Extortion Case: Plea hearing planned in Beckley - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Extortion Case: Vivek Shah pleads guilty to charges

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A California bit part actor pleaded guilty in a Beckley Federal Courtroom on Thursday, May 9 to trying to extort millions of dollars from a West Virginia coal billionaire and others.

Vivek Shah admitted to 8 felony courts of extortion. He said that he mailed eight letters to business tycoons and Hollywood moguls, saying pay up or else "a member of your family will die." This all happened in June 2012 until August 2012. In court, Shah testified that the letters were sent while he was visiting his parents home in Illinois home. 
 
The prosecutor stated the FBI was able to search Shah's parents home.  They seized a computer and said it contained word documents containing the letters and plans of the extortion scheme.  The investigation was able to track a foreign bank account that was traced back to Shah.
 
The prosecutor also said in the investigators were able to find Visa gift cards they believed were used to pay for shipping the letters and tracked down surveillance video that they said showed Shah purchasing these gift cards in Los Angeles. Finally, the prosecutor stated the FBI was able to run DNA testing on several of the extortion letters and the DNA matched Shah's.

 
A lot of the case and its documents have been sealed, but in a surprising twist, Vivek Shah said under oath, "Yes I did intent to extort money from the victims. At the same time I wanted to get publicity out of this..."

59News asked several of the lawyers and his family who were at the proceedings on Thursday, what Shah meant by that statement, but none of them could comment due to a gag order. 

Although Shah plead guilty, the plea agreement was rescinded by Judge Irene Berger.  That means Judge Berger is waiting for a pre-sentence report before determining if the plea agreement is satisfactory.
 
Judge Burger stated 8 felony offenses of this nature could carry a maximum sentence of 160 years in jail.

If the plea agreement is accepted by the courts, Shah will be sentenced to 87 months in prison and three years of supervised release. If denied, this case will go to trail.

That decision will be made in court on Sept. 11.


A California man who is accused of trying to extort millions from a West Virginia coal executive is back in a Beckley federal court on Thursday, May 9.

Vivek Shah is charged with extortion after he alleged tried to get $13 million from Foresight Reserves owner Christopher Cline.  Shah was indicted on the charges in August 2012.  He is facing a plea hearing at 10 a.m. in front of Federal Judge Irene Berger in Beckley.

Shah reportedly threatened to kill Cline's relatives if the coal executive refused to pay the amount Shah demanded.  59News has a crew at the plea hearing and will have more information as it becomes available.