Bravolebrities have faced plenty of scandals over the years — but they don’t always have to watch them play out on TV. Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah, however, might be the central story line during the show’s upcoming second season.
The 47-year-old reality personality and one of her assistants, Stuart Smith, were arrested on Tuesday, March 30, for allegedly defrauding hundreds of people in a nationwide telemarketing scheme. As news of the legal drama continues to make headlines, a source tells Us Weekly, “Jen was filming with a few of the other women present when she was arrested.”
Shah’s fellow cast members — including Heather Gay, Lisa Barlow and Meredith Marks — “were completely shocked when Jen was taken away,” the source adds. “The women were all about the take a trip to Colorado in the coming days. The women aren’t sure if they are still going yet.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss detailed the accusations against Shah and Smith in a press release on Tuesday, claiming that the duo “allegedly generated and sold ‘lead lists’ of innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam.”
The statement continued, “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 her assistant were booked on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and conspiracy to commit money laundering. They each face a maximum sentence of 30 years for the wire fraud charges and an additional 20 years for the money laundering charges.
New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea applauded the NYPD and other branches of law enforcement for banding together ahead of Shah’s arrest in Salt Lake City.
“These individuals allegedly targeted and defrauded hundreds of victims but thanks to the hard work of the NYPD and our law enforcement partners, this illegal scheme was brought to an end,” Shea said on Tuesday. “I congratulate the NYPD detectives, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for their hard work in bringing these persons to justice.”
HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh also noted that the “lavish lifestyle” that Shah “flaunted” on RHOSLC was not necessarily earned through hard work.
“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,” Fitzhugh claimed. “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.”
Us Weekly has reached out to Bravo for comment.