I’ve confirmed that, while not named in any court papers, Harvey Weinstein is the “Connecticut resident and co-founder of a film studio” victimized by a struggling actor turned deadly serious extortionist. Weinstein immediately contacted the FBI when he received July letters demanding $13 million from the plotter who was threatening to kill the movie and TV mogul’s family if the money wasn’t wired to an offshore bank account within a certain amount of time. It turned out the actor had targeted a total five high-net-worth business figures with extortion letters ranging from $4m to $14M, according to a Weinstein insider. The FBI discovered the extortionist was deadly serious about his crime: the Feds tracked him buying phone cards and a Google pre-paid phone and other methods to avoid detection and opening up bank accounts overseas to receive the extortion money. He was even “scheduled for training in handgun shooting” at an LA gun range.
I’m told Weinstein understandably was very shaken by the incident. “It was scary when he got that letter that involved his family. He was like, ‘What the heck is this?’ It’s the craziest thing he’s every had to deal with,” the insider tells me. “‘He said, ‘Business is business, but this is my family.'” Weinstein immediately contacted the FBI “which got on it so fast. Harvey got his letter in July and the FBI had him on surveillance and nailed him in August. Harvey didn’t even know the guy was arrested. The FBI only tells you certain stuff.”
No public announcement of the plot has been made. But The Smoking Gun has a document online identifying the alleged extortionist as Vivek Shah, a 25-year-old West Hollywood actor who also describes himself as an entrepreneur and film producer but whose Hollywood credits appear to be limited to extra work and a commercial. Shah’s Facebook and IMDB pages had photos posing with Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Sofia Vergara, and Zach Galifianakis “from hanging out with the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards community,” my Weinstein source says.
Federal agents arrested Shah at his family’s home in suburban Chicago August 10th after he was named in a U.S. District Court complaint charging him with sending threatening interstate communications, a felony carrying a maximum 20-year prison term. He remains locked up in lieu of a detention hearing. The Smoking Gun identified the other extortion victims as a billionaire coal magnate, a co-founder of Groupon, an owner of an NHL hockey team, and an oil heiress.