If you have been following ‘Amish Mafia’ on Discovery Channel, by now you most likely know about the controversy surrounding the show. Non-Amish who live in the Lancaster Co. area have stepped up to defend the Amish community, and to debunk any misrepresentations or discrepancies that the show has been presenting.
Once again, we are hearing more from the Lancaster area. In an article dated, January 11, Lancaster Online reported that if such a group existed, local cops Steven Echternach and Jonathan Heisse would be aware of them. Echternach and Heisse are liasons to the Amish community, and they work with local Anabaptist groups on wide variety of crimes. They do not believe the “protectors” on the Discovery Channel to be the real deal.
"I can say with absolute certainty that what I'm seeing on Discovery Channel is an exploitation of the Amish culture," Echternach, Strasburg's police chief, said this week.
"It's not a complete blatant lie, but the characterization is very misrepresentative,” continued Echternach.
Heisse, a police lieutenant in New Holland, an area heavily populated by Anabaptist groups, agreed and told Lancaster Online, "I think we would have heard about something like that.
Uh oh…actual police statements make it hard to believe that ‘Amish Mafia’ is even slightly authentic.
What’s more? Some local Amish have watched the show (in the homes of English friends), and they also agree that the show is mostly fake. Not surprisingly, folks in the Amish community know the actual characters that are appearing on the show. While they agree that these characters are real people that were raised in Amish homes, they pointed out several discrepancies that Discovery failed to see. These acquaintances of the ‘Amish Mafia’ cast say that though these characters are called “Amish,” they have never actually joined the church. If they were truly practicing Amish, they wouldn’t be driving vehicles, and behaving the way that they are on Discovery Channel. Those pointing out facts also said that real people don’t use the violence that the series portrays.
A 68-year-old Amish elder/laborer offered his take on the show, and the violence that it delivers, "That's like Smokey the Bear lighting forest fires. Anyone who is in the Amish community knows it's not true."
In regards to Mafia frontman/tough guy “Lebanon Levi,” numerous reports have surfaced in which people who claim to know him shared that he is not what you see on the show. Not long ago, his old Myspace account surfaced, and he sounded like anything but the ring leader of this violent group. In fact, “Lebanon Levi” sounded like a soft-hearted, Teddy Bear that wanted nothing more than a girlfriend.
A 28-year-old man who was raised Amish, but hasn’t joined the church, stated to Lancaster Online that he knows many of the characters….and yes, Lebanon Levi is one of them of course. This person who remains anonymous said that the gun-slinger is 33 year-old Levi King Stoltzfus of Richland. He went on to explain that he laughed the first time he saw Levi playing the ring-leader of ‘Amish Mafia.’
He further added validity to the Myspace surfacing, by saying, “He’d rather sit back in a corner than go after somebody.”
He also went on to share that one accuracy about Levi is going to parties as he has hung out with him at the “hut parties” several times.
At this point, no one has reported to the press that Lebanon Levi plays his character accurately. In fact, those who have lent their voice have flat-out said that Levi as a Mafia man is just a persona. Other local Amish men seem to be in agreement with the 28-year-old.
It sounds as though most Lancaster Co. residents find the show to be downright laughable.
However, Discovery continues to the defend the show, and it’s authenticity claiming that they serve as enforcers outside the law.
In the Lancaster Online article, a picture of mug shots for Esther, John, Levi, and Alvin all emerged. It appears that the cast members have each been in trouble for crimes ranging from disorderly conduct, to DUI’s, to drugs, to fleeing the police.
The elder emphasized that the cast members association with the show and their past mistakes doesn’t exclude them from having the opportunity to join the Amish church. He says the door is always open and that they will be accepted into the church if they want to follow their beliefs.
Following the rules of the church, the Amish men who were interviewed needed to remain anonymous, and could not be photographed.
Numerous people commented on the link claiming to know various cast members, and brought forth additional truths, and questions. Time and time again, Levi is said to be night and day different from the character he plays, and his love interest Esther appears to have more going on than the show lets on.
It seems as though Discovery Channel has a difficult case to defend. At this point, there isn’t any convincing evidence within the Amish Community to prove the show is legit.
Either way, next week, a special season ending show/interview with the cast members is scheduled. Will you be tuning in? Do you believe ‘Amish Mafia’ is fake, or do you have any reason to believe that such a group actually exists?