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30 Month Prison Sentence Sought for Magic Factory Owner

"When a good person commits a bad crime, he should be sent to prison, too; maybe not for as long, but to prison nonetheless."

Federal prosecutors say the owner of Hank Lee's Magic Factory "made a mockery of the justice system" and want him to spend 30 months in prison for committing over $500,000 in credit card fraud.

"Under any set of circumstances, this is a bad crime: lengthy, repeated, calculated, and callous," federal prosecutor Scott Garland wrote in a filing Aug. 31. "Once federal investigators started investigating the fraud’s depth, breadth, and perpetrator, Harry Levy — though a beloved family man, a steadfast friend, and an engaging businessman — doubled down by lying to the investigators on three separate occasions."

In court papers filed last week, prosecutors outlined their requested sentence for Levy, a 61-year-old Lexington resident and the owner of the Medford-based magic store. He pleaded guilty to charges of credit card fraud and issuing false statements in April stemming from committing $561,927 in 134 false transactions between 2009 to 2011 on one customer's American Express card, then lying to investigators looking into the charges.

The U.S. Attorney's Office wants Levy to serve a 30 month sentence in federal prison, two years supervised release, pay resitution to the victim and an additional $60,000 fine, according to the government's sentencing memorandum.

Levy is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 6 in U.S. District Court in Boston by Judge Patti Saris.

While prosecutors seek prison time, Levy is looking for a sentence of six months in a halfway house, six months of home confinement and three years probation, according to a sentencing memorandum filed Sept. 3 by his attorney, Steven Sussman.

"Although Levy has been in the magic business for many years, he had never before misused any customer’s financial or personal information," Sussman wrote. "Indeed, Levy had a well deserved reputation as an honest business- man."

Sussman's memorandum, partially redacted to preclude information from a psychological evaluation and other personal details, included letters submitted from friends, family and customers touting Levy's character.

Levy's business was opened in 1975 and it was successful for many years, but the internet dealt it a blow and Levy had to close his retail shop in Boston and pare down to two employees at his Medford warehouse in 2007, Sussman wrote.

Then, Levy was hit with a $4 million lawsuit in 2008 from the family of a young Tennessee boy who used his parent's credit card to order a chemistry-based magic trick and ended up losing six fingers in an explosion.

"The controversy about whether the insurer would cover the loss, on top of the catastrophic loss suffered by the young boy, weighed heavily on Levy, causing loss of sleep and abnormally high anxiety," Sussman wrote.

By 2010, the insurance company involved agreed to pay for damages in the incident, but Levy had already committed hundreds of thousands in credit card fraud against the customer, Sussman wrote.

Levy suffered "diminished capacity," meaning he could not fully comprehend the nature of his crimes, Sussman wrote.

But prosecutors said Levy is "exactly the sort of white-collar defendant for whom the Sentencing Guidelines were enacted," and that he shouldn't be allowed to avoid prison.

"In his bid to escape prison, Defendant makes much of his being a beloved family man, a steadfast friend, and an engaging businessman. But sentencing is not a popularity contest," Garland wrote. "When a bad person commits a bad crime, he should be sent to prison. When a good person commits a bad crime, he should be sent to prison, too; maybe not for as long, but to prison nonetheless."

The victim, a wealthy Texas resident, did not become aware of the fraudulent charges until 2011, when an assistant reviewed his credit card statements, according to court records. When investigators visited Levy, he mislead them. Levy blamed the fraud on other people defrauding the victim, and the victim himself, according to the filing.

Later, Levy provided investigators with fraudulent invoices, according to filings. It wasn't until a search warrant was obtained that investigators discovered the charges were made for Levy's personal use and he admitted to making the charges, according to federal court documents.

"Worse than the theft, he made a mockery of the justice system," Garland wrote.

But Levy's attorney says his crimes were not motivated by greed.

"(He) used the money to keep his business going and to pay salaries. More to the point, Levy did not profit from the offense; to the contrary, he must sell his house in order to pay the restitution in full," Sussman wrote. "His remaining two employees will lose their jobs in the event Levy is required to close his business."

Although the fraud totalled over $560,000, over $100,00 of that was re-couped by the credit card company, accordng to Sussman, leaving about $430,000 in restitution. Levy may have to sell his home and business to pay back the charges, according to Sussman.

Levy is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 6 at 9 a.m. at U.S. District Court in Boston.

