‘Real Housewives' Star Charged in Massive Fraud, Money Laundering Scheme

Federal prosecutors allege Jen Shah ran a telemarketing scheme that defrauded hundreds of victims for years

NBC Universal, Inc.

What to Know

  • "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" star Jen Shah was arrested Tuesday on a federal indictment out of Manhattan
  • Prosecutors allege Shah ran a years-long telemarketing scheme to defraud hundreds of people, many over 55
  • Shah faces up to 30 years in prison on the wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges

"Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" star Jennifer Shah is facing federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a purported long-running telemarketing scam, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Shah was arrested earlier Tuesday in Salt Lake City on the indictment out of Manhattan federal court. Stuart Smith, who appeared with Shah on "Real Housewives," was also indicted in the alleged 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," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.

The NYPD alleged that Shah and Smith have "hundreds" of victims. According to the indictment against them, their alleged scam ran for at least nine years, from 2012 until this month.

Her "Real Housewives" bio describes Shah as "queen of her house and her businesses as the CEO of three marketing companies."

But prosecutors allege that Shah and Smith instead ran a complicated scheme to generate lists of potential victims, many over age 55, and sell those leads to telemarketing companies that would in turn try to sell business services to the victims.

Shah and Smith would then purportedly receive a share of the allegedly fraudulent revenue those telemarketers generated.

The fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

'Real Housewives' Drama

Shah is one of the principal stars of the newest iteration of "Real Housewives," which debut last November and was renewed in February for a second season.

During a reunion special last month, Shah tried to explain what exactly she did for a living, after some of her friends said they didn't even understand it themselves.

"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 said, according to a Bravo recap of the show.

PR reps for Shah had no comment on her arrest.

Disclosure: "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" airs on Bravo, which like WNBC is a unit of NBC Universal.

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