Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah was arrested in March 2021 and charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
A new ABC News and Hulu documentary called The Housewife & the Shah Shocker is centered around the housewife's legal issues.
Now, a judge has denied Jen's motion to dismiss her case, and another codefendant in her case just changed his plea to guilty.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City season 2 is heating up with some serious drama. In a recent episode, the housewives were preparing to escape on a girls' trip to Vail, Colorado, when police arrived, looking for Jen Shah. Twelve minutes later, Jen was arrested—and it all goes downhill from there.
While the trailer for season 2 was already pretty tense, it doesn't look like the action will be slowing down any time soon. Jen's ongoing legal battles since have been a major plotline this season. The show's latest midseason trailer teases that Jen's case is behind some of the most shocking RHOSLC moments yet—including an almost-brawl between Jen and a fellow cast member.
The new documentary The Housewife & The Shah Shocker focuses on Shah's arrest and how her case has unfolded so far. And now, a judge has denied Jen's motion to dismiss her case. A second codefendant has also changed his plea to guilty.
As season 2 of RHOSLC continues, here's everything you need to know about Jen's current legal issues, her arrest, upcoming court date—and how much you'll get to see on the show:
Jen was arrested in March 2021 while filming season 2.
Jen, 47, and her assistant, Stuart Smith, 43, were arrested on March 30th while the Bravo cameras were rolling. They were both charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, per People.
For almost ten years, Jen and Stuart are accused of building a telemarketing scheme that targeted at least 10 people over the age of 55. The pair reportedly created lists of "potential victims" called "leads." Then, they sold those leads to telemarketing companies, per People. According to the indictment, Jen and Stuart "received as profit a share of the fraudulent revenue per the terms of their agreement with those participants."
"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,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh, according to Us Weekly.
The investigation into Jen began back in 2016.
During the season premiere, viewers learned that Jen was arrested by Homeland Security officials, who have been leading an investigation into a nationwide telemarketing scheme for six years. Homeland Security Investigations' El Dorado Task Force has been pursuing the case with the help of the New York Police Department and other officials since 2016, according to ABC News.
A narcotics arrest in New Jersey was the first development in the case. That led investigators to indict multiple telemarketers in 2017, ABC News reported. After those indictments resulted in more than 15 guilty pleas, another ten people were charged with participating in a nationwide telemarketing scheme in Nov. 2019—including Jen and her assistant Stuart.
Most of the defendants in Jen's case have already plead guilty and are expected to go to trial in March.
Jen's arrest is a major plot point on this season of RHOSLC.
On RHOSLC, viewers got to see footage of Jen's arrest, during which she thought she was "being kidnapped."
"I didn't think I needed an attorney or anything like that, because I didn't do anything," Jen explained, per People.
Jen also said on the show that authorities arrived at her home and "held [my] son at gunpoint." After they "barged into the house," Jen told her co-star Heather Gay that one of her sons "saw a red laser pointed at his chest."
"We tell the boys, 'You're Black in a predominantly white community, like, don't move, don't say anything, be polite,'" she added. "It makes me sick because what if they would've thought that, like, [they] moved the wrong way or did something and they could've shot [them]."
She faces up to 50 years in prison.
Jen is currently free on a $1 million bond, Page Six reported.
The wire fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years, while the money laundering charge carries a maximum of 20. Jen pleaded not guilty to both charges in April 2021. In August, she requested to have the charges dismissed before her trial but was denied, per People.
Jen's court date is coming up in March.
Jen's fraud trial is currently set for March 2022, according to Page Six. She will be on trial along with two co-defendants, Chad Allen, and Cameron Brewster, per People.
ABC News reported that Allen and Brewster are both pleading not guilty.
A new documentary probes her case.
ABC News and Hulu (the same team behind The Housewife and The Hustler, a documentary about Beverly Hills housewife Erika Jayne's legal issues) just released The Housewife & the Shah Shocker on Nov. 29th. The film follows Jen Shah's arrest and dives into the current charges against her, according to Page Six.
