Monday, May 17, 2021

Real Housewives star Jennifer Shah charged over telemarketing fraud scheme

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“Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jennifer Shah has been arrested and charged with running a nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme, according to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Stuart Smith, Shah’s assistant, has also been charged in the alleged scheme.

They both were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and conspiracy to commit money laundering, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement. The counts carry a maximum sentence of 30 and 20 years, respectively, if convicted.

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Shah and Smith were arrested Tuesday and are not being detained. They appeared in federal court in Salt Lake City later in the day to confirm their identities and the conditions of their release. The conditions include that they not communicate with each other, not move money in excess of $10,000 per transaction — with the exception of legal services — without court approval, and not engage in telemarketing. They are next scheduled to appear in New York federal court virtually on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET.

The indictment alleges that Shah, Smith and others not identified “defrauded hundreds of victims” out of thousands of dollars by selling them business services like coaching sessions, tax prep and web design marketed to make their online businesses more profitable. But “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,” the indictment alleges.

Many of the victims were elderly and did not own a computer, according to the indictment.

Shah, 47, and Smith, 43, allegedly sold the names of potential victims, or “leads,” to others participating in the scheme and earned a share of the fraudulent revenue, according to the indictment. The two also allegedly oversaw several components of the scheme, such as which products were for sale and for how much.

Both Shah and Smith “undertook significant efforts to conceal their roles” in the scheme, including incorporating their business entities using third parties’ names, the indictment alleges. They also allegedly had their proceeds sent to offshore bank accounts.

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The alleged scheme operated from about 2012 to March 2021 in several states, with sales floors in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and elsewhere generating leads, and telemarketing sales floors in the New York and New Jersey area that provided “assistance in fighting victim refund requests,” according to the indictment.

The indictment does not specify how much the alleged scheme profited or name any specific business.

Shah’s Bravo biography refers to her as the “queen of her house and her businesses as the CEO of three marketing companies.”

The government is seeking forfeiture of any property linked to the fraud and names a property in Lehi, Utah, where Shah lives, in the indictment.

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