‘Real Housewives’ cast member charged in telemarketing scheme
A cast member from Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” is facing federal charges in connection with a telemarketing scheme, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.
Jen Shah, one of the women featured on the first season of the reality TV show, which premiered last year, was arrested and accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Shah, along with her personal assistant, Stuart Smith, “allegedly generated and sold ‘lead lists’ of innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam.”
The “wide-ranging” scheme, which allegedly began in 2012 and continued through this month, defrauded hundreds of victims throughout the country by “selling those victims so-called ‘business services’ in connection with the victims’ purported online business.”
“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,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
“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,” Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge Peter Fitzhugh said. “As alleged, disturbingly, Shah and Smith objectified their very real human victims as ‘leads’ to be bought and sold, offering their personal information for sale to other members of their fraud ring.”
“As a result, their new reality may very well turn out differently than they expected,” Fitzhugh said.
A Bravo spokeswoman declined to comment. The cable network hasn’t made any casting announcements for the show’s second season.
Both Shah and Smith are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The pair faces up to 30 years in prison.
Shah isn’t the first cast member from the long-running “Real Housewives” franchise to be hit with federal charges.
Teresa Giudice and her now-ex-husband, Joe Giudice, who both starred on “Real Housewives of New Jersey” served prison time after pleading guilty to federal fraud charges in 2014.