DOCUMENT: Celebrity, Crime

Actor Indicted In Harvey Weinstein Extortion Plot

Feds: "Extortion Notice" was sent to Hollywood titan

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Vivek Shah Charges

OCTOBER 2--A struggling actor has been indicted for allegedly trying to extort $4 million from Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein, one of seven wealthy individuals targeted in a scheme that sought a total of $122.9 million in shakedown payments, records show.

Vivek Shah, 25, was named last week in a seven-count felony indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The West Hollywood resident has been accused of mailing a series of threatening communications to the extortion victims.

Shah has been jailed since early-August, when he was arrested for allegedly seeking to extort $13 million from billionaire coal magnate Christopher Cline. The initial case against Shah, seen at right, was filed in federal court in Beckley, West Virginia.

The September 26 indictment filed in L.A. accuses Shah of threatening Weinstein and five other victims in letters actually entitled "Extortion Notice." The letters included a demand for a specific sum of money, a deadline for payment, and wiring instructions.

The letters also warned victims that a relative of theirs could be harmed if they did not comply with demands, according to the indictment, which quotes from one letter (but removes the target's name).

"[Victim], if you follow the instructions, then you can take this notice lightly. If you don't, then expect at least one person dead in the next one year," one letter stated. "It could either be [first names of close relatives], or any other close relative."

The letter to Weinstein was mailed in June to the movie producer's Connecticut home. Later that month, Shah allegedly sent an "Extortion Notice" seeking $34 million to Terrence Pegula, a billionaire who owns the Buffalo Sabres hockey team. In July, prosecutors allege, Shah sent Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky a letter seeking $16 million, while another missive went to Dannine Avara, daughter of an oil tycoon, who was targeted for $35 million.

The federal indictment--which only identifies victims by their initials--also accuses Shah of attempting to extort two other victims, both of whom received threatening letters in Los Angeles. The letters mailed to "G.G." and "R.K." sought $9.6 million and $11.3 million respectively.

The "G.G." and "R.K." extortion letters were allegedly sent on August 9 by Shah, who was staying at his family's Illinois home (which was under surveillance by federal agents). Shah was arrested on August 10, two days before he was set to return to L.A., where he was "scheduled for training in handgun shooting" at a gun range, according to a court filing. (4 pages)