Salt Lake City, UT – The most volatile and aggressive cast member of the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City (RHOSLC) and her assistant were arrested on federal fraud and money laundering charges on Tuesday.
Prosecutors said that 47-year-old Jen Shah and her assistant, 43-year-old Stuart Smith, were part of a large conspiracy case that involved at least 10 additional defendants, KSTU reported.
Charging documents filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York showed that Shah had been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
She appeared in federal court in Salt Lake City on Tuesday and was released pending a virtual hearing with the New York court that was scheduled for Wednesday, KSTU reported.
U.S. District Court Judge Dustin Pead in Salt Lake City federal court ordered Shah and Smith released without bond on March 30 but ordered them to remain in Utah, CNN reported.
Under the terms of their release, neither may engage in telemarketing nor move more than $10,000 from personal accounts without permission from the court.
The case in which Shah and Smith were indicted dates back to 2019 and involves numerous other defendants.
Prosecutors said Shah and Smith “sold alleged services purporting to make the management of victims’ businesses more efficient or profitable,” CNN reported.
Charging document said the services they sold included tax preparation and website design services even though many of their elderly victims didn’t have computers.
Anthony Cheedie, Chad Allen, Shane Hanna Cameron Brewster, Kevin Handren, Joseph Ciaccio, Joseh Minetto, Joseph Depaola, Derek Larkin, and Mattie Cirilo have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing scheme, KSTU reported.
Federal prosecutors said that Larkin and Cirilo were also charged with obstruction of justice.
All of the defendants are accused of targeting elderly and vulnerable victims with their scams, KSTU reported.
“As alleged, these 10 defendants, motivated by greed and the possibility of a quick payday, aggressively targeted the elderly and other vulnerable victims throughout the United States by convincing them to invest their money in various businesses, and then scammed those victims again after pushing them deep into debt,” then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said when the first 10 people were charged.
“In reality, allegedly these so-called opportunities were just fraudulent schemes to steal victims’ money, and the so-called ‘debt relief’ only further abused the trust innocent victims placed in the defendants. Now, the defendants face time in prison for their alleged crimes,” Berman said.
Shah and Smith stand accused of having trafficked in “lead lists” of hundreds of potential victims, KSTU reported.
The indictment alleged that many of the potential victims had already been targeted by their co-defendants.
Court records showed that Larkin, Depaola, Cirilo, and Ciaccio have pleaded guilty so far, KSTU reported.
Most recently, Ciaccio struck a plea deal on March 24, just six days before Shah and Smith’s indictments were unsealed.
Prosecutors said Shah and Smith “undertook significant efforts” to hide their roles in the nationwide fraud scheme, according to CNN.
Charging documents showed prosecutors accused the two of incorporating their business entities using third-party names and telling other participants to do the same.
Prosecutors said Shah and Smith told their co-conspirators to used encrypted messaging apps to communicate with each other, CNN reported.
Shah and Smith also instructed their co-conspirators to send shares of certain fraudulent proceeds to offshore bank accounts and “made numerous cash withdrawals structured to avoid currency transaction reporting requirements,” according to federal prosecutors.
“Shah and Smith flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their ‘success.’ In reality, they allegedly built their opulent lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people,” Peter C. Fitzhugh, the special agent-in-charge of the New York Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations, said, according to CNN.
A polarizing character who had frequent temper tantrums and flew into drunken rages multiple times, Shah appeared on the first season of Bravo TV’s “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” that aired over the winter season, CNN reported.
Her assistant, Smith, frequently filmed with her on the show.
The wife of University of Utah football coach Sharrieff Shah portrayed herself on the Bravo reality show as having a luxurious and posh lifestyle and multiple homes that she spent a fortune entertaining in.
Producer and host Andy Cohen asked Shah how she made her money during the RHOSLC reunion because it had been a topic of interest on social media, CNN reported.
“My background is in direct response marketing for about 20 years, so our company does advertising,” Shah explained to Cohen and the other housewives. “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.”
The platform she referred to on the reunion is the same one she has been charged with using to commit fraud, CNN reported.
Season 2 of RHOSLC was filming when Shah was arrested.