Legal Expert Explains Jen Shah's Possible Motive For Her Last-Minute Plea Change - Exclusive

Jen Shah made an appearance in a Manhattan court on July 11 where she changed the plea in her fraud case from not guilty to guilty in a surprising move. The "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" star was arrested in March 2021 "for her involvement in a nationwide telemarketing scheme," according to People magazine. At the time, she had entered a plea of not guilty. Shah had been awaiting her trial — which was supposed to start on July 18 — ever since. However, there has been a drastic change to her plans. During her court appearance, Shah told the judge that she was guilty of "Wire fraud" and "offering services with little to no value," according to Matthew Russell Lee who tweeted live from the hearing via the Inner City Press Twitter account.

"We used interstate telephones and emails. I knew many of the purchasers were over the age of 55. I am so sorry," Shah told the judge, according to Lee. According to ABC News, Shah agreed to a plea deal before heading to court on July 11. She faces up to 14 years in prison and will pay up to $9.5 million restitution to victims. The outlet reports that she also agreed to forfeit $6.5 million. Her sentencing is scheduled for November 28.

Nicki Swift chatted with former federal prosecutor and the President of West Coast Trial Lawyers, Neama Rahmani, about why Shah made the decision to plead guilty ahead of her trial.

Jen Shah wanted a lighter prison sentence, expert says

So what's the likely reason Jen Shah decided to change her plea in her fraud case? "Shah's plea will reduce her sentence," Neama Rahmani told Nicki Swift exclusively. "One of the factors judges consider is acceptance of responsibility, even if the plea happens shortly before trial. Shah saw the 'writing on the wall' and knew that she would be convicted if she took her case to a jury." He added, "Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are among the best at handling fraud cases. Shah would not be a sympathetic defendant, especially when she scammed many elderly victims of millions of dollars. A plea agreement and the hope of a lesser sentence is the best she could do under the circumstances."

According to CBS News, the charges brought against Shah could have seen her behind bars for up to 30 years. By agreeing to a plea deal, Shah is cutting that time in half — at least. Shah will not be the first "Real Housewives" star to go to federal prison. Back in 2014, "Real Housewives of New Jersey" stars Teresa Giudice and her then-husband Joe Giudice were both sentenced to prison after being convicted of fraud. Teresa spent some 15 months behind bars while Joe served 41 months in prison before being deported, according to People magazine.