A 25-year-old aspiring actor who tried to extort money from movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and several other wealthy people has been arrested in connection with the scheme.
Vivek Shah, an actor and self-described entrepreneur who lives in West Hollywood, was arrested Aug. 10 by federal agents. They allege he sent letters to five wealthy people, each of which said members of their families would be killed unless they wired millions of dollars to offshore bank accounts. The Smoking Gun broke the news of the plot.
The affidavit against Shah doesn’t name Weinstein, but it identifies a “Connecticut resident and co-founder of a film studio” as one of Shah’s alleged targets. Weinstein lives in Westport, Conn., and co-founded Miramax Pictures with his brother Bob (the two now run The Weinstein Co.). Shah also allegedly targeted Christopher Cline, a billionaire and the majority owner of a West Virginia coal company, who is named in the affidavit; the co-founder of an Internet company in Illinois; the founder of an oil and gas company in Florida; and the child of the founder of another oil and gas company who lives in Texas.
The affidavit says the threat to Cline demanded $13 million and notes that the other letters contained similar language.
U.S. postal inspectors tracked phone records, prepaid debit cards, rental of a mailbox and security footage of Shah to tie him to the extortion plot. He was arrested at his parents’ home in Schaumburg, Ill. The affidavit says local police made contact with Shah on an unrelated matter in May and noticed he was carrying two IDs — one from Illinois with his real name and a fake California ID bearing a different name (Ray Amin) and address that was used to rent the mailbox and buy at least one of the prepaid cards used in the scheme.
Shah’s IMDB page lists a couple of small parts in “Bones” and the NBC comedy “Outsourced” and a role in the 2010 film “Our Family Wedding,” along with a handful of smaller movies and some commercial work. He also seemed to be good at getting into awards shows and premieres and having A-list stars pose for pictures with him; on Facebook, there are shots of Shah with the likes of Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie and Sofia Vergara.
Shah has been charged with sending threatening interstate communications, a felony that can bring up to 20 years in prison.