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California Man Accused Of Trying To Extort $13 Million From Coal Executive

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Vivek-M.-Shah
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ORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A California man accused of trying to extort $13 million from a West Virginia coal company executive and threatening to kill relatives if he didn’t pay up was indicted on federal charges Wednesday.

A grand jury in Charleston charged Vivek M. Shah, 25, of West Hollywood with four counts of interfering with interstate commerce and using interstate commerce to threaten extortion. Though the indictment was handed up Wednesday, court records show Shah was arrested in Chicago about a week ago.

It wasn’t immediately clear where he is being held or whether he has an attorney.

An affidavit filed by a U.S. postal inspector who investigated the case says Shah also uses the aliases Ray Amin and Rohan Gill, and was staying at his father’s home in Schaumburg, Ill., just before his arrest.

The scheme laid out in the affidavit was ambitious and wide-reaching, involving offshore banks in Cyprus, Antigua, Malta and Mauritius.

Signed by inspector Joshua Mehall, the affidavit says investigators found that Shah used prepaid debit cards, telephones, WiFi connections at a Starbucks near his home and the U.S. Postal Service to target five wealthy individuals in all.

Four are not named in the affidavit but are identified as: a film studio co-founder who lives in Connecticut; the co-founder and chairman of an Internet company who lives in Illinois; an oil and gas company founder who lives in Florida; and the son of an oil and gas company founder who lives in Texas.

Only Christopher Cline, owner of Foresight Reserves LP, is named in the documents. Cline divides his time between homes in Beckley and North Palm Beach, Fla.

Each letter to the victims was virtually identical, the affidavit says, and each contained threats to kill named members of the victims’ families unless the money was wired to an offshore account. Shah allegedly used different recipient banks for each victim.

An employee of Cline’s opened the letter sent to his Florida home on June 26, then sent it to Cline’s attorneys in Charleston. A second letter later provided instructions for wiring the money to a Cyprus bank account.

Federal prosecutors in West Virginia’s Southern District say they have jurisdiction over the case because that’s where Cline and his family live.

The affidavit also says Google Voice records show that a week before his arrest, Shah placed four calls from his father’s home in Illinois to a Los Angeles gun range.

When law enforcement officers talked to employees there, they learned Shah was scheduled to begin handgun training after returning to Los Angeles on an Aug. 12 flight. He was arrested before he could make it.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)

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