Gone are the days when networks like the Discovery Channel and TLC featured programming that allowed viewers to get their dork on.  The channels that used to be a nerd’s favorites are now filled with programs that focus on finding obscure places to hunt for gold and building custom guns and motorcycles.  While the Discovery Channel’s newest venture may be entertaining, it in no way fosters the pursuit of knowledge, Discovery’s original goal.  It’s actually opposite, airing what seems to be a dramatization as a reality show and exploiting a minority population.  The most disappointing aspect of the new show, “Amish Mafia” is that it’s actually quite entertaining, but would fit in better on HBO than the Discovery Channel.  The network should not present a show as a true reality series when it’s obvious that it is scripted.

 On December 12, 2012 Discovery aired the first episode of Amish Mafia.  It opened with a disclaimer telling viewers that the Amish Church denies the existence of the Amish Mafia and to protect participants and their family members some identifying information has been changed.  There aren’t any scenes that have that little ‘Dramatization” disclaimer in the corner, so I’m led to believe that the entire thing is a re-enactment.  In fact, as the show goes off there’s another disclaimer that reads, “Recreations are based on eye witness accounts, testimonials, and the legend of the Amish Mafia.” So in other words, what you have just seen is totally fabricated based on stories the producers were told. 

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Jolin on Amish Mafia business
It seems as if the fiasco that followed TLC’s, Discovery’s sister channel, “Breaking Amish” taught them something.  After “Breaking Amish” aired it came out that much of the show was scripted and faked, but there was no disclaimer saying so.  After catching a lot of flak over the fakery, Discovery jumped on the sudden fascination with the Amish (there was also “Amish at the Alter” on the National Geographic Channel and Neve Campbell starred in the Lifetime Movie “An Amish Murder”) but included the disclaimer.

Even with the disclaimer, Amish Mafia has been catching heat for not being a reality show.  So much so that last week another new episode aired that gave cast members the opportunity to ensure viewers that what they were watching was real.  As evidence they produced a local geneology book that records all Amish births in the area.  Sure enough, their names were in there.  And that proves, what? That they were born Amish?  The show explains that the Mafia members haven’t been baptized into the Amish Church so they can operate outside it’s laws.  I’ve never heard of a show that had to air a special to validate itself.  But as much as I hate to admit it, I’m entertained by these guys.  Just as with some of the haunted house stories we’ve written about, we have to ask if the quality of the story is worth foregoing  a basis in reality.

When you start digging around the internet you can quickly find a mountain of evidence that Amish Mafia is fake.  The first red flag pops up with Alan Beiler, the show’s black Amish guy and Godfather Levi’s event planner.  Up until December 14, Beiler operated several websites that were taken down after the show’s premiere.  Before it was scrapped his website stated what the show told about him, that he was born in Brooklyn and was adopted by the Beilers when he was 9.  It also listed various jobs Belier had held in the entertainment industry and led some to wonder if he was a paid actor.  Beiler worked on National Geographic’s “Amish at the Alter” and was a production assistant on a movie.  The website, BlackAmishMan.com featured ideas for several shows, which included Amish reality shows, buggy races, and pimp-my-buggy contests…sound familiar to any viewers?  Sure sounds like Beiler is the mastermind behind many of the shows storylines. 
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The "real" Alan Beiler on right
Surely if these guys were all paid actors, the casting directors responsible for their hiring have since been fired.  Watch the show for a few minutes and you’re bound to get frustrated by John, the lowest guy on Levi’s totem pole.  He seems to stammer through what he’s supposed to say.  There’s just a goofy quality about him that makes it hard to believe he’s part of any organized thought. 

In case you haven’t caught the phenomena that is “Amish Mafia,” the show is set in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where a large Amish population lives.  The show revolves around Lebanon Levi and his gang of thugs.  Levi is described as the protector, judge, and jury for the Amish community.  He describes his role as “keeping the peace and making sure everyone’s following the rules.”  I suppose he and his gang are exempt from following those rules?  The Discovery Channel website says that Levi exists above the law.

Nevermind the fact that the show seems to depict Levi and his gang breaking numerous laws on camera without any concern.  Either they really are above the law, or the stunts were staged.  More on that later.  Similarly, the Discovery Channel’s show “Moonshiners” depicts a handful of rednecks making illegal liquer.  I find Moonshiners entertaining as well, especially when it comes to Tickle, but I wonder how the cast can continue to make moonshine after they’ve been on TV doing so.  Wouldn’t local law enforcement just stake them out until they busted them?  I’m starting to see a pattern here.

