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Why Was Real Housewife Jen Shah Arrested for Fraud?

As Jen Shah, a Real Housewife of Salt Lake City, flaunted her wealth on television, she hid an alleged criminal conspiracy with her assistant to defraud elderly working-class people of their hard-earned money. To hide the source of her wealth, which often came under question, she distracted people with her penchant for drink-throwing and hurling expletives, on national television.

The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star was arrested on Tuesday along with one of her assistants, Stuart Smith. In a ten-page indictment released on March 30, Shah and Smith were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The indictment describes a “wide-ranging telemarketing scheme” that targeted hundreds of victims, with many being 55 years old or older. It is unclear how the feds caught wind of Shah and Smith’s alleged activity, but indicate their scheme has been ongoing since at least 2012.

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Though specific details of the indictment are scant, they put many of Shah’s previous statements into a new, potentially more damning context.

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Shah previously confirmed that Smith was “all in for, like, crazy stuff” in a January radio interview. Shah was released hours after her arrest, but is not allowed to leave her home state of Utah, carry a passport, or engage in certain business dealings like telemarketing, according to court documents reviewed by VICE.

As detailed in a Department of Justice press release, the two “allegedly built their opulent lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people,” using them as “‘leads’ to be bought and sold, offering their personal information for sale to other members of their fraud ring.”

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In courting press coverage in the past, Shah’s representatives have touted her as a CEO of multiple marketing companies, on top of a growing “empire” of fashion and beauty brands.

Such efforts included “Shah Squad Marketing” and her “Young Preneur” program, which are also both sparse on details. Suspicious Real Housewives fans were already looking into Shah’s dealings, with one r/BravoRealHouseWives member asking, “Does anyone know if any of Jen’s multiple businesses are legit?” in December 2020.

In describing one of her many businesses to Page Six, Shah said, “So we have this women entrepreneurs mastermind group, where these women—there’s a small group of us, like ten of us, everybody pays 20 grand to be part of it—it’s a high-level mastermind brainstorming, like YPO [Young Presidents’ Association] but for women only.”

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“It’s really great because we’re helping people build their online business so they can still create additional sources of revenue or [a replacement for] their current stream of revenue,” Shah said in another interview.

Season two of the show was reportedly mid-recording while a warrant was out for Shah’s arrest, making way for a new genre of white-collar-crime-slash-reality TV drama. In the meantime, fans are apparently turning to Zoom for their fix.

Hundreds of people joined Shah’s arraignment yesterday on Zoom, as The Washington Post reported, adding comments about Bravo, laughing, and disrupting the proceedings, which prevented Shah from re-joining the call when she disconnected, according to her lawyer. The arraignment has been rescheduled for tomorrow, April 2.

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