Jen Shah, the “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star who was charged Tuesday with running a nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme, was questioned on the reality show just last month about what she did for work and why she needed so many assistants. Her answer was nothing short of confusing.
The Justice Department, in a statement announcing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, alleged that Shah, 47, and her “first assistant,” Stuart 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.
The alleged scam began in 2012 and continued until 2021, according to the Justice Department.
“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.
Shah’s Instagram account links to a site that lists three businesses with their own websites: JXA Fashion, Shah Beauty and Shah Lashes.
The Salt Lake City native frequently flaunts her wealth on social media and “Real Housewives.”
“Always decked out in designer brands, Jen loves to host parties and spares no expense — it’s important to her that everyone knows she is the best host in Utah,” according to a Bravo profile of Shah.
“A mom of two with her husband, Sharrieff, Jen is the queen of her house and her businesses as the CEO of three marketing companies,” says the profile.
But during a reunion special last month, Andy Cohen posed a viewer question to Shah, who is hardly ever without the company of a crew of helpers.
“Why do you need four assistants?” asked the viewer. Cohen asked Shah to “break down what each of them do for you outside of clapping for your fabulous outfits and driving you around.”
“I need a lot of help, you know? They all do different things,” Shah said. “I run a lot of different companies and businesses, and a lot of them have different roles in the companies.”
But Cohen said people still wondered what Shah does for work.
“My background is in direct response marketing for about 20 years, so our company does advertising. We have a platform that helps people acquire customers, so when you’re shopping online or on the Internet, and something pops, we have the algorithm behind why you’re getting served that ad,” she said.
Heather Gay, another cast member on “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” and Shah’s friend, was still left bewildered.
“I try to be, like, a fairly smart person, but remember I was like, ‘I still don’t get it,’” Gay said at the reunion. “I don’t know what she does, but I like it!”
Shah also addressed the question in an interview with “Access Hollywood” when asked where she got the money to fund her “lavish lifestyle.”
She gave a similar answer about owning “three marketing companies.”
“We do lead generation, data monetization, so it’s customer acquisition. I’m basically, the best way to describe it is, I’m the Wizard of Oz,” she said.
“I’m like the one behind the curtain that nobody knows exists but I’m the one making everything happen. So when ads are popping to you guys, when you’re like ‘how the hell do they know I’m shopping at Neiman Marcus,’ that’s me.”
During the reunion, Shah was also questioned about why her husband Sharrieff was so often traveling.
Sharrieff Shah is the cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator at his alma mater, the University of Utah.
“It is a full-time, very rigorous job. If he was the head coach, he would have more leniency to stay back,” Shah answered. “It’s the assistant coaches that are out all the time recruiting if the season’s not in.”
Sharrieff Shah, who is not accused of a crime, spent 12 years practicing law before starting to coach with Utah in 2012, according to a post on his wife’s Instagram account.
Jen Shah’s Bravo profile also says that Shah, “as a Tongan and Hawaiian growing up in Salt Lake City, felt like she often stuck out in her traditionally white, Mormon world.”
She converted from Mormonism to Islam after “she learned about the historical mistreatment of black people in the Mormon religion,” the profile says.
Representatives for Shah said they had no comment Tuesday and did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Her lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Smith did not respond to a request for comment, nor did his lawyer.
Bravo, which is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, also declined to comment.
Shah and Smith were due in court via virtual video or audio conference Wednesday afternoon, but so many members of the press and public had called in that Shah and her attorney, who said he was overseas, were having trouble getting on the call.
After attempting to troubleshoot for 45 minutes, using speakerphones and multiple phones, the judge deemed the efforts “inadequate for the court to feel comfortable” and rescheduled the hearing for Friday at 11 a.m.