“Lebanon Levi,” the Amish Mafia’s leader, puts you in mind of a young Tony Soprano.  According to the show he came to power after John’s father stepped down as the protector of the community, and for a price, offers protection to local businesses and keeps the peace within the community.  A little digging turned up an old Myspace page belonging to Levi King Stoltzfus of Richland, PA. 
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Levi
In one episode Levi is found doing construction work, which is supposed to be a cover, a way to make legitimate money.  In reality, Levi is co-owner of C&L Siding, Decking, and Roofing.  It seems as if before television cameras came around Levi made a living roofing houses.  Some more digging revealed that Levi is a member of Richland's Neptune Fire Co.  At a Richland Borough Council meeting last year Levi was given permission to set a trailer on fire and put it out for a Discovery Channel documentary.  Then we watch the  final episode this season and see the trailer, Levi’s new office, go up in flames, but they said it was Merlin’s, Levi’s Amish Mafia boss rival, doing?

During the first episode rap sheets for Levi and the others were shown and started a big controversy.  The arresting agency appears as the Lancaster County Police Department.  Locals were quick to point out that there is no such agency.  There is the Lancaster County Sheriffs Department and the Lancaster City Police Department, but the Lancaster County Police Department does not exist.  The criminal records are real, to an extent.  Records have been found for four of the show’s cast members.  Levi was arrested in Shelby, OH for DUI, and has also been arrested for public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and two other DUIs. 

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Esther rides a mechanical bull
The show plays up the relationship between Levi and Esther, John’s sister.  Levi has always been interested in Esther, and she uses this to her advantage.  In one episode she gets Levi out of town and the  two take a vacation in Florida.  There Esther reveals to Levi that she has two children.  It seems there’s a lot more she could have revealed.  Esther’s full name is Esther Freeman Schmucker.  Before Amish Mafia Esther was shopping around for modeling gigs.  She has a profile on the dating website PlentyofFish.com where she says she drinks socially, has children and wants more, does not do drugs, and lists her job as “insurance policies.”  She also has accounts on Formspring, MySpace, eBay, and Twitter.

Esther’s Twitter account was active after the show’s premiere, touting her new relationship with Twitter user @TheRealMirkat, a rapper who took to the site to brag about the sexual exploits that went on between the two.  Esther, posting as @ecstasy686, and Mirkat tweeted back and forth about how in love they were.  Mirkat wasn't shy about posting pictures that seemed to show him using drugs. Since then both the accounts have been deleted.


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Esther's profile pic
Esther’s actual criminal history includes arrests for disorderly conduct twice, and a DUI.  John, who may or may not be Esther’s real brother (they share the name  Freeman Schmucker and Esther is 2 years older) has his own real disorderly conduct charge.  He’s also been arrested for marijuana possession and a hit-and-run. 

Depicted on the show as Levi’s right-hand man is Alvin.  He’s the quiet, might-be-crazy one.  “Nobody gets to Levi without going through Alvin.”  Alvin Stoltzfus Lantz has a criminal record for a DUI and for fleeing from police.  On his arrest records his occupation is listed as ‘construction’ so he may actually work for Levi.

The motivation for the forming of a group such as the Amish Mafia is cited on the Discovery Channel’s website as the real-life 2006 school shooting in Nickel Mines, PN.  A truck driver shot and killed five children at an Amish school. Critics are quick say the show is disrespectful to the victims and families involved in the actual tragedy. 

Several articles quote people who live in the Lancaster area and know the cast members.  They say they are nothing like the characters depicted on the show.  Levi seems to have been a party guy for a while, but had settled down somewhat, until he became the leader of a religious organized crime syndicate.  The residents deny the existence of an Amish Mafia.

Others say the Amish make an easy target to exploit because of their beliefs.  Most do not watch television or even have their picture taken, so they’re not likely to come out with a public argument against the show.  The racketeering that is depicted on the show would be of interest to FBI’s Violent Criminal Organizations unit and subject to RICO charges.  Local law enforcement officers have went on record saying that if there was any such organization in the area they would know of it. 


So what do I think of Amish Mafia?  I wish they had done what the History Channel did with the Haftield’s and McCoys; made a mini-series.  Instead of exploiting an actual tragedy, make one up, cast a gang of Amish thugs to fight back, and let me watch it.  Just don’t claim that it’s real.  Give the viewers some credit.  It’s like professional wrestling.  It doesn’t take the fun out of it just because it’s fake.  With a little polishing Amish Mafia would have some great characters and potential storylines.  Don’t put a pothead on screen bumbling around trying to act out tall tales.  The Amish Mafia has become a legend, but legends aren’t reality.  They do make great TV movies though.  Amish Mafia belongs on Showtime or HBO, not the Discovery Channel, but we’ll support another season.

 


Comments

02/05/2013 4:14pm

check out John's warrant

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