The documentary includes interviews from people close to Jen, including her aunt Lehua Vincent, her childhood classmate Beth Hahne, her former designer Koa Johnson, and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills alum Dana Wilkey (who also appeared in The Housewife and The Hustler). Two women who say they were scammed by Jen also shared their stories, per Page Six.
The film's trailer shows plenty of drama going down. If you haven't seen it yet, here are some of the biggest takeaways.
First, Jen has been in trouble with federal authorities before. In 2015, she was deposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the work she did at Thrive, a telemarketing company. “Two years later, they fine Thrive $27 million for deceptive sales practices,” ABC correspondent Aaron Katersky revealed, per Us Weekly.
One of Jen's former employees, Koa Johnson, also claimed that she frequently screamed at her staff and failed to properly pay them after they stopped working for her. “The last to paid compensation I got from her was in September 2020, but I worked for her all the way up to January,” Johnson explained. “As far as my other coworkers, they made it known to me that they weren't being compensated as well.”
The film also uncovered a company called Mastery Pro, which prosecutors believe is run by Jen and her assistant Stuart. Stuart has already admitted to “misleading customers,” saying that Mastery Pro was founded "to hide actual ownership of the corporation." The documentary claims that Mastery Pro has made more than $5 million.
In the documentary, Jen's aunt maintains her niece's innocence. “This is the most difficult time for our entire family. The Jen Shah that I know is a woman who has come from a culture that is deeply rooted in honesty, loyalty and hard work,” she said.
“There’s just no way that Jen has the ability to be harmful or hurtful or disrespectful. You are innocent until proven guilty...and I believe her to be nothing but innocent.”
A judge denied Jen's motion to drop all charges against her.
Jen's attorneys filed a letter at the end of November asking that her case be dismissed, arguing that the documentary's release violates her right to a fair trial. Based on the court documents, Jen's legal team thought it was impossible to find an "untainted jury pool" of people who won't have seen The Housewife & the Shah Shocker before her court date in March 2022, per Us Weekly.
However, in December, a judge denied the motion. "Dismissal of an indictment is an extreme sanction that is to be utilized only in the rare case," Judge Sidney H. Stein wrote, per People.
Her assistant Stuart just changed his plea to guilty.
Attorney Ronald Richards, who is not involved with the case, confirmed that Stuart "pleaded guilty to three counts: conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice," on Nov. 19, according to Us Weekly.
“He admitted to hiding ownership and money, defrauding elderly people and lying to the Federal Trade Commission in a deposition, which constituted perjury,” Richards said. Stuart has been released on bail, and he will be sentenced in March, per People. The judge said that the maximum combined prison sentence for his three charges is 70 years.
Stuart revealed his involvement in the scheme while reading a statement in court: "I knowingly and intentionally discussed and engaged with other individuals to develop a plan or operation to obtain money by false representation by offering and inducing individuals, many of whom were over 50 years of age or older, to provide money to entities that I and others were involved with," he said, per People.
He added that he "became aware that these telemarketing companies were misleading customers of those entities by selling individuals, many of them who were older than 50 years of age, information that purported to be services to enhance their business opportunities."
"The services sold were of no value and of no real benefit to the customer," Stuart said.
Other people who were associated with the same telemarketing scheme who pleaded guilty to similar charges received prison sentences of five to seven years, according to court documents obtained by People.
What does Stuart's guilty plea mean for Jen?
It could impact Jen's case. Earlier, Richards suspected that Stuart was going to “most likely flip” on the housewife after court documents suggested he was considering pleading guilty, per Us Weekly.
“Mr. Smith is working diligently towards a resolution of his case,” Stuart's attorney wrote in an old letter to the U.S. District judge. “I am confident his case will be resolved without the necessity of a trial and I hereby request that we be excused from the August 10, 2021.”
Stuart and Jen were already considered suspects who had "greater culpability" in the telemarketing scheme, according to the Daily Mail. It's unclear exactly how Stuart's new plea will affect Jen, but more details could be released in the future.
