Jen Shah, one of the stars of the newest Real Housewives series, pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges on Friday during her arraignment. The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star was arrested earlier this week on federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in connection with an alleged telemarketing scheme. Stuart Smith, who also appeared on RHOSLC with Shah, was arrested for his alleged role in the same scheme and pleaded not guilty.
On Friday, the judge ruled Shah has to sign a 1 million personal recognizance bond secured by $250,000 in cash or property, as well as the signatures from two "financially responsible people" in order for her to continue living outside custody between hearings, reports Entertainment Tonight. Shah was also ordered to avoid contacting her co-defendant, alleged victims, and witnesses unless her lawyer is present. Before she appeared in court on Friday, Shah, 47, stopped by her hairdresser, Endo, who posted a photo of Shah's new hairdo on his Instagram Story.
Federal prosecutors announced the charges against Shah and Smith on Tuesday, following their arrests in Salt Lake City. According to the indictment, the two allegedly defrauded hundreds of victims across the county by selling them "business services" that would supposedly help the victims' own businesses. As part of this scheme, Shah, Smith, and other participants "engaged in a widespread, coordinated effort to traffic in lists of potential victims, or 'leads,' many of whom had previously made an initial investment to create an online business" with scheme participants. Shah and Smith allegedly generated leads themselves and sold them to other participants to receive revenue, prosecutors said. The scam allegedly began in 2012 until March 2021.
The participants in the scene allegedly told victims that their services would help their businesses become "more efficient or profitable," including tax services and building websites. However, many of the victims were elderly and did not own their own computer, prosecutors said, The participants even offered "coaching sessions," but the defendants never intended for the victims to "actually earn any of the promised return on their intended investment, nor did the Victims actually earn any such returns."
"Jennifer Shah, who portrays herself as a wealthy and successful businessperson on 'reality television, and Stuart Smith, who is portrayed as Shah's 'first assistant,' allegedly generated and sold 'lead lists' of innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement. "In actual reality and as alleged, 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. Now, these defendants face time in prison for their alleged crimes."
"Shah and Smith flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their 'success,'" Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said. "In reality, they allegedly built their opulent lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people. 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. Working with our partners at the NYPD and the United States Attorney's Office, SDNY, and with the assistance of HSI Salt Lake City, HSI New York worked to ensure that Shah and Smith will answer for their alleged crimes. As a result, their new reality may very well turn out differently than they expected."
Shah's future on RHOSLC is uncertain. Production on the show's second season has already started without her, reports Entertainment Tonight. A source told the outlet that Shah was working on the show when she was arrested. She received a phone call when the cast was about to leave for Colorado together. She reportedly told her co-stars her husband, Sharrieff Shah, was hospitalized, but she was arrested minutes later. Shah's rep has not commented on her husband's status, ET reports.