Harvey Weinstein Extortion Plot: Movie Mogul Allegedly Targeted By Struggling Actor Vivek Shah

on August 23 2012 2:09 PM

A struggling actor accused of hatching an extortion plot targeting film mogul Harvey Weinstein and other tycoons of industry across the country was arrested by federal agents.

Vivek Shah, a 25-year-old actor from West Hollywood whose had bit parts in commercials, films and television shows, allegedly threatened to kill members of Weinstein's family if the producer didn't cough up $4 million, UPI reported.

Weinstein's name wasn't mentioned in an affidavit accusing Shah of extortion, but media outlets reported there were strong indications that the "Connecticut resident and co-founder of a film studio" mentioned in the document is in fact the 60-year-old Weinstein.

Shah was arrested by federal agents back on Aug. 10 at his parents' home near Chicago, right before he was scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles to take handgun training lessons, according to E!

His arrest was first reported Wednesday by The Smoking Gun. The website obtained the affidavit charging the struggling actor with extortion, which can be viewed here.

Other moguls who were allegedly targeted for extortion by Shah included Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky, oil executive Terry Pegula and coal tycoon Christopher Cline, according to the New York Post.

Money never exchanged hands because all of those targeted with the extortion, including Weinstein, contacted the FBI about Shah's alleged plot. Cline was the first to notify the FBI about the extortion letters, according to E!

The same modus operandi - a letter detailing Shah's money woes - was used to target the moguls, Postal Inspector Joshua Mehall wrote in an affidavit supporting Shah's extortion charges.

"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," he wrote, according to UPI.

The investigation into Shah yielded "online postage purchases, prepaid debit card transactions, PayPal charges, and mailbox rental records" that allegedly connected the 25-year-old to the extortion letters, The Smoking Gun reported.

Shah's IMDB page indicates he had few acting credits, appearing as an actor in 10 projects. Shah's most recent work as an actor came earlier this year for the television series "Bones." He's credited as "Docent Trainee" for the episode titled "The Crack in the Code."

Shah got his acting start in the 2006 TV documentary "Triple Cross: Bin Laden's Spy in America," where he played a suicide bomber, according to his IMDB page.

The 25-year-old's father said the allegations in the affidavit were "out of character" for his son, telling the New York Post that he believed he was pressured into making the extortion demands.

"He was pressured by someone, and they threatened they would kill Vivek," Mahesh Shah told the paper.

Mahesh Shah recounted how federal agents showed up to his door to handcuff his son.

"I just came home one day and the FBI was home. They told me he had been arrested and I was shocked," he told the Post. "It's out of character. We never expected it."