Extortion threats Bollywood style lands actor seven years in prison

Vivek Shah hoped to make over $120 million from scheme.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: A little known Indian American actor based in Hollywood, Vivek Shah, seemed to have taken a leaf out of Bollywood gangster movies, after he was sentenced to more than seven years in Federal prison for threatening to kill family members of some of the best known names in the entertainment and entrepreneurial circles in the United States.

Shah, 26, who has done small roles in films, including The Dark Knight and Our Family Weddings, was sentenced to seven years and three months for trying to extort more than a total of $120 million, from personalities that included movie producer Harvey Weinstein, Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky, coal executive Chris Cline, gas billionaire Terry Pegula, Playtone film company co-owner Gary Goetzman, Ryan Kavanaugh, founder of Relativity Media, and Dannine Avara, daughter of a Texas oil-industry executive.

“Imagine how terrifying it would be to open the mail and find a threat to kill your spouse or your children,” said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said at the sentencing. “This defendant carried out a carefully planned scheme designed to frighten his victims out of more than $120 million. It was an extraordinarily brazen crime, and I’m pleased, for the victims’ sake, that we were able to put a stop to it so quickly.”

Shah sent letters threatening specific family members of his victims by name, and threatened to kill them unless money was wired to offshore accounts.

No money was actually paid to Shah, but he got the stiff sentence because of the elaborate steps he took to protect his identity while using public hot spots to send mail to his victims.

To contact the author, email to deepakchitnis@americanbazaaronline.com

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