Amish Mafia seems like a parody of reality shows. It takes a people who are known for being peaceful, compromising, and helpful, and somehow tries to convince its audience that a fringe element of those people are using guns, force, and explosions to ensure the safety of the other 99 percent of the community.
Levi King Stoltzfus, aka Lebanon Levi, leads a motley crew of outcasts as the head of the Lancaster branch of Amish Aid. They include Alvin, Jolin, John, and Esther, and they are supposedly all that stands between the forces of chaos and terror and the peaceful businesses of Lancaster County.
However, none of this is exactly true-- none of the cast are Amish. Amish Mafia lived its short life from 2012 to 2015 dogged by constant accusations of being completely fake; not just reenacting events, as its title card admits, but completely fabricating the idea of an Amish Mafia while presenting it as real.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t real. However, just how shady and sketchy were the producers in trying to present their own insane narratives as real stories? Second spoiler alert: really sketchy. They went to extreme lengths to perpetuate their show.
With that said, here are the 15 Dark Secrets You Never Knew About Amish Mafia.
15 Amish Mafia’s star Lebanon Levi has been accused of selling Amish secrets
Every reality show has rivalries: they cultivate confrontation and inflated egos. People tune in to reality shows to see strong personalities complete, which creates sparks, fire, and finally burns the entire show down.
Lebanon Levi’s ultimate nemesis is Merlin Miller from Holmes County, Ohio, and Miller has shared many tough words about Levi regarding his exploitation of the Amish lifestyle.
He has accused Levi of writing a tell-all book in order to capitalize on the Amish culture. He also called Levi a “money-hungry Amish playboy." Worse still, Merlin says that Levi is exposing the secrets of the Amish for the sake of making money.
Levi responded to this by stating that Merlin was a hypocrite, and a “little piece of garbage." He went on to insist that he wasn’t making that much money from his new book.
14 None of the main cast were genuinely Amish
Both Lebanon Levi and his nemesis Merlin Miller have stated in interviews and on the show that they are not baptized, but are still members of the Amish community and are dedicated to the faith. However, this in incredibly inaccurate-- in order to be a part of the Amish community and religion, you must be baptized.
This isn’t to say that they couldn’t enter into the Amish faith at some point by being baptized later in life, but it doesn’t look like either are in a hurry to do that at the moment. Furthermore, the main cast breaks one of the principle tenets of the Amish belief system by agreeing to be on camera.
Given how the Amish are against all forms of technology, this is a no-brainer. However, the show has conveniently chosen to forget this massive piece of Amish culture.
13 A local former prosecutor experienced with the Amish said the Mafia flat-out didn’t exist
If the word of anyone who knows anything about the Amish isn't enough to disprove the existence of a “Amish Mafia," a former prosecutor in Lancaster County, who is now a defense lawyer, denies the existence of any such Mafia.
Jeffrey Conrad spent seven years as a prosecutor in Lancaster County, and put hundreds of dangerous criminals behind bars. In those seven years, he never heard of an Amish Mafia group, let alone anything close to one. If he had, then he and the police “would have gone after them.”
This is a common theme: if there were a group perpetrating violence in the name of a famous religious group, local law would have caught on a long time before now and already put a stop to it.
12 The show’s lawyer benefited massively from the publicity surrounding the Amish Mafia
Steven Breit is a prominent figure on the show. He is a local defense attorney in Lancaster who is shown defending members of Lebanon Levi’s team in court, claiming years of experience in litigating cases for Amish members of the community.
While Breit claims not to have been paid for his TV appearances by the Discovery Channel or the producers, and it’s unclear whether his claims of working with the Amish in the past are true, it’s indisputable that he’s benefited from shilling for the accuracy of the show and the claims of its cast.
Breit himself has admitted that he’s seen a massive increase in the number of clients at his law firm, and now regularly makes media appearances on local media and news programs thanks to his role on Amish Mafia.
11 Lebonan Levi’s alleged “criminal rap sheet” lists a nonexistent arresting agency
Rule number one of faking something: always do your research. This can help to prevent embarrassing moments, such as the one in the first episode of Amish Mafia.
