A California actor has admitted taking part in a scheme to extort money from Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula.
Vivek Shah, 25, of West Hollywood, pleaded guilty in a West Virginia federal court earlier this month as part of a deal that could land him in prison for up to 87 months.
The details of Shah’s plea deal are still unknown – the agreement has been sealed and the parties are under a court-mandated gag order – but the Associated Press has reported that he pleaded guilty to one count of transferring threatening communications through interstate commerce and seven counts of mailing or sending threatening communications through the mail.
Shah, who was set to go on trial this month, was accused in August of sending letters that threatened to kill the relatives of his targets if he did not receive millions of dollars.
Federal prosecutors say he also targeted film producer Harvey Weinstein and West Virginia coal magnate Christopher Cline as part of “a multimillion-dollar extortion attempt.”
Shah was arrested in August while visiting his family in a Chicago suburb and then held in custody in West Virginia.
“He’s a good kid; he’s an actor,” Patrick E. Boyle, his lawyer, said at the time of his arrest. “He’s had small roles in movies and done television commercials.”
In the indictment against Shah, he was accused of sending a letter threatening to kill one of Cline’s relatives unless $13 million was wired to an offshore bank account.
Prosecutors said similar letters were sent to Pegula, Weinstein and others.
“In June and July 2012,” the indictment said, “law enforcement learned of four other extortion demand letters substantially the same as the one received by Mr. Cline.”
Prosecutors also say Shah had sought out handgun training shortly before he was arrested.
Pegula and the Sabres could not be reached to comment Monday.