Harvey Weinstein Extortion Case Expands to Relativity's Ryan Kavanaugh (Exclusive)
California prosecutors file charges against Vivek Shah, demanding pretrial detention because he allegedly represents a flight risk.
Harvey Weinstein isn't the only movie industry mogul to have received an extortion letter demanding millions of dollars or face a killing in the family. Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh -- the same movie executive who is warring with The New Yorker over claims made in a new profile of business partner Ron Burkle -- also became a target.
Last week, a new indictment was filed against Vivek Shah, the aspiring actor who is alleged to have attempted to extort various business executives with menacing communications.
A criminal case against Shah is still ongoing in a West Virginia federal court, but now California prosecutors are also looking to charge Shah with mailing threatening communications. The new case adds more recipients of Shah's alleged extortion letters, and one of those individuals cited by prosecutors is "R.K.," which The Hollywood Reporter has learned is Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh got the letter around Aug. 9. It contained a demand for $11.3 million, nearly three times the amount that was demanded of Weinstein. What's more, if Shah really did send it, the extortion demand came from someone that Kavanaugh had met in person. In October 2011, Shah was photographed with his arm around Kavanaugh, smiling, at an awards banquet in Beverly Hills.
In the new indictment, California prosecutors say Shah used a false identity to attain a prepaid access device card used to purchase postage. Shah then allegedly would send through the mail a communication, entitled "Extortion Notice," to various recipients.
The extortion letter is said to have contained a demand for a specific amount of money, a deadline for payment and an advisement that wiring instructions would follow. The warning read:
"[Victim], if you follow the instructions, then you can take this notice lightly. If you don't, then expect at least one person dead in the next year. It could either be [first names of close relatives], or any other close relative."
Weinstein is said to have received the first of these letters June 9. The letter was received at his Connecticut address with a demand for $4 million.
Later, Shah allegedly increased his monetary demands to others.
In the indictment, prosecutors only identify victims by initials. On June 26, Shah is alleged to have demanded $34 million from "T.P." (previous news reports say oil executive Terry Pegula was a victim). On July 28, Shah is alleged to have demanded $16 million from "E.L." (reportedly Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky). Other targets include "D.A.," a second "T.P.," "G.G." and "R.K."
If Shah sent his first extortion letter to one movie mogul, his last may have been sent to a second. Kavanaugh's letter was postmarked around Aug. 9. Prosecutors don't indicate any letters were sent afterward. Shah was arrested Aug. 10 in a Chicago suburb.
Shah's arrest came about 10 months after Kavanaugh was photographed next to the extortion suspect at the Anti-Defamation League Industry Awards Dinner.
California prosecutors now are requesting pretrial detention for Shah, saying they are entitled to a detention hearing because Shah's alleged acts were violent in nature and carry a maximum sentence of 10 years or more, that he is a flight risk and there's also a risk he will obstruct justice.
Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner