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Lawyers want out of Calif. man's extortion case

BECKLEY, W.Va. -- A California man accused of trying to extort $13 million from a West Virginia coal executive might have to get a third team of lawyers.

Aspiring actor Vivek Shah fired his first attorney in December. On Tuesday, his current legal team filed a motion to withdraw as counsel.

Their reasons are unclear. All federal court filings in the case are sealed, but the motion is listed on the docket.

Shah's trial is set for Feb. 25 in Beckley.

The West Hollywood resident was indicted last summer on charges he threatened to kill relatives of Christopher Cline, owner of Foresight Reserves coal company, if Cline refused to pay the $13 million.

Shah allegedly targeted four other wealthy people, including a film studio co-founder from Connecticut, oil and gas millionaires in Texas and Florida, and an Internet company founder in Chicago. Federal prosecutors won't release their identities.

In addition to sealing the documents, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger last week issued a gag order in the case, limiting access to court documents to participants in the case and court staff.

Shah, 25, is charged with four counts of interfering with interstate commerce and using interstate commerce to threaten extortion.

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

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


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