Would you trust a magician with your credit card?
Written by Geoff Williams
Posted On: April 10, 2012
Who can you trust? The world can sometimes be a cold, cruel place where it's hard to know who has your back and who wants to stick a knife in it. That's why it's such a relief to find heartwarming stories of good, kind people who restore our faith in humanity. Too bad we don't have any stories like that coming up.
Making half a million dollars disappear
If it weren't so sad, this might be a funny story. After all, the owner of a magic shop in Boston took a customer's credit card and made half a million dollars disappear.
But looking deeper, it's really the story of a man who caused himself and his friends and family a lot of pain.
Hank Lee's Magic Factory in Medford, Mass., has been something of a landmark -- for magicians, at least -- in the greater Boston area since 1975. According to a 1982 Boston Globe feature, Harry Levy, 61, the owner, got into magic way back in 1959. So this is a well established business with an owner-magician who, by all accounts, was a reputable pillar of the community.
But Levy pulled an elaborate trick on a customer and made his own reputation disappear.
According to the Boston Globe, Levy recently pleaded guilty to making over $500,000 in unauthorized transactions on a customer's credit card.
The Globe reported that Levy was charged with making 134 transactions over the course of nearly two years on a wealthy Texas customer's American Express card. This went on until apparently the cardholder said, "Hey, wait a minute…"
And I guess that's what it's really like to be rich. To go two years and not notice that you've had half a million dollars stolen.
Levy had vowed his store will stay open, but he said in an April 6 blog post that he will be stepping down from the day-to-day activities of running Hank Lee's Magic Factory and will leave that to his employees. Of course, he may have to do that, anyway. He is looking at possible jail time, though due to a plea agreement, prosecutors aren't going to try to put him away forever.
In his blog post, Levy lamented what he did.
"I wish I had a time machine," he wrote (and what a trick that would be). "And I wish I could turn it back. I truly wish that this had not happened." He went onto say, "My actions were so very wrong. I have no excuse. I have no rationale. But, I fully plan to atone for my actions and to accept whatever punishment is set forth."
And you thought you had a story about a bad contractor
Contractors have kind of a bad reputation. You hire them, say, to renovate your kitchen or bathroom, and they take forever to get the work done and then charge way over their estimate. Heck, the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown stretched out a running gag for six out of 10 seasons, where the title character employed a contractor who never quite finished work on her house. The recent NBC sitcom "Bent" has a similar joke.
But I digress. According to the KSAT-TV, last year, a 66-year-old San Antonio, Texas woman hired contractor Benjamin Mendoza to remodel her home. Then she gave him a credit card so he could purchase materials for the job.
If you know anything about credit cards, you know that wasn't such a bright idea. And if you read this column regularly, you know what happened next.
Mendoza, who was recently arrested, did use the card for purchases relating to the remodeling of the home, but he allegedly also got his hands on another card that the victim had not given him permission to use -- and used it to pay for things like utility bills and bar tabs. Then while the victim was in the hospital, Mendoza even bought a motorcycle, signing his client's name to the paperwork.
I'm sure the honest contractors out there -- of which there are certainly many -- are very grateful to Mendoza for helping enhance their collective professional reputation.
Maybe she needed more souvenirs
So imagine you've gone to another country with some friends on some work visas. You might want to buy some souvenirs before you returned home, right?
Still, you probably wouldn't steal your friend's credit card to buy them, would you?
Yeah, didn't think so. But allegedly, reports The Aspen Times, that's what Mayra Prada-Castro, 25, of Peru, did to a fellow Peruvian friend when they were visiting and working in Colorado.
She is accused of taking her friend's credit card and going on a shopping spree. She was arrested at the Denver International Airport just before she was about to board a plane to Peru.
Police started investigating Prada-Castro on March 30. The victim called the police to tell them that someone had spent over $300 at a market, a boutique and a bus station, on one credit card of hers, and approximately $2,300 on a credit card that the victim's father had given her for "emergency use" only. According to the Aspen Daily News, the victim found this out because her father called to ask why $2,300 had been spent on the card and presumably wanted to know what the emergency was.
Methinks -- just taking a wild guess -- that Prada-Castro and her friend are no longer friends.
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