BECKLEY, W.Va. — A California man who rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous has been sentenced to spend the next seven years of his life in federal prison.

Vivek Shah, 26, was in Beckley federal court Wednesday after pleading guilty in May to eight counts of sending threatening communications in the mail across state lines. He tried to extort millions from millionaires like Raleigh County coal executive Chris Cline. Shah threatened to kill members of Cline’s family if he didn’t give him $13 million.

File photo

Vivek Shah liked to have his pictures taken with the big stars like Tom Cruise.

He did the same to movie producer Harvey Weinstein, Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky and others. Shah wanted the money wired to offshore bank accounts.

Shah, who was trying to get an acting career jumpstarted, previously said he came up with the scheme to get attention. He was seeking a total of $120 million.

“Imagine how terrifying it would be to open the mail and find a threat to kill your spouse or your children,” U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said in a prepared release. “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.”

Goodwin said Shah went to great lengths to create false identities to make it difficult to find out his scheme.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger told Shaw the 87 month (7 years, 3 months) sentence should send a message to those attempting similar schemes.


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