Harvey Weinstein, Vivek Shah

Theo Wargo/WireImage, Michael Kovac/WireImage

The moral of the story? Don't mess with Harvey Weinstein.

A D-list actor has been arrested for trying to extort millions from the legendary movie mogul by threatening the lives of his family.

Per the Smoking Gun, Vivek Shah—a 25-year-old West Hollywood resident whose acting resume includes bit roles in film, television and commercials—was taken into custody by federal agents on Aug. 10 at his parents' home in Schaumburg, Ill.

In sworn affidavit by postal Inspector Joshua Mehall, Shah is accused of sending nearly identical letters to Weinstein and three billionaires, among them coal magnate Christopher Cline and Eric Lefkofsky, the cofounder of Groupon, threatening "to kill several named members" of their families unless they transferred large sums of money to an offshore bank account.

The 60-year-old Weinstein isn't named in the affidavit, but instead is described as a "Connecticut resident and co-founder of a film studio."

The legendary studio boss lives in Westport, Conn., and founded Miramax Films together with his brother Bob.

Stevie Wonder's nephew busted in extortion plot

Shah is a self-described "entrepreneur" whose meager TV credits include Fox's Bones and NBC's Outsourced as well as an Intel spot that ran during the Super Bowl, according to his IMDB page. While his Facebook page features pics of him schmoozing with such stars as Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Milla Jovovich and Alec Baldwin, among others.

Vivek Shah, Angelina Jolie, Milla Jovovich, Steve Buscemi, Tom Cruise


Feds say he allegedly mailed his "extortion demand letters" in June and July and was also "scheduled for training in handgun shooting" at an L.A. gun range.

After his targets alerted the FBI, investigators tracked down store surveillance footage showing the Ohio-born thesp buying prepaid debit cards that he used in the shakedown scheme to send the letters. The U.S. District Court complaint states that agents also linked Shah to online postage purchases, PayPal charges and mailbox rentals, as well as a Google Voice number and Gmail account.

Shah is charged with two counts of interference with commerce by threats and two counts of sending threatening interstate communications, a felony which could land him up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He remains locked up in an Illinois jail, but is expected to be transported to West Virginia where the complaint against him was filed in federal court.

A rep for Weinstein was unavailable for comment.

But a source close to the mogul told the New York Post that Weinstein received the same letter sent to the other victims, which stated that his would-be extortionist "was down on his luck, in financial problems, and…needed $4 million," which he would return once he was "back on his feet."


Update: Shah's Charleston, W.Va.-based attorney, Troy Giatras, tells E! News that the arrest has come as a shock to his client's family.

"They are certainly surprised. He is not somebody that has ever hurt anyone in the past and certainly everyone is very happy that no one has been hurt in this case," Giatras said. "Right now we are just waiting to receive some evidence and move forward."

—Reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum

(Originally published on Aug. 23, 2012, at 8:40 a.m.)

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