Elizabeth Holmes’ new prison worry: Being secretly photographed in custody
As Elizabeth Holmes prepares to surrender to a federal prison Tuesday, she should be devastated about saying good-bye to her two small children and filled with anxiety about spending the next 11 years incarcerated, an experience that Martha Stewart once described as “horrifying.”
Jen Shah, another celebrity who preceded Holmes to federal prison, may have given the disgraced Theranos founder something else to worry about: The possibility that a member of the prison staff or a fellow prisoner, in possession of a contraband cell phone, could secretly photograph her and get those images leaked to the media.
That’s what Shah, the former star of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” thinks happened to her, according to TMZ. She has demanded an investigation into how photos of her behind bars made it to the outside world earlier this month. The photos showed the reality TV star walking in the prison yard of the minimum-security federal prison camp in Bryan, Texas — the same facility where Holmes is likely to be incarcerated.
Jen Shah spotted in prison uniform in first photos since incarceration pic.twitter.com/5IOONEnwCJ
— Page Six (@PageSix) May 9, 2023
When Shah learned that Page Six had published the photos, she became worried. Through her representative Chris Giovanni, Shah said: “When I saw the photo and recognized the angle and location of where that photo was captured, I became immediately frightened.”
Given these factors, Shah said she didn’t think the photo was taken from outside the prison by a strategically placed professional photographer with a long lens. Instead, she told TMZ, “I strongly believe (it was taken) deep inside the compound at FPC — Bryan.”
Shah said she’s worried that the same person could photograph her while she’s in the shower, using the bathroom or changing her clothes, TMZ reported. She also insinuated that the photo was taken by a guard or other member of the prison staff, or that prison personnel gave a photographer special access to a place where she could be seen in the yard.
It’s also possible that another prisoner snapped the photos, using a contraband cell phone, said Larry Levine of Wall Street Prison Consultants. Levine, a former federal prisoner who advises white-collar defendants on preparing to enter prison, confirmed that inmates have cell phones and “it’s getting worse.”
If someone managed to secretly snap photos of Shah and leak them to the media, then “Holmes is a target for sure,” Levine said. A celebrity photo agency would probably pay handsomely for leaked photos of Holmes, just as it does for other celebrity prisoners.
Holmes is expected to follow Shah to the Bryan federal prison camp 100 miles outside of Houston. That’s the facility that was recommended by her trial judge, Edward Davila, when he ordered her to surrender on May 30 to start her 11-year sentence. However, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has the final say on the location of her incarceration, and may not make a final decision until shortly before her surrender date.
Earlier this month, an appeals court rejected Holmes’ bid to stay out of prison pending an appeal of her conviction and sentence. She was convicted by a jury in U.S. District Court in San Jose in January 2022 of defrauding investors in her now-defunct Palo Alto blood-testing startup out of more than $144 million.
When the disgraced Theranos founder surrenders, she’ll be saying goodbye to her partner, Billy Evans, and to her two children, ages 3 months and 20 months. Wherever Holmes ends up, it’s possible she’ll encounter inmates with contraband cell phones, given the reported prevalence of the devices among the incarcerated.
Federal law prohibits prisoners housed in U.S. Bureau of Prisons from possessing cell phones or visitors from providing them with one to use. But a statement from the Federal Communications Commission said that wireless devices, including cell phones, have long been smuggled into correctional facilities nationwide.
In some cases, the FCC said, incarcerated people use these devices to engage in criminal activity, “posing serious threats to officials, incarcerated people within the facility, and innocent members of the public.” It’s also likely that some prisoners have cell phones to stay in contact with loved ones, given that they otherwise have to wait on line to use phones to call home or to use computers to send emails.
Shah has learned that people also use them in federal prison to illegally photograph celebrities like her. The reality TV star, known for her lavish lifestyle and over-the-top fashion, reported to the Bryan facility in February. She pleaded guilty in 2022 to defrauding thousands of people in a telemarketing scheme and is serving a 5½-year sentence.
Shah told TMZ her husband, Sharrieff Shah, plans to contact the BOP to ask for an investigation, while she’s in the process of writing a letter to express her concerns.