Jen Shah, the “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star charged with running a nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme, pleaded not guilty Friday and will remain released from jail provided she sign a $1 million personal bond.
Shah and her alleged co-conspirator, Stuart Smith, both pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Shah’s attorneys said their client “maintains her innocence of these charges and is eager to defend herself in a court of law.”
The Justice Department alleges that Shah, 47, and her “first assistant,” Smith, 43, conspired to defraud older and computer illiterate people by operating multi-state telemarketing and in-person sales teams that would sell “essentially non-existent” services and fight consumer efforts to obtain refunds.
“Shah and Smith undertook significant efforts to conceal their roles in the Business Opportunity Scheme. For example, Shah and Smith, among other things, incorporated their business entities using third parties’ names,” said an indictment filed in the Southern District of New York.
The alleged scam began in 2012 and continued until 2021, according to the Justice Department.
Shah’s $1 million bond is required to be secured by $250,000 cash or property. Her lawyer argued that the amount was excessive, revealing that she does not own her house, which was branded as the lavish “Shah Ski Chalet” on “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.” She also does not own any other property, one of her attorneys, Henry Asbill, said.
Asbill also said Shah was not a flight risk given her public persona. He said she had surrendered an expired passport.
But prosecutors said the $250,000 cash or property security was “modest,” considering just one of the shell companies Shah is accused of incorporating is linked to bank accounts with “no less than $5 million in crime proceeds.” Additional shell companies are linked to additional funds, prosecutors said.
The government also argued that Shah could and may want to flee once she realizes the severity of the charges. Prosecutors noted that in a financial disclosure agreement, she wrote $0.
The judge ordered Shah to post the cash bond within two weeks, in addition to other stipulations, including continued treatment as directed by Lionrock Recovery, an addiction treatment center in California.
She was also ordered to surrender travel documents and limited to traveling to New York and Washington, D.C. for court appearances or attorney meetings only.
Smith was also ordered to sign a $1 million bond, which the judge said he could secure with his Utah home, which has an equity close to $250,000.
Both Shah and Smith are forbidden to have any contact with alleged victims, potential witnesses or co-defendants.
Shah’s attorneys, Henry Asbill and Daniel R. Alonso, said in a statement Friday that because of the ongoing legal proceedings she will not comment.
“Jennifer Shah is a wife, mother, and lifelong resident of the Salt Lake City area. She maintains her innocence of these charges and is eager to defend herself in a court of law,” the attorneys said. “She puts her faith in the American legal system.”
The charges against the pair are part of a prosecution known as the Cheedie case, which has 10 additional defendants, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Four of the defendants in that case have already pleaded guilty, while the other six are scheduled to be tried with Shah and Smith beginning on Oct. 18.
Diana Dasrath contributed.