x September 07, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Wouldn't some really good magic make all this go away? Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Mike P September 07, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Sad to hear of a local business owner making bad decisions. Not many little guys left in the business world..
BigBossMan September 07, 2012 at 10:18 PM
He should do every day of those 30 months and not one second less. "He simply made a mistake", please!. Stealing half a million dollars is hardly a "mistake". He knew exactly what he was doing. Throw the book at him.
x September 08, 2012 at 12:07 AM
The perpetrator as a victim.... very Massachusetts. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Steve Kirdar September 08, 2012 at 10:19 AM
"He simply made a mistake" - no, he made over 130 "mistakes," then obstructed justice. And speaking as a former customer who's compared notes with others, there were plenty of warning flags aside from the events of this particular case. Realize he's your father and you love him, but you won't engender sympathy for him by minimizing his actions or insulting others.
Jim September 08, 2012 at 07:32 PM
A "mistake?!?!?!" A mistake is something you do by accident. He didn't ACCIDENTALLY steal thousands of dollars many times over the course of years. He didn't so it ON PURPOSE. It would be a mistake if he honestly, accidentally mistyped a digit when entering a legitimate credit card purchase and accidentally charged the wrong person. If you're looking for a "soft" way to describe what he did, the best I can fathom is that he made a bad decision (over and over and over...)
Harry Houdini September 11, 2012 at 01:27 AM
What a shame..... feel bad For Steve and the other loyal employees who worked there
Mark Ceasrel September 11, 2012 at 11:32 AM
Aron 'darling' your father is a crook, knock it off with the 'he made a mistake crap', his actions were one of calculation and premeditation - knocking a credit card over 130 times proves this. It's about time people start taking responsibility for their actions, recently I read about a kid who stole a vehicle, the boys mother blamed the owner for leaving the keys in the truck! Very sad....so long Hank.
Manny September 12, 2012 at 06:03 PM
That's a slap on the wrist for this guy. He should do serious time for stealing all that money.
x September 12, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Levy's sentence could be much shorter than thirty months. Like Houdini, all he has to do his snap his fingers and disappear. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Rick In San Jose September 13, 2012 at 02:15 AM
I don't know any more about the case than what has been reported in the media (reliable or not). What I do know is that I've received excellent service from Hank Lee's throughout my twenty-seven years as a mail-order customer. To me, that means a lot; and I appreciate the efforts of Harry and his staff to give me such service. I hope that the two years pass quickly for Harry, and that afterwards he and his family can get off to a fresh start in life. Everybody deserves a second chance, and that includes Harry Levy.
Kelly September 14, 2012 at 12:26 AM
I know nothing about this case. Having been a victim of credit card fraud this man should not only go to jail but should have to repay not only the victim but those who had to investigate the case and the jail that holds him too. When my husband and kids had to wait for our mortage because of someone using my credit cards they suffered. Him and his family should suffer too.
Jesse September 21, 2012 at 11:11 AM
This is terrible, that sentence should be ten times what it is.
Frank September 26, 2012 at 03:06 PM
.
Ray September 26, 2012 at 05:32 PM
I agree this is not how people should treat each other.
Vic October 01, 2012 at 10:46 PM
This is still big news on the Medford Patch but here in Lexington nothing since September fifth. Is this some dirty little secret? This man stole over $560,000.00 and lied to the Federal investigators about it. He should be doing serious prison time not this paltry sentence.
Chet October 13, 2012 at 04:45 PM
.
Ray B October 31, 2012 at 05:49 PM
What a terrible person
jinx November 06, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Ray B. Do you know Hank Lee personally. You would have to know him. Otherwise what kind of person would you be to post a public statement about the entire character of a complete stranger. A bold post such as "what a terrible person" such acomment on public focrum could only come from a person with complete confidence in there evaluation. Otherwise such a judgement would not only be profoundly wrong but cruel as well. butbu wrong. bu but extremely cruel as well.
jinx November 06, 2012 at 04:20 PM
I have known Hank Lee and his family since I wad a kid. I was an awkward unconfident 13 year oldwhen I walked into Hank Lee' Magic Factory and fell in love with everything magic. I spent hours and hours there. I know I was without question. I was in the way and typically annoying as kids can be. However, Hank and employees never made me feel anything but acceptance. In fact when I was old enough yo work Hank gave me my first job. It is absolutely a false charactetization to call Hank a terrible person. It has been twenty years since that scared little kid wandered into the hanks magic shop. My personal experiences with hank have only been positive. I am proud to call him a friend
Matt November 18, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Your friend has been convicted of stealing $500K and lying to investigators. I hope you counted your change.
Mark Jacobs January 21, 2013 at 09:41 PM
Aron, I was a friend of Harry's in High School. We hung out together and used to go to the the Ronnie Gann's together every week. He may have made a bad mistake,but I don't believe that makes him a bad person. I hope you all make it through this.
Todd January 26, 2013 at 09:14 PM
Aron - while I didn't know your father personally, I was once a customer, many years ago when I was much younger - and from time to time, I've checked in on his current catalog, and writings. While I do have to agree that he's committed a crime and has to make restitution somehow, I'm also in accord with your assertion that he's basically a good man that made a mistake. He wasn't a compulsive criminal; he operated a legitimate, and even fun, business for decades with integrity. It looks to me like the pressure of the lawsuit may have just made snap, and while some people may judge I think many of us might be surprised at our own reaction in a similar situation. I can't help but wish the family in Texas well, but wish you and your father well too. I am sorry for the strain everyone involved with this event must feel.
Aron Levy January 26, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Mark, thank you so much for the kind words. They really mean a lot, and I'll be sure to pass them on to my dad.
Aron Levy January 26, 2013 at 09:40 PM
Todd, thank you. I will pass your words on to Hank.
Aron Levy January 26, 2013 at 09:42 PM
Then maybe the next time you don't know something, you shouldn't wish for someone's family to suffer. You have no idea what we hae been through, lady. My father did a terrible, terrible thing. But why the hell should his wife, much less his two sons suffer? Get a clue.
yvette grimes February 03, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Just learned about this today. I'm a longtime customer and used to go to the store all the time when it was in Boston and was never disappointed. I own over a hundred "perfectly ordinary decks" and lots of coin tricks and other closeup magic. I hope the store can reopen even if it's as an online store. Hank Lee's Magic Factory was legendary and I recommended it to people all the time. I was in the process of doing that today when I went to google to check the website url and found all this. Give my best to your father. When he gets out I hope he can make restitution and turn his life around.
Sue Willis February 25, 2013 at 02:13 AM
Not fair to blame the man's wife and son's in all this. What he did was wrong and it appears he is paying for it. I am curious though why everyone is calling him "Hank Lee" his name is Harry Levy.
Aron Levy May 22, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Hank Lee was the name my father went by in the business. It was his stage name when he used to perform.
Aron Levy May 22, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Paltry sentence? Have you ever done hard time in the Federal system? Two years is NOT a walk in the park, Vic.

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