A down and out average guy threatening to kill innocent human beings to extort millions? Sounds like the bad Mel Gibson movie Ransom is slowly playing out to reality as Vivek Shah was arrested August 10 in his parent’s home in Illinois by Federal Agents.
Ever since Miramax Co-Founder Harvey Weinstein received threatening letters dating back to July, the FBI had been pursuing the perpetrator. It was only recently that they found evidence suspecting Shah to be the person behind this million dollar extortion plot.
The 25 year old aspiring actor hadn’t amounted to much at this point in his acting career. He had been booked for small parts on TV shows such as Bones and Outsourced.
According to the Postal Inspector Joshua Mehall in a sworn affidavit,
“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.”
FBI agents were able to trace the offshore account numbers to Shah’s name. He was also allegedly caught on surveillance cameras purchasing prepaid debit cards as well as other evidence including postage purchases that further tied him to the extortion letters.
Harvey Weinstein was only one of five super wealthy people that had received these threatening extortion letters from Shah. The four others were Groupon cofounder Eric Lefkofsky, Terry Pegula, an oil executive and owner of the NHL Buffalo Sabres, Christopher Cline, a coal magnate, and the daughter of the late Texas oilman Dan Duncan.
Shah is being charged with four counts of interfering with interstate commerce and using interstate commerce to threaten extortion. He has currently been taken into federal custody in West Virginia where he is awaiting trial.