“Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jennifer Shah cannot dismiss an indictment accusing her of conspiring to defraud elderly and vulnerable people out of millions in a nationwide telemarketing scheme, a federal judge ruled.
On March 30, authorities arrested Shah (and her “first assistant” and accused co-conspirator Stuart Smith) in Utah. Smith is not one of the subjects of the federal judge’s latest ruling, but his case remains pending. Both were charged with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss announced their imminent transfers to the Southern District of New York in a statement accusing the duo of using their celebrity status to bilk hundreds of victims.
“Jennifer Shah, who portrays herself as a wealthy and successful businessperson on ‘reality’ television, and Stuart Smith, who is portrayed as Shah’s ‘first assistant,’ allegedly generated and sold ‘lead lists’ of innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam,” Strauss said on the day of their arrest. “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.”
On Thursday, Senior U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein rejected Shah’s bid to dismiss the indictment. The judge also jettisoned a flurry of other pre-trial motions filed by Shah and another accused co-conspirator, Cameron Brewster.
“The superseding indictment here sufficiently alleges that Shah joined the telemarketing conspiracy willfully and with specific intent to defraud,” Judge Stein wrote in a 10-page opinion and order.
Prosecutors claim that Shah “generated and sold leads to other [participants in the telemarketing scheme] for use by their telemarketing sales floors with the knowledge that the individuals they had identified as ‘leads’ would be defrauded by the other participants.”
Brewster referred to those lead lists as a “money sucking website,” prosecutors say.
The judge also dispensed with Shah’s argument that prosecutors did not allege fraudulent and “material” promises to victims.
“The Court also rejects Shah’s argument that the indictment is deficient for failure to specifically allege that the misrepresentations made to the victims of the business opportunity scheme were material,” Judge Stein wrote.
Shah also sought to suppress her post-arrest statements, claiming they were involuntary.
The former reality TV star concedes that she signed a Miranda waiver, but she claimed that law enforcement misled her by telling her they “just wanted to talk” to her. She asserted that she lacked sophistication with the criminal justice system and was “confused and emotionally off-balanced” at the time of her interrogation. She also claimed that she was “unable to read” the waver because she did not have her reading glasses and her contact lenses were blurry.
None of these arguments resonated with Judge Stein.
“Considering the totality of the above circumstances taken from the affidavits in the record, as well as the fact that the Court has listened to a recording of the interrogation, the Court finds that Shah’s Miranda waiver was decidedly voluntary,” he ruled.
Attorneys for Shah and Brewster did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment.
Read the ruling below:
[image via YouTube/Bravo TV]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]