SALT LAKE CITY — "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" star Jen Shah and her assistant, Stuart Smith, were finally arraigned in a New York federal court on Friday, pleading not guilty to fraud charges.
The pair's original arraignment was disrupted by technical difficulties and also apparent fans of the reality TV who could not mute. The issues got so bad that Judge Sidney Stein had to delay the hearing.
On Friday, Shah and Smith appeared virtually where they were read the charges.
"Not guilty," Shah said to each of the offenses.
Lawyers went back-and-forth over the terms of her remaining out of jail pending trial. Federal prosecutors asked for $1 million, plus $250,000 in either cash or property security. Shah's defense lawyers acknowledged she doesn't own her own home (the palatial Park City mansion seen on TV is a rental), but does have other business interests including fashion and beauty companies and her appearance on "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."
"What is the risk of flight here? Ms. Shah, I've come to learn, is a participant in a popular television show. Her image is active on the social media. I must say it's unlikely she could disappear somewhere," Judge Stein said.
But a federal prosecutor tried to argue that Shah still could be a flight risk, even though she did not have a current passport and was on the reality TV show. Prosecutor Keirsten Fletcher tried to argue that Shah was not forthcoming about her financial situation and that, as part of their ongoing and larger case, she and her co-defendant were at the "highest level" of the government's investigation into the $5 million fraud case.
The prosecutor said it "remains to be seen" if Shah will remain a public figure in light of the charges leveled against her.
"That public persona is insufficient to ensure her appearance in court," Fletcher said.
"She is well known," countered one of her attorneys, Henry Asbill, later adding: "She intends to fight this case."
The judge agreed not to detain her, but did require the $1 million bond with $250,000 cash or property security. He also limited her travel to Utah, New York and Washington, D.C. (where one of her attorneys is based).
Smith also was required to follow similar detention requirements. He also pleaded not guilty to the charges. A trial date has been set for October, but the judge warned it could be delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Shah and Smith were arrested in the Salt Lake City area on Tuesday. Shah is a cast member of the Bravo network reality show "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City," which documents the friendships and feuds of five women who live in Utah. Shah, who lives in the upscale ski resort town of Park City, is portrayed as a glamorous and sometimes-temperamental businesswoman who is married to a University of Utah assistant football coach.
As FOX 13 first reported earlier this week, Shah and Smith are accused in a larger telemarketing fraud case dating back to 2019 that has been prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Prosecutors have alleged that Shah and Smith were involved in generating "lead lists" of potential clients for business opportunities that were ultimately scammed.
Utah's Department of Commerce has declined to comment on whether it has any investigations under way into Shah and her companies. The Utah Attorney General's Office said it was not involved in any cases.