Jen Shah from Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” has been indicted and arrested for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charges, brought about from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, were announced on Tuesday. Shah was arrested along with her assistant, Stuart Smith, who has also been featured on the show, as one of her many assistants.
The charges allege that from 2012 until today, Shah, Smith and others ran a telemarketing scheme that defrauded older people by selling “lead lists” for nonexistent business opportunities.
According to a Department of Justice press release, 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.”
A representative for Shah said, “At this time, we have no comment.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Shah appeared before a Utah judge. According to John Franchi, who reported on the hearing for the local Fox affiliate, Shah will appear before the SDNY on Wednesday. The judge also set conditions for Shah and her co-defendent, Smith.
Shah, a charmisatic, but irascible and somewhat irrational presence on “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” has volatile friendships with the other women on the show, and was known to throw drinks, yell and cry. Shah is married to Sharrieff Shah, a special teams coordinator for the University of Utah’s football team. “Coach Shah,” as his wife would call him, had a calming influence on her, and was able to talk Jen down from her frequent rages. They have two children, and live in a McMansion — and no, though Coach Shah is paid very well, it was not clear what the source of Jen Shah’s money was, or why she needed so many assistants.
The first season of the show, the latest entry in Bravo’s “Real Housewives” franchise, premiered last year, and caught on with viewers. Andy Cohen, the executive producer of “The Real Housewives,” recently told Variety that the second season of the show has begun filming, which means Shah’s legal woes will play out on camera.
A source confirms to Variety the anonymous tip given to the Instagram account @twojudgeygirls, that the cast was filming today, and were about to leave on a trip to Colorado. Shah suddenly left, saying there was an emergency with her husband. Shortly afterward, federal law enforcement swarmed production, looking for the absent Shah. They found her, and she was arrested. The cameras were rolling, but the source wasn’t sure whether law enforcement had forced them to stop filming.
The language in the indictment is scathing. The statement from Peter C. Fitzhugh of Homeland Security Investigations begins thus: “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.”
The press release outlines the complexities of the alleged scheme. According to the indictment, Shah, Smith and “others” allegedly used telemarketing to target and defraud “hundreds of victims… many of whom were over age 55.” They then allegedly created lists of these victims, and sold those lists to other participants in the fraud, and “received as profit a share of the fraudulent revenue per the terms of their agreement with those participants.” The telemarketing took place in Shah’s home state of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New York, and New Jersey.
The indictment outlines that the victims were allegedly sold things such as tax preparation, coaching services and website design, “notwithstanding that many Victims were elderly and did not own a computer.”
“SHAH, 47, of Park City, Utah, and SMITH, 43, of Lehi, Utah, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing through which they victimized 10 or more persons over the age of 55, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years,” the press release states.
It’s not the first time that one of the “Real Houswives” has gotten into legal trouble on the show. Teresa Giudice of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” was arrested and convicted of fraud, and was sentenced to prison in 2014. The lead-up to her going away, her eventual release and its aftermath were filmed by Bravo’s cameras, and Giudice remains the star of the show.
If Shah is convicted of the charges, according to the Southern District press release, she faces up to 30 years in prison.
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