But Richards thinks Stuart's testimony could be bad news for Jen: "Stuart knows where the bodies are buried and I think that if he testifies, that's gonna be a devastating witness for her," he told ABC News. "She is going to have a hard time attacking his credibility because they were best of buddies until the arrest."
Now, a second codefendant has also changed his plea to guilty.
Almost a month later, another codefendant in Jen's case also pleaded guilty. Shane Hanna, who was charged in connection with the case in 2019, entered a guilty plea in December, according to Us Weekly.
He pleaded guilty to eight counts of money laundering, wire fraud, device access fraud, superseding information to wire fraud conspiracy, false statements on loan apps, and aggravated identity theft, the outlet reported.
As for what this means for Jen, Richards explained on Twitter: "This is clearly a plea bargained deal," he wrote. "These charges are more severe then Stuart Smith's plea bargain and have a mandatory minimum on the aggravated identify theft."
money laundering, device access fraud, aggravated identity theft, false statements on loan apps, and wire fraud. This is clearly a plea bargained deal. The judge confirmed he waived his right to indictment. He is pleading to 8 counts. There will be heavy time hanging over..
— Ronald Richards (@RonaldRichards) December 13, 2021
Jen has explained how she makes money a few times before.
In November 2020, Jen explained her career during an episode of Access Hollywood's "Housewives Nightcap," per Us Weekly. "People will come to me and I’ll invest in their companies, so we have a got a lot of different investments, all different kinds of things,” she said. "I’ve been able to do it because what I’ve been able to carve out, the niche I’ve been able to carve out in the direct response marketing world."
Jen got more specific, too: “I own three different marketing companies and we do lead generation, data monetization, customer acquisition. The best way to describe it is, I’m the Wizard of Oz, I’m the one behind the curtain that no one knows exists but I’m the one making everything happen,” she said. “So, ads are popping to you guys and they’re like, ‘How the hell do they know I’m shopping at Neiman Marcus?’ That’s me.”
“If you think about it, you know how much traffic is on the internet every second, all the people clicking. I’m making money on every click, anytime you click on anything I’m getting some money," Jen continued. "I think because I’ve been blessed to be successful with my marketing background and my companies, I’ve really found a niche within the direct response marketing world. I’ve been able to branch out and invest in our fashion company, our skincare line, our lash line.”
She maintains her innocence.
On a recent Instagram Live, Jen appeared alongside The Real Housewives of Potomac star Gizelle Bryant. "I think what people don't understand is, here in America, you're innocent until proven guilty. I'm innocent," she explained, per People. "And I believe that this is not just my test, this is everybody's test close to me and in my corner."
"This is real. Like, y’all came on this real-time with Jen Shah, OK?" she explained. "This was rolling out real-time, so I just hope people can separate the drama and the entertainment from real life, and this is really impacting my loved ones and the people that are around me."
"I just hope people can see, this is a real thing," Jen added. "This is not fake. This is not made up."
Other Salt Lake City housewives had suspicions around Jen's business.
On a Watch What Happens Live episode from Sept. 12th, RHOSLC housewife Heather Gay explained to Andy why she's sticking by Jen's side. "I knew her business was unsavory when I was her friend, so why would I change now that it's public?" she asked.
"I didn't know it was illegal," Heather clarified, adding that she tried to ask Jen about her business on her podcast. "I asked her, for like an hour, questions about her business," she said. "I never understood it."
"I just assumed it was something that was right along the line of—nothing I'd want to be involved in, but I didn't think it was illegal," Heather continued. "I didn't think you'd go to prison for it."
One RHOSLC star claimed this wasn't Jen's first run-in with the law.
During the Nov. 14 RHOSLC episode, Meredith Marks shared that Jen had supposedly been involved in a shoplifting incident last year. "In late September , I was with my entire family. We were all in New York. And I have, like, eight missed calls from Jen," Meredith explained.
