Think you’ve seen every type of cops and gangsters on TV?
You haven’t. Because you haven’t met these Amish thugs.
Discovery has just greenlit a new series titled Amish Mafia. The show focuses on a group of men who protect and maintain peace and order within the Amish community in Lancaster County, PA. So are they cops? Mobsters? A bit of both. It’s an unofficial law-and-order group that protects the insular religious community with “eye for an eye” justice, yet operates outside of actual law enforcement and doesn’t, according to Discovery, officially exist.
The series premieres Dec. 12 (with a preview the night before) and will help keep Discovery in the Amish business. It’s sister channel TLC’s hit Breaking Amish just became the best-performing freshman series ever for the network, its first season finale delivering 3.8 million viewers.
He’s the Tony Soprano of the horse-and-buggy set. His name is Lebanon Levi, and he’s the chief enforcer and focal point of “Amish Mafia,” a new docu-series premiering next month on Discovery.
The series, which follows on the heels of sister network TLC’s top-rated (and extremely controversial) “Breaking Amish,” centers around tough-guy Levi and his henchmen Alvin, Jolin and John —who quietly enforce justice and protect the Amish community in Lancaster, Pa., while church elders look the other way and no one asks questions.
“The [Amish] Church denies that the Amish Mafia exists — yet, like any other person in a community who holds power, the Amish know who to go to if there’s a problem,” says series executive producer Dolores Gavin, who notes that it took producers about two years to gain admittance into the Amish Mafia’s inner circle.
The group’s undisputed, feared boss is the imposing Levi, a full-fledged member of the Amish community who, because he was never baptized, is not a member of the church — and can operate by his own set of rules. “Levi is able to wield his influence in a way that few others can,” Gavin says. “He is at arm’s length from the church, which gives him more power in dealing with the outside world.
“Levi is a man who straddles both worlds,” she says. “He genuinely feels as though he is a help to the community, and yet he has a propensity for violence and intimidation.” And that’s no exaggeration: Levi’s past includes a guilty plea in 2000 for an unspecified crime (his rap sheet is briefly flashed on-screen). “The Amish don’t have insurance like we do,” Gavin says. “They all pay into a community fund — which is run by Levi. He decides who gets what money.”
Levi also decides which internal problems he and his cronies — lifelong friend/confidante Alvin; Jolin, a Mennonite foot soldier; and John, the son of Levi’s predecessor — will pursue with their brand of justice. That includes busting into a motel to catch an Amish man cheating on his wife with a prostitute — a scene captured by cameras as it happened (other scenes are re-enacted to protect identities). In another instance, the crew threatens an Amish guy who’s been pressuring a distraught Amish woman for sexual favors in exchange for lending her money.
“What’s particularly interesting is that it is extraordinarily difficult to find police reports of Amish crimes,” Gavin says. “They don’t go to the police, and they aren’t cooperative with police . . . What we realized was . . . navigating between two different worlds often yields provocative results.”