Jen Shah, a star of Bravo's Real Housewives of Salt Lake City known for her over-the-top displays of wealth, is facing decades in federal prison after allegedly running a multiyear telemarketing scheme that prosecutors say ripped off hundreds of older victims.
An indictment against Shah and her assistant Stuart Smith was unsealed by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday, charging the duo with "conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and conspiracy to commit money laundering." They were also arrested on Tuesday.
Prosecutors allege that beginning around 2012 and continuing through this month, Shah and Smith conspired together to sell what they called "business services" to hundreds of people, many of whom were over the age of 55. However, US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a press release said that "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."
“Shah and Smith flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their ‘success,'" Peter C. Fitzhugh, the special agent in charge of the investigation for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement. "In reality, they allegedly built their opulent lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people."
According to authorities, Shah, Smith, and other participants in the scheme would convince the victims to invest in what they said was an online business opportunity. They then would take their names and "engaged in a widespread, coordinated effort to traffic in lists of potential victims." They would do this by selling the lists of names to other participants in the scheme for "use by their telemarketing sales floors with the knowledge that the individuals they had identified as 'leads' would be defrauded by the other participants," the indictment said.
As part of the scheme, some of the coconspirators would sell "services" to help with the victims' "businesses," like tax preparation or website design services, the indictment reads, noting that "many victims were elderly and did not own a computer." But the "business" was a scam, authorities said.
"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 reads. Prosecutors also allege Shah and Smith made "significant efforts to conceal their roles" in the scam.
On the reality show, which just finished airing its first season, Shah became well known for her constant talk of her opaque "businesses" and opulent wealth, as well as having numerous "assistants" who followed her around. Smith was referred to as Shah's "first assistant" on the show, and he even became a meme.
As the episodes aired, a lot of viewers questioned what Shah and Smith did for a living.
Now, fans are like....oh.
Both Shah and Smith were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing, through which they allegedly victimized 10 or more persons over the age of 55. That charge has a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
They also were charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Before the charges came out, Shah posted to Instagram stories showing herself in full glam.
A representative for Shah declined to comment to BuzzFeed News.