Hank Lee

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Postby Tom Gilbert » 03/31/12 03:51 PM

As mentioned earlier, the Hank of the 70's was a great guy. He worked out of a house and Max was there a lot. The big move to downtown Boston and a great shop. He would tell you what you might be interested in and warn you about junk. As the shop and mail order got bigger things changed.
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Postby CraigMitchell » 03/31/12 04:37 PM

The full PDF of the stipulated statement of facts:

http://medford.patch.com/articles/read- ... df-9464351
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Postby Mark Collier » 03/31/12 04:56 PM

Ouch!
I can't imagine providing federal investigators with a bunch of falsified invoices thinking I was going to get away with it.
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 03/31/12 05:41 PM

There is a German word that fits some of the "shoes" tied to the bandwagon's bumper: Schadenfreude. The news and current evidence is indeed sad, but the evidence is still incomplete. As the buzz is reduced to the whir of mosquito's wings, if we are still chattering a week from now, perhaps we will know more and more about less and less? Rest assured that recompense will rule the day. Justice will serve some...more or less. The guilty of course will pay...and THAT payment will probably suffice. Meanwhile, the landscape of magic continues to change and we too feel ourselves changing. As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, "So it goes..."

Onward...
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Postby Bob Cunningham » 03/31/12 06:09 PM

One man's schadenfreude is another man's comeuppance ;-)

Since Hank/Harry has stated his intention to continue doing business in the magic community, and he has signed a legal document acknowledging the facts of the case, it is entirely appropriate for those who he would have as customers to discuss this today and next week.
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Postby AJM » 03/31/12 06:23 PM

No Shadenfreude on my part - don't know the guy, never purchased anything from him and, now, never will.

What more evidence do you need, by his own words he has 'fessed up - therefore if he has committed the crime then he should face the consequences.

To be honest I find the pretentious pap and the related horesh*t here, around how great a guy he is and how he be given a 'second chance', to be somewhat pathetic.

As Jean-Paul Sartre wrote famously in La Nausee - 'Tu es nicked, mon fils'

Upward.

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Postby M.Lee » 03/31/12 06:26 PM

Hell of an attempt at damage control - Shhees

Ml
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Postby Jim Swain » 03/31/12 06:32 PM

I had a dispute with Hank involving a fraudulent credit card charge at the very time he was being grilled by the Feds. I feel sorry for his family and his employees, but not for him. He needed to be stopped.
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Postby the Larry » 03/31/12 07:53 PM

What is surprising is that Paypal and credit card companies have not revoked his privilege to charge credit cards after $560,000 in fraudulent credit card transactions. How he can continue his business is quite surprising. Somebody who steals half a million (and potentially more if the accounts of other defrauded customers are true, which given what we know seems completely plausible) has no right to continue his business. I really hope the magic community is strong enough to hold ranks and just not buy there anymore.
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Postby jwalkmagic » 03/31/12 08:06 PM

I will always have very fond memories of my first visit to Lank Lee's as a teenager when he was in the tiny walk up on Lincoln St.

I walked in as he and Phil Goldstein were in the process of editing the Magic Factory's first catalog.

At last there was a real magic shop in Boston and not a joke shop with tricks.

Many years later when they were in the larger shop down the street I visited with my niece who at 9 or ten decided she wanted to learn magic. The staff worked patiently as she tried many different thumb tips till we found one that fit.

To me this is tragic. Tragic in that we in the magic community have lost yet another resource. From what I have been reading this is a resource that had been gone for some time.

I can not imagine what may of happened. While the Hank I knew was a bit of a hustler I would never have thought he was capable of this. I can only imagine that something must have happened to bring him to this.

For myself I will mourn the loss of the Hank I used to know.
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Postby erdnasephile » 03/31/12 08:10 PM

Just received this from Mark Stevens:

"At what cost - for a cheaper price? I don't have to detail the situation. My guess is you're already aware of it... And as unfortunate as "it" is, it's not something we want to blitz too much... That stated, it should be mentioned - that "trust" is a benefit worth a lot... It's not an add on or an option when you check out - (like selecting insurance), but make no mistake it has tremendous value.

