One of Utah’s own Real Housewives is in real trouble. (And yes, it’s even more serious than a former friend saying you “smell like hospital.”) The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has indicted Jennifer “Jen” Shah, best known for Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Shah (47) and her assistant, Stuart Smith (43), allegedly ran a nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme, in which they profited by generating lists of victims for co-conspirators to defraud. The “lead lists” contained names of “innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss.
The alleged scheme began in 2012—spanning multiple states, including Arizona, Nevada, Utah and New York—and defrauded hundreds of people by selling those victims so-called “business services” for their purported online businesses. They allegedly sold the victims “tax preparation or website design services,” even though many of the victims were elderly and did not own a computer.
While Shah “portrays herself as a wealthy and successful businessperson on ‘reality’ television,” said Strauss, “in actual reality, 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.”
Even by Housewife standards, Shah lived a lavish lifestyle. On the show, she was known for decking herself out in designer brands, throwing decadent parties and her comically large roster of assistants, who ranged from life coaches to beauty consultants. Smith, who was featured in several episodes of the series and earned the nickname “Stu Chainz,” was frequently seen by Shah’s side. Despite her obvious wealth, the details of Shah’s businesses were often unclear, inspiring tongue-in-cheek speculation from many fans. Shah was even asked about her many assistants by host Andy Cohen during the first season’s reunion. With this indictment, we may finally understand what Jen’s job actually is.
Apparently, Shah’s business practices—and her opulent lifestyle—were allegedly built “at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh. Fitzhugh went on to say that multiple law enforcement and investigative bodies are working 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.”
Shah and Smith are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, targeting 10 or more persons over the age of 55. The charge comes with a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. They’re also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. That has a maximum sentence of 20 years. The exact sentencing depends on conviction and will be determined by the judge.
Law enforcement arrested Shah and Smith in Utah on Tuesday, March 30, and the two were ordered to appear before a Salt Lake City federal court and United States Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead on the very same day. According to Shah’s Instagram stories, she was preparing for a vacation right before her arrest. Bravo is currently filming the second season of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, which means that the arrest may soon become a plot point on our reality television screens.
And we thought that trip to the hypnotherapist was dramatic.