The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

May 9, 2013

California man pleads guilty in W.Va. extortion scheme

BECKLEY — A California man pleaded guilty Thursday to trying to extort $13 million from a West Virginia coal company executive.

Aspiring actor Vivek Shah, 25, of West Hollywood, Calif., pleaded guilty to one count of transferring threatening communications in interstate commerce and seven counts of mailing or sending threatening communications through the mail. His trial had been set to begin Monday.

He was charged with threatening to kill relatives of Christopher Cline, owner of Foresight Reserves, if Cline refused to pay the $13 million.

Shah also targeted others who weren’t named until Thursday. They are film producer Harvey Weinstein; Gary Goetzman, who owns Playtone film company with actor Tom hanks; Relativity Media founder Ryan Kavanaugh; oil heiress Dannine Avara; Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky; and Terry Pegula, founder of natural gas drilling company East Resources and owner of the National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger had sealed all records in the case and issued a gag order to all involved.

Shah was also charged in California, but those cases been consolidated with the West Virginia case. He has been held in the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver since August, according to The Charleston Gazette.

Berger will decide whether an agreed upon 87-month prison sentence is fair.

An affidavit filed by a U.S. postal inspector who investigated the case says Shah, who also uses the aliases Ray Amin and Rohan Gill, was staying at his father’s home in Schaumburg, Ill., just before his arrest.

The scheme laid out in the affidavit was ambitious and wide-reaching, involving offshore banks in Cyprus, Antigua, Malta and Mauritius.

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