We at SME never wanted to be the biggest, never wanted to be a carnival sideshow selling anything and everything at close to the our cost. We want to sell quality magic at a fair price, using the profits (which I assure you are not what you think and sometimes not) to re-invest in keeping our business alive...

Our goal is to focus on those clients, that value integrity and quality (with respect to both products and services). We can't be all things to all people. At the end of the day, we hope that people who share similar value's will "vote" with their dollars, euro's and pounds, and Yen by choosing Stevens Magic Emporium - knowing you can buy with confidence.
Mark Stevens - SME"
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Postby JHostler » 03/31/12 09:42 PM

the Larry wrote:And by another take on human behavior and risk assessment: once a crook always a crook.


And once a speeder, always a speeder... once a cheater, always a cheater... once a bed wetter, always a bed wetter... once a jerk, always a jerk - right??!?! Everyone screws up. Some just do a better job of it.
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Postby Joe M. Turner » 03/31/12 11:25 PM

I spoke to RG in person today in Atlanta while at the Gathering for Gardner. As I was told, at multiple steps along the timeline of the legal proceedings RG apparently offered to settle the whole matter for pennies on the dollar. It is utterly incomprehensible to me why this went all the way to federal court with so many other less expensive and less personally damaging options on the table. (I can only speculate that HL thought he could hide behind fraudulent documentation and get away with it. Perhaps there are other reasons, I don't know. That is purely my speculation.)

At any rate, RG is pleased at least to have the matter resolved satisfactorily. He and his lovely wife are expecting the birth of their child on July 1. They are a delightful couple.
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Postby the Larry » 03/31/12 11:45 PM

HL didn't screw up 'once'. He screwed up hundreds of times over the course of years. Can people change and get their act together? Yes, but it happens very seldom after such a behavior has been established over that amount of time and magnitude. In business when you loose your integrity it is gone. It will never come back, no matter what you do or say, because there is always that lingering feeling that no matter what is done or said, one day he is bound to do it again.
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Postby JHostler » 03/31/12 11:47 PM

All - As "RG's" physical address is included on page 5 of the Stipulated Statement of Facts linked above, masking his name makes about as much sense as hiding the word s***t from folks who have no idea what a shift is. His identity is no secret.
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Postby Harry Lorayne » 03/31/12 11:58 PM

I'm awfully sad about this, and I do wish you'd stop referring to Hank as HL!! HL. (Seriously.)
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Postby the Larry » 04/01/12 12:15 AM

Ok, we will call him by his full first name Harry L. Better? :-)
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Postby CraigMitchell » 04/01/12 03:19 AM

I feel sorry for the family and staff. The situation is tragic all round. I just can't see how he intends to continue the business in its current form. Besides the PR fall out ( would you trust your payment details with them ? ) what bank would continue to offer them merchant account facilities ? Amex, Visa and Mastercard would be hard pressed to continue to offer them the ability to process cc transactions when you have admission of guilt of mass credit card fraud.
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Postby IrishMagicNews » 04/01/12 08:30 AM

Without wishing to de-rail this thread... While in the process of trying to find out who RG was I came across the following video. In it he gives a tour of his house. Quite a cool place. The man seems like a really nice guy to boot.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mM109_EbMcs
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Postby Terry » 04/01/12 09:24 AM

I used to have the same self-righteous attitude toward those who broke the law until I became the IT Branch Manager for the KY Dept. of Corrections.

There are individuals who through one stupid act cause great pain to everyone around them. But they are tried, convicted and sentenced. They serve their time and are released. Their debt to society is paid according to the law.

Instead of this trial of public opinion, let the legal system do it's job.

There is an old saying, "Let those without sin cast the first stone."
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Postby AJM » 04/01/12 10:50 AM

Terry

I don't understand, is it self righteous to believe that those who break the law should be punished, via the legal system, for their crimes?

I'd also be interested to hear how the role of IT Manager at a Corrections Facility changed your own self righteous views.

