An aspiring actor who allegedly made death threats against Harvey Weinstein's family in an attempt to extort $4 million from the film producer has been arrested by federal agents.
Vivek Shah, 25, was living in West Hollywood, Calif., while trying to launch a career in film and television. The Akron, Ohio, native, whose biggest claims to fame are bit parts on "Bones," "Outsourced" and an unaccredited role in "The Dark Knight," attempted a fast-track to fortune by allegedly shaking down one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, among other powerful magnates.
Shah is accused of sending menacing letters not only to Weinstein, the Oscar-winning producer of "Shakespeare in Love," but also to four other millionaire tycoons, including a coal magnate, 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.
Weinstein is not named in the affidavit, but the 60-year-old co-chairman of The Weinstein Co. is described as "a Connecticut resident and co-founder of a film studio." Weinstein lives in Westport, Conn., where he recently hosted a $35,800-per-person fundraising event for Barack Obama.
Also allegedly targeted by Shah was coal magnate Christopher Cline, who is worth an estimated $1.5 billion, and from whom Shah allegedly attempted to extort $13 million. The affidavit signed by Mehall indicated that a letter sent to Cline contained "wiring instructions for a bank in Cyprus."
Although his acting resume is thin, Shah, a self-described "entrepreneur" and film producer, can be seen photographed in shots posted on his Facebook profile and IMDb page alongside some of Hollywood's elite actors, including Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Zach Galifianakis and many others.
Shah was arrested Aug. 10 by federal agents at his parents' home near Chicago after he was named in a U.S. District Court complaint for allegedly sending threatening interstate communications. He is being held without bail in West Virginia, which is where one of his alleged targets lives.
According to documents posted on The Smoking Gun, Shah was "scheduled for training in handgun shooting" at a gun range in Los Angeles, investigators say.
Shah was born in Ohio, but moved to India for 10 years with his family before returning to the United States, according to his IMDb profile. He studied at Columbia College Chicago and later at the Chicago Actors Studio and Chicago's Second City Training Center.
If convicted of the felony charges, Shah faces a maximum 20-year prison term.
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