Two cast members of an American reality TV show have been indicted in connection with a nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme that victimized the elderly.
Real Housewives of Salt Lake City stars Jennifer Shah and Stuart Smith were arrested on March 30 and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
It is alleged that from 2012 until March 2021, 47-year-old Shah and 43-year-old Smith defrauded hundreds of victims throughout the United States by selling “lead lists” for fictitious business opportunities.
Victims, many of whom were aged 55 or over, were sold services that were supposed to make their online businesses easier to manage, more efficient, or more profitable.
In exchange for payment, victims were sent electronic or paper pamphlets or were provided with “coaching sessions.”
However, the Department of Justice stated in a press release dated March 30 that “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.”
It is alleged that the defendants, both Utah residents, worked hard to conceal their involvement in the fraudulent scheme, using encrypted messaging to communicate with their co-conspirators, incorporating their business entities using third parties’ names, and placing fraudulently obtained proceeds in offshore bank accounts.
Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “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.
“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.”
Shah, of Park City, and Smith, of Lehi, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing through which they victimized 10 or more persons over the age of 55, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
If convicted on both counts, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.