LOCAL NEWS

Fraud Expert Weighs In On Criminal Investigation Into ‘Real Housewives’ Star

Mar 31, 2021, 11:31 PM | Updated: Jul 11, 2022, 10:59 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A court hearing for “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jen Shah had to be postponed after fans flooded the conference call with the New York judge.

The hearing was rescheduled for Friday morning, which is when Shah will have the chance to enter a plea.

She’s accused of running a nationwide telemarketing scheme that defrauded hundreds of victims throughout the U.S. — most of them senior citizens.

Authorities also arrested Shah’s assistant Stuart Smith, 43, of Lehi.

“Shah and Smith flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their ‘success,’” according to Peter C. Fitzhugh, Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge. “In reality, they allegedly built their opulent lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people.”

KSL-TV’s Morgan Wolfe spoke with David Fleck, who spent 10 years as a Los Angeles prosecutor specializing in fraud cases.

“It’s just always so disappointing,” Fleck said. “People should just know better.”

He said it’s common for prosecutors to pick on the quote “smaller characters” then charge the larger targets of the cases down the road.

Ten people across the country were arrested for federal fraud in a telemarketing scheme on Nov. 20, 2019. Four pleaded guilty – one as recently as March 24.

KSL-TV was told by the Justice Department that these are connected to Shah’s fraud case.

“You know it is hard to learn a lot just from the pleadings, the complaint and the press release,” Fleck said. “The prosecution must have more — they got an indictment. But it seems a little bit weak on the proof of knowledge.”

“That is going to be the main thing that prosecutors need to prove — that Shah had intent to commit the crime, correct?” Wolfe asked.

“That is exactly right,” Fleck said.

Fleck said Shah could’ve possibly not known about the fraud happening, and her defense could argue that.

Shah described her job on an episode of the “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” saying, “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.”

“After reviewing this case, you think that prosecutors are very confident in winning this case?” Wolfe asked.

“Yes. I do,” Fleck said.

Shah could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

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Fraud Expert Weighs In On Criminal Investigation Into ‘Real Housewives’ Star