Lebanon Levi proudly displays his criminal record as a testament to what a rootin-tootin’ kick-butt person he is-- a man above the law; danger in a wide-brimmed hat. However, the only problem here is that his rap sheet lists the “Lancaster County Police” as the arresting agency. The narrator of the show even mentions this. Unfortunately for them, this arresting agency flat-out doesn’t exist.
The Lancaster City Bureau of Police exists, which is also known as the Lancaster City Police Department, but they are definitely not a county-wide force. It is clear that the producers thought there was some police force with jurisdiction over all of Lancaster County, and Photoshopped a letterhead accordingly.
10 It built on a long legacy of seedy “Amishploitation” works
Surprisingly, “Amishploitation” isn’t the midnight ramblings of a drunk. Rather, it’s a subgenre of shows, documentaries, and talk show bits that exploit the strangeness and cloistered ways of the Amish for amusement, curiosity, and entertainment.
Above all, they delight in Amish teenagers doing very un-Amish things, especially during Rumspringa, a rite of adolescence. Though only a minority actually leave their communities to join the modern world of sin and vice, Amishploitation movies and shows act like it’s the norm, and delight in showing the prim-and-proper Amish being debased and flying off the rails.
The genre, which arguably started with Devil’s Playground in 2002, has only grown more crass and mean-spirited, and Amish Mafia is merely the latest, nastiest incarnation.
9 Real Amish aren’t anywhere near as confrontational as the show’s protagonists
This one’s a no-brainer, but when’s the last time there was a news announcement about Amish or Mennonite folk being violent, threatening, or even confrontational? Almost never. In fact, they made a whole Harrison Ford thriller about how calm and peaceful the Amish are.
Lawyers who work with real Amish communities in Lancaster County actually have to beg the Amish to press charges or file lawsuits against people who threaten them. This makes the scenes of the Amish Mafia using mean-looking sawed-off shotguns and fending off rival factions almost laughable, since it's so unrealistic.
Somehow we’re supposed to believe that the helpful and humble people who abhor media attention secretly employ a Mennonite Suicide Squad of outsiders who are mean enough to face off against the outside world.
8 The show admitted to staging “reenactments” based on “actual happenings”
It takes some real stones for a “reality show” to flat out admit in minute one-- in the first words and images to hit the audience-- that it’s even partially faked.
The first episode of Amish Mafia's first season said just that with a title card that would be repeated weekly throughout the show’s run. It stated that the Amish church denies the existence of the Amish Mafia, and that the show has recreated many of its scenes using “reenactments."
This notice was put up in order to supposedly “protect innocent Amish,” but it’s been argued by professors of Amish culture, as well as by religion and community members in Lancaster county, that if the show really, genuinely wanted to do that then it would have never gone on the air at all.
7 One business shown as “paying protection fees” on the show denies it
Amish Mafia works hard to hit standard organized crime tropes-- it has the charismatic leader with a dark past andan eclectic band of followers who are loyal to the cause who go around collecting "protection fees." The show features scenes of the alleged Mafia members out on various collection missions.
For one shop featured on the show, clever editing was responsible for the insinuation that they are under protection of the Amish Mafia, as one shot showed Lebanon Levi and his cohorts leaving the shop with an envelope that supposedly contained protection money.
The owners of Art and Glassworks claim that they never paid anything, however. In fact, they went a step further and put a sign up as a joke in order to play along, which stated that "this store is protected by Lebanon Levi."
6 The main cast lacked any Pennsylvania German accents or dialects
The Amish have remained isolated enough that they continue to speak a language and dialect of their very own,. Pennsylvania German is used by the Amish, Mennonites, and some other descendants of German immigrants, and is more commonly known as Pennsylvania Dutch.
Here, “Dutch” is a corruption of “Deutsch,” the word for the German language in German. Thys the Pennsylvania Dutch have mostly German ancestry.
