SALT LAKE CITY — Jennifer Shah, a cast member on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City," and her assistant, Stuart Smith, were arrested Tuesday morning on suspicion of running a nationwide telemarketing fraud and money laundering scheme.
“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," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Shah and Smith allegedly defrauded victims by selling "business services" after enticing them to enter business opportunities on sales floors in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona and selling the names of the people who bought into these opportunities to telemarketers in New York and New Jersey.
According to the news release, telemarketers would then sell services purporting to make the victims’ businesses more efficient or profitable, including tax preparation or website design services, even though many victims were elderly and did not own a computer.
Shah and Smith, who allegedly ran the operation since 2012, are accused of controlling which telemarketers received "leads" to whom they could offer fraudulent services. Hundreds of victims, many over age 55, were targeted.
HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh 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 . . . As alleged, disturbingly, Shah and Smith objectified their very real human victims as ‘leads’ to be bought and sold, offering their personal information for sale to other members of their fraud ring. As a result, their new reality may very well turn out differently than they expected.”
In a court hearing Tuesday afternoon, a judge confirmed Shah and Smith's identities, advised them of their Miranda rights and set a number of conditions for them to abide by as they await the next steps in their proceedings.
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Shah and Smith will not be allowed to make financial transactions in excess of $10,000 except as needed for attorney fees. They must also surrender their passports, remain in Utah (except as may be required for court appearances in New York), refrain from talking to each other and refrain from telemarketing activities.
The judge in Tuesday's hearing said Shah and Smith are not being detained by law enforcement authorities. Shah and Smith are also scheduled to appear before a New York judge on Wednesday, and they have been given the option to appear either by virtual meeting or in person.
A representative for Bravo TV, the network that airs "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City," declined to comment. Shah lives in Park City; Smith is a resident of Lehi.