Jen Shah opened up about her fraud crimes and her 6.5-year prison term in an interview conducted just before she surrendered to prison last Friday.
Hours before the start of her sentence, the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City cast member admitted to feeling a sense of relief as she embarked on her time away from her family, including husband Sharrieff “Coach” Shah and sons Sharrieff Shah Jr. and Omar Shah. She also looked back on the moment she realized she had done wrong and teased her potential return to entertainment.
“What I fear that most is that transition of not being able to hug and kiss my husband and my boys every day, and my mom,” Jen revealed during her February 17 interview with White Collar Advice. “But at the same time … I also feel hopeful and motivated to do a good job and make the most of my time away.”
According to Jen, she experienced “so much ambiguity” throughout the investigation against her. So, now that she finally knows what’s “happening tomorrow,” she feels “a sense of relief.”
“I’m going to be able to put the past behind me and finally start truly healing and forging a new path,” she explained.
Recalling her March 2021 arrest, Jen said her immediate response was, “They must have the wrong person. They must have this all wrong. I didn’t do anything.”
“I was in complete denial at that time and for a long time throughout the process because I truly believed and was telling myself that I’m not guilty of these things that they’re accusing me of,” she admitted. “It was like I was in this tunnel and I was only seeing what I wanted to see.”
“I was lying to myself because I didn’t want to accept that I had done these things or that I had hurt anybody,” Jen continued. “I was lying to myself and telling myself what I wanted to hear … That wasn’t supposed to be my reality and that thinking fostered more bad decisions for me throughout the legal process.”
While Jen spent over a year in denial, she ultimately fessed up to her mistakes with a guilty plea in July 2022, just before she was set to go to trial.
“The biggest thing for me was seeing an actual list of victim names,” she shared. “It became a reality for me at that point that there were actually people hurt from this … And that’s when I had to make the hardest decision of my life … I had to sit there and say, ‘I have to do the right thing now.’”
Looking back, Jen said pleading guilty “was the hardest decision,” explaining that it took her so long to do so because her experience was “really a journey and a process.”
“Because of the lie I was telling myself, and until I could come out from under that lie and see it, I couldn’t change anything else and I was never going to hold myself accountable or admit guilt,” she noted.
As she prepared to begin her sentence, Jen said she was bringing just two things with her to check in: the Koran and an 18-page release plan that will help her “stay on track.”
“I’m going to be documenting and updating, [and] journaling my process. I want people to hold me accountable. I plan on publishing parts of the release plan [and] sharing it with everyone on the website,” she revealed. “I plan on spending the early morning time writing, reading … doing book reports … I’m trying to read to gain value and apply it, exercising, working on the release plan.”
In addition to wanting to give back and help other women, Jen said that a big part of her release plan is repaying the victims.
“It’s voluntary. But for me, I wanted to make it mandatory,” she stated. “I put an amount in that I’m going to be paying and I put it in there because once it’s in my plan, that’s going to hold me accountable.”
Jen also hopes to continue working with the National Tongan American Society and return to entertainment.
“[I’m hoping to get] back to where I’m back in the entertainment industry and doing it in a way where I am affecting positive change and aligning with the goals that I’ve laid out,” she explained.
In closing, Jen said, “I’m sorry for letting the victims down and I want to, from this point forward, prove worthy. I want to make each victim whole. I want to prove worthy of the support that Sharrieff and Omar and Sharrieff Jr. and my mom, my brothers and sisters, have shown me throughout this journey.”
“It’s not just talk. I’m going to show you through my actions and through hard work,” she added.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City season four reportedly began filming earlier this month.