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SALT LAKE CITY — "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake" cast member Jen Shah is speaking out for the first time since being sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison for her role in a telemarketing scam.
"On January 6th, I stood before (U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein) and asked him to see me not as a fictionalized character, but as the real Jen Shah," she wrote in a statement posted to her Instagram account. "I am now at a point, legally, emotionally and mentally, where I can answer some questions and provide a few unknown details about my case. I want and need to share these critical facts. I owe it to those that love and support me to hear the truth."
The 49-year-old reality star went on to write that she will not be doing a one-on-one interview with Andy Cohen and Bravo, because of their "unwillingness" to remove contractual provisions that would allow the network to "legally make misrepresentations" of her and her story.
The one-on-one interview was not part of her "Real Housewives" contract, Shah continued in her post, and she promised herself and her family that she would not allow this part of her life to be "sensationalized" or inaccurately conveyed.
"Too many people have been hurt by my actions and my inability to control my own narrative," Shah wrote. "I would rather remain silent and wait until I am able to accurately share my story than continue having complete lies and misrepresentations about me smeared across the headlines. ... I will share my story and this painful part of my life very soon."
Shah was sentenced on Jan. 6 for defrauding thousands of people nationwide in a telemarketing scam, many of them vulnerable or older, the Associated Press reported.
Judge Stein announced Shah's sentence after she sobbed while apologizing for the fraud. Stein presided over her guilty plea in July to a conspiracy charge for participating in a massive fraud for nearly a decade.
At the start of Shah's sentencing hearing, Stein cautioned a packed Manhattan courtroom that he was not sentencing the person people see on television. Stein said that person is "simply a character. It's acting."
When Shah had a chance to speak, she too said she is not the person she is on the show.
"Reality TV has nothing to do with reality," she said. "I am deeply sorry for what I've done. My actions have hurt innocent people."
She pledged to pay $6.5 million in restitution and forfeiture when she gets out of prison, and she apologized to everyone cheated by the fraud.
Prosecutors said in a presentence submission that Shah should get a decade in prison, noting that she used profits from her fraud to live a life of luxury that included a nearly 10,000 square-foot mansion with eight fireplaces dubbed "Shah Ski Chalet" in the resort haven of Park City. The home, they said, is now listed for sale for $7.4 million.
They said she also rented an apartment in midtown Manhattan, leased a Porsche Panamera, bought hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of luxury goods and funded various cosmetic procedures while cheating the Internal Revenue Service of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Prosecutors attacked her behavior after her arrest on March 30, 2021, saying Shah lied to law enforcement in a voluntarily recorded interview before going on a reputation-cleansing public campaign in which she "repeatedly, vehemently and falsely proclaimed her innocence."
The government said she also seemed to mock the charges against her by claiming that the "only thing I'm guilty of is being Shah-mazing" and then she profited from it by marketing "Justice for Jen" merchandise after her arrest as she directed others to lie while trying to conceal her conduct from investigators.
The fraud, authorities said, stretched from 2012 to March 2021 as bogus services were promoted as enabling people to make substantial amounts of money through online businesses.
Meanwhile, defense attorneys minimized Shah's role in the fraud in their presentence submission to the judge, saying there were "many, many people" involved in the long-lasting telemarketing scheme that led so many individuals to buy worthless services from companies in which Shah was involved.