This means that the Amish speak therefore speak with a highly distinctive accent and usually talk in this dialect. However, while the cast of Amish Mafia occasionally pepper in some Amish slang for accuracy, Lancaster locals have pointed out that the cast of Amish Mafia do not speak with an accent and also don't speak in the dialect of the area, which further proves that the characters in the reality show aren't really Amish.
5 The producers spurred a state-wide movement to cancel the show after trying to get permission to blow up a car
That’s right; a show with the word “Amish” in the title wanted to blow up a car in the parking lot of Lovelace Manor, a bed-and-breakfast on the outskirts of Lancaster. For the owners, it was the last straw.
The owners of the bed-and-breakfast joined others from across the state, including businesses and elected officials, to call out for Discovery Channel. They wanted the channel to cancel the show because it was a crass and exploitative misrepresentation of the actual Lancaster County and its Amish residents.
The biggest reason behind this plea was that the Amish don’t have a centralized group to advocate on their behalf. Local filmmaker Mary Haverstick stated that "the Amish deserve a voice of protection," which was why so many locals rose up to speak on their behalf.
4 Despite the show’s claims, several characters were actors or entertainment professionals
Gone are the days when you could use actors to play “real people” in your reality show without getting caught. Nowadays, nobody can hide from paparazzi or social media, including the cast of Amish Mafia.
The biggest example of this is Esther Schmucker, one of the main characters who is described by the Discovery Channel as the matriarch of a “once-powerful Amish family." In reality, however, she’s just a local Lancaster County girl with no ties to any Amish family, which means that her character on the show is completely falsified.
She’s not alone, either: Lebanon Levi’s former events coordinator Alan Beiler, known as Swartz Amish or Black Amishman, is actually a local talent manager and producer with no ties to the Amish at all. While their criminal records might be real, their claims of being Amish definitely aren’t.
3 Lebanon Levi has admitted that the producers came up with the name “Amish Mafia”
For a self-proclaimed Amish man, Lebanon Levi sure does interact with modern technology a lot. This includes his appearance on Fox to discuss his book, Amish Confidential.
In the interview, Lebanon Levi admitted right off the bat that there never was an Amish Mafia. He went on to state that the producers of the show even came up with the name. Now, you may be asking yourself: what possible reason could Lebanon Levi have to backpedal on the outrageous claims of an exploitative reality show? Why did he come to his senses and finally speak the truth?
Well, the interview was less than a week after Amish Mafia’s last episode, so perhaps Lebanon Levi was already trying to rebrand himself in order to survive in the wake of Amish Mafia’s demise.
2 The Lancaster City Police Department had to come up with a standard form explaining that the show’s fake
You know you’ve seriously misled people when the police get so many questions about a non-existent threat that they have to come up with a form to reply to said complaints.
The Lancaster City Police Department released a Facebook post that corrected Amish Mafia's mistake, stating that “if you are looking for the Lancaster County Police Department, as depicted on a fictional cable TV show, you may want to look elsewhere.”
Later, the Lancaster City Police Department was forced to come up with a standard form explaining that Amish Mafia was s fake TV show, and that the Amish Mafia itself was a complete fabrication.
They had to do this because yoo many citizens of Lancaster County and the city were bombarding them with complaints as to why they weren’t doing more to combat the dangerous Amish Mafia threat.
1 One scene set on a river bank was staged in a riverside park nowhere near any Amish population
Lancaster County is a big place, and it doesn't just have Amish inhabitants. Their populations are concentrated in certain areas, so there are parts of the county where Amish aren't seen at all. This also means that, for some locals of Lancaster County, certain scenes of the area depicted in Amish Mafia make absolutely no sense.
One such scene involved a rendezvous between characters John and Esther. It shows them chatting on a riverbank. However, locals immediately pegged it as a riverside park in Colombia, on the western side of the county.
Not only is the Amish population there nonexistent, but it would be a long haul for a horse and buggy just to have a chat by the water. Therefore, to most locals, there is no question that the scene was staged.
Do you know of any more dark secrets about Amish Mafia? Let us know in the comments!