Harvey Weinstein target of $4 million extortion plot
UPI News Service, 08/23/2012
An aspiring actor charged with trying to extort $4 million from producer Harvey Weinstein was held without bail Thursday in West Virginia, authorities said.
Vivek Shah, 25, of West Hollywood, Calif., is accused of sending menacing letters not only to Weinstein, who produced Oscar-winning "Shakespeare in Love" and Tony Award-winning "The Producers," but also to four other billionaires, including Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky, coal magnate Christopher Cline, an oil executive and the owner of an NHL team.
"Each of these letters contained a threat to kill named members of the recipient's family unless a large sum of money was wired to an offshore bank account," Postal Inspector Joshua Mehall said in a sworn affidavit.
Only Cline was identified in the affidavit by name because he was the first to alert federal authorities of the threats, Mehall's affidavit said.
Federal agents then learned other "extortion demand letters substantially the same as the one received by Mr. Cline" had been sent to four other targets.
A follow-up letter to Cline included "wiring instructions for a bank in Cyprus," said Mehall's affidavit, first reported by The Smoking Gun Web site.
The other billionaires were identified generically in the affidavit. Weinstein, the 60-year-old co-chairman of Weinstein Co., is described as "a Connecticut resident and co-founder of a film studio." Weinstein lives in Westport, Conn.
The others were identified in similar ways.
The New York Post reported one of the billionaires was Lefkofsky, president of Chicago's Blue Media LLC.
Shah was arrested by federal agents at his parents' home near Chicago Aug. 10 after he was named in a U.S. District Court complaint for allegedly sending threatening interstate communications.
His Internet Movie Database biography says he was born in Akron, Ohio, spent a decade in India and moved back to the United States along with his family.
Shah's father told the Post the allegations were "out of character" for his son.
If convicted, Shah faces a maximum 20-year prison term.
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