Andrew

P.S . I think the old saying you paraphrase originated in the Good Book itself.
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Postby the Larry » 04/01/12 10:59 AM

Terry, I could agree with you if Hank Lee would have made two or three fraudulent credit card transactions of a few hundred dollars and if he would have admitted to them when asked by R.G. or at the latest when the investigators showed up on his doorstep.

However, Hank Lee has made hundreds of fraudulent charges over the course of several years in the amount of at least $560,000 and then like a hard boiled criminal he tried to obfuscate and hide his criminal actions for months when asked about them. Sorry, but I have no soft spot for such people in my heart.
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Postby Bob Cunningham » 04/01/12 10:59 AM

As one of the most intense critics of Hank in this thread, let me say something positive about him.

Last night I revived an e-mail from Hank asking if I had personal issue with him and if so could he do something to address it. I have to say, I admire the hell out of that!!!

Confronting your critics and asking if you can "make amends" takes great personal courage.

This does not change my mind at all about doing business with Hank. He has a LONG, LONG way to go to earn back the trust he has squandered. And currently, I would rather let Charlie Sheen give me relationship advice than give my credit card to Hank. But I am impressed that he reached out!
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Postby Oddly Bent » 04/01/12 12:40 PM

Everything about Hank Lee at the Cafe seems to have magically disappeared.
Never did any business with him, too far away. Hard to see how he can make a comeback with pay pal and credit card companies having issues with the business.
Another brick and mortar biting the dust. Sad for the industry and his loyal customers.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 04/01/12 01:06 PM

That was pretty weak to delete the Hank Lee thread on the Magic Cafe. I don't what they were reason was, but it wasn't too bright of the person who did it.
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Postby Gordon Meyer » 04/01/12 01:15 PM

The thing that is most surprising to me is that $560K (more, actually, when you add in legit business) for a magic shop didn't raise some red flags somewhere. It has been a lot of years since I worked in a magic shop, but that kind of cash flow would have been astronomical at the time.
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Postby poboymagic » 04/01/12 02:58 PM

This parody of the Hank Lee logo seems to capture the mood:
http://www.themanxcomic.com/category/comic/
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Postby Rick Ruhl » 04/01/12 03:46 PM

RG's dad was Owen Garriot.. the first ham radio operator to operated from space and Richard was a space tourist a few years back.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/01/12 05:31 PM

Times are very tough for brick and mortar magic dealers, and ALL magic dealers. The desperation brought on my the possibility of economic catastrophe sometimes leads men to criminal acts, or suicide. If Hank Lee is guilty, then a little good old pity might be in order. There's a difference, albeit one not readily seen (and many would refuse to recognize) between stealing money to keep your business float and stealing money to buy sports cars, a fancy house, and drugs.

I do not know the details here, but I will give Hank Lee the benefit of the doubt and hope that he was doing this just to keep his business alive and pay his bills. If he is found guilty, or has already plead guilty, then he will face the punishment of the court. After that punishment he will have paid his debt to society and will be able to start anew. He also has a family, and they must be in our thoughts as well.
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Postby Andrew Charles » 04/01/12 05:55 PM

Richard Kaufman wrote:Times are very tough for brick and mortar magic dealers, and ALL magic dealers. The desperation brought on my the possibility of economic catastrophe sometimes leads men to criminal acts, or suicide. If Hank Lee is guilty, then a little good old pity might be in order. There's a difference, albeit one not readily seen (and many would refuse to recognize) between stealing money to keep your business float and stealing money to buy sports cars, a fancy house, and drugs.

I do not know the details here, but I will give Hank Lee the benefit of the doubt and hope that he was doing this just to keep his business alive and pay his bills. If he is found guilty, or has already plead guilty, then he will face the punishment of the court. After that punishment he will have paid his debt to society and will be able to start anew. He also has a family, and they must be in our thoughts as well.


