'Real Housewives' star Jen Shah seeks dismissal from charges in telemarketing scheme
SALT LAKE CITY — "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" star Jen Shah and her defense attorneys have asked a federal judge in New York this week to dismiss charges against her in a fraud case because officers allegedly coerced her into waiving her Miranda rights when she was arrested in Utah.
Shah, 47, and her assistant have been accused in a telemarketing scheme that federal prosecutors say took advantage of hundreds of "vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people," The Salt Lake Tribune reported. They both pleaded not guilty to multiple charges.
Shah faces multiple counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prosecutors said the scheme enticed people to invest in an online "business opportunity," and then sold them tax preparation or website design services, despite many of the people not owning computers.
Prosecutors accused Shah and her assistant of selling lists of potential victims that were generated from telemarketing "sales floors" in Utah, Arizona, Nevada and elsewhere. The sale floor owners allegedly worked with telemarketing operations in New York and New Jersey.
Shah was arrested March 30 by New York detective Christopher Bastos in Salt Lake City after she received a perplexing phone call. She believed the call was tied to an order of protection she has out against a man who once attacked her and was convicted of multiple felonies in New York. After the call, she received another call from Bastos believing it was also tied to the protective order.
Bastos, who told Shah to pull over as she was driving to a shoot in Utah, arrested her as a suspect in the telemarketing fraud case. But as Shah asked whether she was going to jail, she told officials that Bastos made her believe she "might be in danger, and that the police might be there to help me."
Shah's attorneys are arguing that she was coerced, and pointed out that Bastos knew her history with the man, who prosecutors said was also involved in the scheme with Shah and her assistant.
"Although Ms. Shah waived her Miranda rights, she did not do so voluntarily, but rather as a direct result of law enforcement deception and trickery calculated to overpower her will," her attorneys said.
Her attorneys have also said that prosecutors have not provided enough information for the case to proceed, arguing that she is accused of participating in a scheme with "unspecified co-conspirators in unspecified places and selling unspecified products and services to unspecified victims, while laundering the money through unspecified accounts with unspecified financial institutions at unspecified times over an eight- or nine-year period."
Prosecutors have argued that they have turned over more than a million documents and the contents of hundreds of electronic devices, which defense attorneys argue make it impossible to understand or respond to specific claims.
Shah's defense attorneys also argue she wasn't the only one who Bastos lied to. They said some evidence was uncovered in searches authorized based on police statements that were inaccurate or incomplete.
They argued Bastos described Shah as "operator" of two companies that allegedly did business with the sales floors, but her attorneys said she was "middle management" of one, and not an employee of the other. As a result, the attorneys argued Bastos falsely inflated Shah's involvement.
Staff from the New York Police Department and the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York did not immediately respond to The Salt Lake Tribune's requests for comment.