One of the many false claims made by Discovery’s Amish Mafia like there being an “Amish Mafia” at all, or the cast being Amish and Mennonite, or the name of the local police department, or Lebanon Levi having an extensive violent criminal history when his real name is Levi King Stoltzfus and aside from a “Disorderly Conduct Engage In Fighting” charge in Lancaster, PA November 8, 2009 his real criminal record is mostly drinking and driving offenses, the show claims the protagonist shakes down local shopkeepers for protection money.
There’s no proof aside from Discovery’s fabrications that Stoltzfus is involved in racketeering. Probably because he isn’t involved in racketeering, let alone committing crimes and allowing them to be recorded and broadcast. There is proof, however, that he’s a volunteer firefighter, who staged and extinguished a fire for the show, and that he’s the owner of a local construction company.
There’s also negligible proof of Discovery’s claim that Stoltzfus ”owns” several stores/ buildings in “the community.”
One of the local businesses from which a henchman is seen collecting “rent” in a recent episode is really Art & Glassworks in Lancaster City, PA.
“Lebanon Levi is the cops,” explains”Esther.” “He is the courthouse, he is the bank, and he is the insurance company.” A supposed Amish crafts store is shown about halfway into episode two in order to demonstrate this. ”Lebanon Levi” Stoltzfus explains: “Once a month, I send guys out to collect rent on the properties I own. I give local business owners a good deal for their stores and I offer them insurance if anything happens or they get in trouble.” One of his men, Alvin, is seen exiting the store with a white envelope purportedly full of money (in actuality, it was probably empty). In another shot, a different lackey, John, is shown leaving the same building. Stoltzfus continues: “The help that I give is basically everything. Whatever. If it’s sick, or it’s fires, or accidents, or whatever. Any kind of help they need financially that’s what I give.”
Several problems with those claims. The real store owner is not the lone Amish woman shown paying the “rent” during the episode. And the store is really Art & Glassworks, not Amish crafts.
The store is actually owned by Karin Meacham (and her husband Gary Ziffer). Meacham spoke about Discovery faking scenes within her store to LancasterOnline.com who note, “County property records show Ziffer and Meacham have owned their store building since 1989.” Adding, “Meacham and store worker Jackie Kissel remember the scene being shot [this] summer, but they played no part in it and didn’t know at the time what the footage was for.”
Theirs is a very distinctive storefront: dark green doors with gold and purple trimmings, and glass decorations out front. A recent photo of Meacham and Kissel, below, shows them in the doorway with a joke sign intended to cash in on the show saying “This store is protected by Lebanon Levi.” It isn’t; it’s just a gag. A quick Google search of the store name and location brings up its frontage, below. And stills from the episode, also below, show that it’s likely the same building (note: Discovery may have used different locations to film the store interior and back).
Meacham tells Lancaster Online of the joke sign: “We’re just having fun with it.” She continues about the scene of Alvin leaving with the envelope (above): “The scene before, they were talking about how they protect Lancaster businesses, and then the next scene is they’re coming out of our store with an envelope. I went, ‘Oh my gosh, that is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Our store protected by Amish?’”
She continues talking about the shoot: “They said they were doing a documentary on the Amish” so she signed a document allowing the cast and crew to record at her store. “Through the summer, we’d see them out there shooting parts of it on the street. I’d think, ‘Oh, they’re still working on the movie.’”
She said of Alvin, ”He was always looking down at the ground when we’d pass him on the street. He seemed very shy.” And the store owner has never met “Lebanon Levi” Stoltzfus: ”I’d like to meet [Levi]. I’d like to have him in here, maybe for a First Friday, so we can all talk to him. If anyone knows how we can make that happen, have them call me.”
A neighbouring business owner told Meacham when her store was shown on television, she says: “I think it’s hysterical.” And she knows that the show is fake since she openly supposes that her own store has been used in a “re-enactment” for Amish Mafia. “Whether it’s real or not, there sure seem to be a lot of people watching it,” Meacham says. “We live here, so we know this is not how [the Amish] are.”