The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Viewers got to experience a new type of drama on Bravo’s reality television series when Jen Shah was taken into custody in Salt Lake City, March 30th, 2021 for her involvement in a national scheme of telemarketing fraud. After being charged with conspiring to commit wirefraud in connection to telemarketing, and conspiracy money laundering, Shah pleaded not guilty in court. Shah was granted a personal recognizance bond of $1 million and a $250,000 cash guarantee.
Shah changed her plea of guilty Monday. Shah appeared before U.S. district Judge Sidney Stein in Manhattan Federal Court. She pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud. reports. The judge agreed to drop Shah’s additional charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“From 2012 to March 2021, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, I agreed with others to commit wire fraud,” Shah said in court. “I did this by knowingly providing customer names to people who were marketing business services that had little or no value… I knew this was wrong. I know many people were harmed and I am so sorry.”
Prior to Shah’s arrest, there was already curiosity about her work and profession after the explosive premiere of her first season on reality television. Shah showed off a lavish lifestyle, complete with multiple assistants who she dubbed the “Shah Squad.” In the third episode of season 1, a whopping eight assistants appear on camera just to help her get ready for a party. One of Shah’s assistants, Stuart Smith, who appeared multiple times on the show, was arrested in Utah the same day that Shah was, and charged with the same crimes. Smith initially pleaded not guilty to the charges in April 2021. In November, however, Smith pled guilty under a plea agreement.
Shah would be facing trial in Manhattan Federal Court. Jury selection began on July 18. She was going to be tried in Manhattan because the telemarketing scheme she’s allegedly linked to has call centers based in New Jersey and New York, including Manhattan. “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,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss stated in a press release. “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.”
Although this isn’t the first, it does not mean that there will be any other. Real Housewives cast member has gotten in trouble with the law, Shah’s situation has been especially buzzy because she was filming for season 2 of the show on the day of her arrest. In fact, the season 2 premiere, which aired Sept. 12, 2021, opened with footage of Shah about to embark on a group trip with the other women, receiving a phone call, then asking a co-star to take off her mic before hastily leaving filming—just minutes before the Department of Homeland Security arrived on the scene, a precursor of her legal woes becoming a main storyline for the season.
While Shah long maintained her innocence and seemed to take her criminal charges in stride, even referencing them in her tagline for the last season (“The only thing I’m guilty of is being Shah-mazing”), she now faces up to 30 years in prison, but agreed as part of her plea deal not to appeal if she is sentenced to 14 years or less time. Shah could also have to pay $9.5 million in restitution and $6.5 million to federal authorities.
Jen Shah’s role on The Salt Lake City’s Real Housewives
Continue reading The Salt Lake City’s Real HousewivesShah is a flamboyant personality with volatile outbursts, flashy fashion sense and sharp rejoinders that create a lot of drama. From throwing glasses to feuding with almost every single one of her other cast members, including, memorably, co-star Meredith Mark’s college-age son Brooks, her quick temper and unabashed embrace of messy situations has placed her squarely at the center of her franchise. She’s married to her college sweetheart, Sharrieff “Coach” Shah, the special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach at the University of Utah, with whom she has two sons.
Shah initially presented herself as a “dark horse” on the series. She often spoke about her experiences growing up Tongan and Hawaiian in largely white, Mormon Salt Lake City. These feelings are something she revisits when she grieves her father’s death and navigates the complicated dynamics within her friends group. The series, which relies heavily on religion as a general theme, also hones in on Shah’s conversion from Mormonism to Islam following her marriage and after she learns about the historical mistreatment of Black people in the Mormon church.
Jen Shah: Why was she arrested
Shah and Smith were arrested on March 30, 2021 in Salt Lake City for their alleged involvement in a telemarketing scheme, where they allegedly found elderly people who were easy targets for a scam, then sold “lead lists” of them to others, while taking a cut of the profits. According to their indictment, between 2012 and the time of their arrest, Shah and Smith allegedly “defrauded hundreds of victims throughout the United States, many of whom were over age 55, by selling those victims so-called ‘business services’ in connection with the victims’ purported online businesses.”
On-screen, Shah’s displays of wealth had raised questions about her line of work. Season 1 of the reunion of The Salt Lake City’s Real HousewivesAndy Cohen, the host of this show asked Shah about her job to answer a question from a viewer asking why she had so many assistants. Shah responded: “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.” In a 2020 interview with Bustle, Shah disclosed that she had three companies—JXA Fashion, Shah Beauty, and the Real Shah Lashes—along with her “core business” of direct-response marketing.
“Shah and Smith flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their ‘success,’” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said in a statement. “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.”
What happens next after Shah’s guilty plea
After their arrests on April 20, 2021, Shah and Smith both plead not guilty. Shah later accused the police that arrested her of using “deception and trickery” to get her to waive her Miranda rights, and said that her dry contact lenses also caused her to sign the wrong line on the waiver.
On Nov. 19, 2021, Smith pled guilty to all charges, making a statement when he changed his plea that he “knowingly and intentionally discussed and engaged with other individuals to develop a plan or operation to obtain money by false representation by offering and inducing individuals, many of whom were over 50 years of age or older, to provide money to entities that I and others were involved with” and that “the services sold were of no value and of no real benefit to the customer.” People Reports state that Smith, who was a part of the same telemarketing scam and pled guilty in court to the similar charges, received sentences between 5-7 years and 70 years.
Had Shah not changed her plea to guilty, Smith’s change in his plea could have had a major effect on her outcome; because their friendship has been well-documented both online and on the show, Smith’s admission that he knew that the services were of “no value” and “no real benefit” would have made it more difficult for Shah to prove that she was unaware of the fraudulent scheme. Shah sought to dismiss the case after Hulu had released the documentary. The Shah Shocker and the Housewife She claimed it could ruin her chance of getting a fair trial in November 2021. Shah filed an additional request to remove clips. The Salt Lake City’s Real Housewives not be shown at her trial, making the case that the content is “highly edited and crafted through post-production.”
Shah is now awaiting sentencing which will be held in November.
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