NEW YORK CITY (ABC4) – A “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” cast member got a reality check Tuesday after being taken into federal custody.
Jennifer Shah and her assistant, Stuart Smith, have been arrested and charged with running a nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme and conspiring to commit money laundering. Shah was reportedly working on the reality show when she was arrested Tuesday, according to ET.
Federal officials from New York and New York City Police announced the unsealing of the federal indictment that charges Shah and Smith, outlining details of the telemarketing 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,” says Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss. “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.”
According to Fitzhugh, both “flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their ‘success.'”
Where the charges of Shah and Smith stem from
Authorities say Shah and Smith, since 2012, carried out a wide-ranging telemarketing scheme that defrauded hundreds of victims across the U.S., along with other participants. Many of the victims have been identified as over the age of 55 and were sold so-called “business services” in connection with their purported online businesses.
Shah, Smith, and an unidentified number of others are accused of engaging in a coordinated effort to traffic in lists of potential victims, or “leads,” that had previously made an initial investment to create an online business with other suspects involved. Leads were reportedly generated by sales floors operating in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, among other locations.
Owners and operators of those sales floors worked in coordination with some telemarketing sales floors in New York and New Jersey. They allegedly provided lead lists and assistance in fighting victim refund requests to others operating sales floors.
Court documents, which you can read below, say Shah and Smith were among those that generated and sold leads to others for use by their telemarketing sales floors with the knowledge that individuals had identified as “leads” would be defrauded. Shah and Smith then received a share of the fraudulent revenue as profit.
Officials allege Shah and Smith often controlled each aspect of the frauds perpetrated by other participants, like which “coaching” sales floor could buy leads from them, which could pass the leads, firms that provided “fulfillment” services, and more.
In the scheme, “certain participants sold alleged services to make the management of the victims’ businesses more efficient or profitable, including tax preparation or website design services, notwithstanding that many Victims were elderly and did not own a computer,” court officials say. While services were promised, court documents say that “at no point did the defendants intend that the Victims would actually earn any of the promised return on their intended investment, nor did the Victims actually earn any such returns.”
READ: Federal indictment against Jennifer Shah
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Shah and Smith are also accused of undertaking efforts to conceal their roles in the scheme, like incorporating their business entities using third parties’ names and instructed others to do the same. Those paying Shah and Smith were directed to send funds to offshore bank accounts as well.
According to court records, 47-year-old Shah of Park City and 43-year-old Smith of Lehi are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing through which they victimized 10 or more persons over the age of 55, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Shah is married to Sharrieff Shah, cornerbacks/special teams coordinator for the University of Utah’s football team. There is no word on whether he is involved or knew of the scheme.