“Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jen Shah has been arrested and charged with running a wide-ranging telemarketing fraud scheme, the Justice Department said Tuesday. Shah faces charges alongside her assistant, Stuart Smith, who was also featured on the inaugural season of the reality TV franchise.
Shah and Smith have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and conspiracy to commit money laundering for allegedly selling “lead lists” for business opportunities that were nonexistent.
The indictment alleges the two carried out the scheme from at least 2012, in which they “generated and sold lead lists to other participants for use by their telemarketing sales floors with the knowledge that the individuals they had identified as ‘leads’ would be defrauded by the other participants.” The scheme involved selling services claiming to help victims manage their online businesses and make them more profitable. In reality, the “‘services’ would provide little or no value to the victims’ businesses,” the indictment said.
The pair is accused of defrauding hundreds of victims, the Justice Department said.
“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,” Homeland Security Investigations special agent-in-charge Peter Fitzhugh said in a statement Tuesday.
Shah’s lifestyle was featured prominently in “Real Housewives.” She hosted extravagant parties, donned designer outfits and employed a group of assistants who traveled with her.
During the show’s first season reunion, Shah was asked about her career.
“I run a lot of different companies and businesses, and a lot of [my assistants] have different roles in the companies,” she said. “My background is in direct response marketing for about 20 years, so our company does advertising. We have a platform that helps people acquire customers, so when you’re shopping online or on the Internet, and something pops, we have the algorithm behind why you’re getting served that ad.”
Shah is not the first “Housewife” to face legal troubles. “Real Housewives of New Jersey” starand her then-husband served time in prison, after several seasons on the show, for mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud.