Cline extortion an 'extraordinarily brazen crime'

THE aspiring actor who attempted to extort tens of millions of dollars from coal executive Chris Cline and other wealthy individuals has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
Cline extortion an 'extraordinarily brazen crime' Cline extortion an 'extraordinarily brazen crime' Cline extortion an 'extraordinarily brazen crime' Cline extortion an 'extraordinarily brazen crime' Cline extortion an 'extraordinarily brazen crime'


Staff Reporter

Vivek Shah, 26, pleaded guilty in May to eight felony counts of extortion and was sentenced on Wednesday in Beckley, West Virginia.

Shah was handed down 87 months in prison, the term he had agreed to serve as part of a plea agreement with the US Attorney's Office.

He would have faced up to 160 years in prison and a $2 million fine if not for the plea agreement.

Shah threatened to kill family members of seven prominent victims, including movie producer Harvey Weinstein, Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky and St Louis-based coal miner Foresight Energy owner Chris Cline, unless his targets wired millions of dollars into offshore bank accounts.

The West Hollywood man demanded $4 million from Weinstein, $16 million from Lefkofsky and $13 million from Cline.

"Imagine how terrifying it would be to open the mail and find a threat to kill your spouse or your children," US Attorney Booth Goodwin said.

"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’s other victims included oil and gas billionaire Terry Pegula, from whom he demanded $34 million; Playtone film company co-owner Gary Goetzman, from whom he demanded $9.6 million; Relativity Media founder Ryan Kavanaugh, from whom Shah demanded $11.3 million; and Dannine Avara, the daughter of a prominent Texas oil industry executive, from whom Shah demanded $35 million.

Shah sent letters threatening specific family members of his victims by name and used language carefully designed to persuade his targets that his threats were serious.

His elaborate scheme involved the creation of a number of false identities, fake US Postal Service accounts, fraudulent financial accounts opened in his victim’s names as well as a number of high-tech computer maneuvers to disguise his identity and location.

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