Shah claimed Bastos started asking her questions after she was cuffed to the chair again.
Chad Kirkland/Bravo/ Getty Jen Shah
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In a court documents filed by Shah’s attorneys on Monday, her lawyers alleged that “[n]ot until near the very end of the 1 hour, 20-minute interrogation … did Det. Bastos finally tell Ms. Shah the truth about what she was being charged with.”
Shah’s lawyers claimed that though the reality star waived her Miranda rights, she “did not do so voluntarily, but rather as a direct result of law enforcement deception and trickery calculated to overpower her will.”
Shah also did not admit to committing fraud during the interrogation, despite Bastos’ alleged efforts, according to her attorneys.
Both Shah and her assistant Stuart Smith, 43, have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing – through which they allegedly victimized 10 or more persons over the age of 55 – and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The two pleaded not guilty to the charges leveled against them during an arraignment in April.
In a previous press release announcing their arrest, prosecutors allege that Shah and Smith carried out a nationwide telemarketing scheme with the help of others between 2012 and March of this year. They have been accused of having “defrauded hundreds of victims” with purported business services.
Prosecutors claim Shah and Smith’s scheme was a “coordinated effort to traffic in lists of potential victims,” referred to as “leads.” From there, they allegedly sold those leads to telemarketing companies that would attempt to sell business services to the targeted individuals.
The pair “received as profit a share of the fraudulent revenue per the terms of their agreement with those participants,” according to the indictment.