That's easy to say, I guess, when you're not the one who got ripped off. Hank Lee has been doing stuff like this for a LONG time. (I got ripped off by him on my first (and last) order as a poor, 18-year-old college student -- and that was before he would have been feeling much pressure from online magic stores.) And I'm not alone:

http://www.mylovelyassistant.com/dealers/view/42

Somehow I don't think he needed that half-a-million just to keep his head above water. If you do need to rip off your customers in order to keep your business afloat, then perhaps you have an untenable business plan. And if that's the case then he should have submitted a resume at Arby's like a decent human rather than steal from other hard-working people.
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Postby the Larry » 04/01/12 06:43 PM

Wow, so stealing is now fine to keep ones business running. Like it really matters why he stole. Mr. Kaufman how is your business going? Can I really trust you with my credit card for the Genii renewal? If you have a shortfall perhaps you are tempted to double charge it, too?

I am almost as shocked by the attempts to excuse Hank Lee's crime than by the crime itself. I don't know what a magic shop makes in terms of profit these days but $560k over 3 years sounds an awful lot. Do not forget that these $560k were pure profit for Hank the thieve. He didn't ship any products. He simply pocketed the money. Think about it. How do you charge $560k over three years? That is $3600 per week. So Hank the bastard sat down every week and said ok let's steal another $3600 - and he did that for 150 weeks. Or maybe he charged $15k per month. Whatever the case. It is an awful lot. Give me a break. I hope he gets locked up and goes out of business.
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Postby pilotpete » 04/01/12 07:17 PM

Hmmmm....and there's me thinking that Busby was the guy everyone had a downer for.
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Postby Oddly Bent » 04/01/12 07:23 PM

I have been away a few hours and since then a cupola threads have magically reappeared at the Cafe. One challenging the person that has been deleting threads. Not a smart move on that persons part if it is Mr. Brooks that is authorizing the removals. That is a good way to get yourself banned. Perhaps there is legal reasons posts are being removed, after all, Levy was advertising on the site.
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Postby J-Mac » 04/02/12 12:29 AM

Sorry but I can't see any reason to excuse such a crime. Over half a million dollars stolen? I dont care what his reason was for stealing it, business, family... There is simply NO excuse! None. If the business is that tough, then get the heck out of it. But please, do not try to justify what this man did. He is a common criminal and should pay with jail time, period.

It never fails to amaze me how some folks can be so accusatory toward less serious offenses and yet offer understanding for a $500K+ theft. Incredible.

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Postby Joe M. Turner » 04/02/12 12:42 AM

I think there is a world of difference between being willing to examine potential motivations for crimes and actually morally excusing them. Nobody here is excusing or justifying the crimes that were committed.

I don't like it when people put words in my mouth - I can only imagine the Chief Genii feels the same. I suspect we all do.

Just sayin.

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/02/12 02:14 AM

No, "theLarry," I did not say it was fine to steal to keep his business running. I only posited that as a possible less terrible motive than what his other motives might have been.

It appears he committed a serious crime and if guilty he will pay--as he should.
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Postby El Harvey Oswald » 04/02/12 03:29 AM

Everyone is opposed to stealing half a million dollars. Talking about why it happened isn't a gesture excusing it. It's just a more interesting discussion than variations on the insipid and obvious theme that stealing is wrong.
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Postby El Harvey Oswald » 04/02/12 03:33 AM

Jim: What are some of those less serious crimes that there's a generally "less accusatory" attitude toward? Or is it just people who don't restate the obvious, that stealing is a bad thing, not a good thing?
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Postby Ryan Matney » 04/02/12 04:00 AM

I've purchased from Hank Lee since I was 11 years old. I did not buy as much in the last few years becuase I felt his shipping was usually high compared to other options but still I bought stuff fairly regularly.
The business has been a part of my magic life since almost day one and he was always helpful and fair with me.
First catalog I got, and most of my books came from there.

He's been around a long time and done a lot of trade. I can't begin to excuse the crime but geez...forgive me if, like Richard Kaufman and Joe Turner, I wonder about the motives and thought behind it.

I can imagine how easy it would be to make a bad/illegal choice and then be in over your head and need to keep doing it. If you read his newsletters, he had a lifestyle, collge for kids, etc etc. Maybe his family did not realize the shop was not funding everything.

I don't know...sucks for everybody involved.
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Postby mrgoat » 04/02/12 05:05 AM

Richard Kaufman wrote:It appears he committed a serious crime and if guilty he will pay--as he should.


Hasn't he admitted it and pleaded guilty?
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