Jen had been trying to make a purchase from Meredith's store, but the building was locked. “I was at dinner and I called her back and she’s like, ‘Oh, we’re good. I was trying to get into your store. It was closed. I was banging on the door, but your manager reopened for me.’ Great. So, she left. My manager called me and I’m like, ‘Oh great, what did she buy?’” Meredith continued.
Meredith said the store's manager told her Jen had spent "a few hundred dollars," adding that a snakeskin clutch seemed to have gone missing. The manager told Meredith, "There is a green clutch that I know was here. Her friends were holding it and it is gone." Meredith replied, “so, I said to my manager, ‘Send her a text and just gently say, Did you borrow it?’”
It seemed like one of the people Jen brought into the store with her had walked out with the clutch, based on the security footage from Meredith's store that Bravo aired during the episode. “And within 30 seconds, my manager’s phone is ringing and on the other end is [redacted] and [redacted] says, ‘I’ll bring the bag back tomorrow,’” Meredith finished.
In a confessional, she added that “Jen did not walk out with a bag. But what really didn’t sit well with me is she kept someone who she knew did take something out of my store in her employment. That’s not my friend.”
Later, Meredith also said she heard that Jen was "red-flagged" in Louis Vuitton's retail system because she only pays in cash when she shops there. “I don’t know if it’s true or false. It’s gossip,” she explained. “I have no clue.”
This season, Jen's legal issues will cause plenty of drama between the housewives.
As the season's first trailer shows, many of the housewives start to take sides in Jen's case. The trailer shows Meredith Marks often fighting with Jen, while her friend Lisa Barlow grows distant. But Heather sticks by Jen's side the whole time, she explained to Andy on Watch What Happens Live.
"I have one job, and it's to be Jen's friend. That's it," Heather said. "You need friends when you're in a situation like this."
Jen also mentioned on Instagram Live that she's had plenty of support from Heather this season. "My girl Heather Gay was there for me from the jump. Heather was there. She was like, 'Girl, where you at? I'm coming. What do you need?'"
But RHOSLC's new midseason trailer proves there's still a lot more to the issues that Jen's case will cause this season—including one heated argument between Jen and Lisa. When Jen tells Lisa that she thinks Meredith is "playing the entire group," Lisa says she "can't go backward."
In another clip, Jen is shown trying to attack Lisa, while it looks like a crew member tries to separate the two. (The drama is real.)
The ladies point fingers at each other.
Right after Jen was arrested, four of the Housewives set off in a van on a long road trip to Vail, Colorado. During the ride, the RHOSLC ladies started accusing each other of knowing more about Jen's situation than they let on.
Whitney Rose seemed to know a lot about "lead generation," Jen's supposed business. New cast member Jennie Nguyen thought Whitney's expertise was suspicious and asked in a confessional why Whitney would know so much about a pretty random topic.
Then, after watching Lisa Barlow phone all six of her attorneys to ask if she could be implicated in Jen's case, Whitney told Heather Gay she thought Lisa might be "guilty of something." Heather asked Whitney if she thought Lisa could have been the person who alerted authorities about Jen's location—to which Whitney replied, "I don't know, I'm not implying that, but it's weird, right? She's behaving very odd."
And Lisa thought it was strange that Meredith was so quick to say she wasn't surprised by Jen's arrest. "I don't know if Meredith knows something we don't know, but I'm surprised she's completely, almost, unfazed by all of this," she said. "You would think there'd be a bigger reaction to what just went down."
Jen recently hosted a party at a strip club in New York City to pay for her legal bills.
On Oct. 22, Jen hosted a party at Hustler Club NYC alongside featured guest Alexis Monroe, an adult film star. Jen was available for meet-and-greets and autographs, the outlet reported.
“Shah was eager to host an event with us the moment we approached her team,” a representative for the club told Page Six. The source added that Jen will be “receiving a large sum [of money] in exchange for her appearance, most likely enough to put a dent in her legal bills," in the range of "tens of thousands."
Catch The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City every Sunday at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
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