The Bravo-verse was shocked when news broke on March 30, 2021, that Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah and her assistant, Stuart Smith, were arrested by the FBI for allegedly running a nationwide telemarketing scam. She and Smith face decades in prison, having been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, per a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Shah and her assistant are being accused of selling “lead lists” to people who would knowingly defraud hundreds of people — mostly over the age of 55 years old — into buying services for small businesses such as tax preparation or website design, even though some of the victims didn’t even have a computer.
In addition to the nine-year scheme, Shah and Smith allegedly took great pains to mask their role in the operation and asked others to encrypt communication with other participants and to move money into offshore accounts. As of this writing, the second season of RHOSLC is well underway when it comes to filming and there are also reports that Shah had told production she was having a family emergency just before departing on a cast trip. Just after, authorities reportedly came to arrest her and swarmed production with cameras rolling.
Basically, it will be hard to ignore this situation on the show come Season 2. Additionally, high-powered L.A. criminal defense lawyer Silva Megerditchian spoke with Nicki Swift about how Shah’s behavior on Season 1 could help the prosecution.
Jen Shah's opulent lifestyle might just work against her
Jen Shah was very vague about where her money came from on The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, which doesn’t prove that she’s guilty, but it did seem odd to fans that she couldn’t be more concise about it. That, and other actions on the show, might not work well for her, according to L.A-.based criminal defense lawyer (and a Bravo fan herself) Silva Megerditchian, who told Nicki Swift that the same attributes that make her a great Housewife might also play poorly to a jury.
Megerditchian doesn’t need a crystal ball — it’s evident from the release that the show will be brought up if her case goes to trial. “What was noteworthy to me is that the Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss’ statement actually pointed out that Jennifer portrays herself as a wealthy and successful businessperson on ‘reality’ TV,” she said. Megerditchian added, “What people do not realize is that attorneys, prosecutors, and judges are fans of reality TV, and if you are under investigation, how you portray yourself can help or hurt your case.”
She continued, “In the case of Jen Shah and even [the 2014 case of] Teresa Giudice of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, their ridiculous and opulent lifestyle can and is used against them in these indictments.” Megerditchian also said that the fact that Shah reportedly “used money from elderly and vulnerable people to flaunt her lavish lifestyle” does “not bode well” for her case.
Is prison time 'inevitable' for Jen Shah?
After her initial arrest, Jen Shah and her assistant were released without bond to await further court dates. In addition to not being able to leave Utah, they cannot engage in telemarketing or move more than $10,000 from their accounts without the permission of prosecutors, per CNN.
According to the release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Shah faces years in prison if charged, but Silva Megerditchian, a criminal defense lawyer who spoke with Nicki Swift about the case, thinks it’s too early to tell what will happen. “I will say that the indictment is clear that allegedly, Jennifer preyed on the most vulnerable of the population — that being people over the age of 55 in an elaborate telemarketing scheme that targeted these people repeatedly,” Megerditchian said. She added that given the sheer numbers of Shah’s alleged victims, prison time is “just inevitable.”
Megerditchian warned, “It is well known that when the federal government gets involved in these types of cases, they have an over a 95 percent conviction rate, so Jen does have the fight of her life ahead of her.” Now, the only question is whether or not fans will be able to watch it unfold on The Real Housewives Of Salt Lake City.
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