Unknowns: The Foul, Strange Case of Andrew Levene

In the last few weeks I had heard the same rumblings around town the News Journal picked up about a connection between accused murderer/potentially spooky commando/recent suicide, Andrew Levene, and John Wheeler, the New Castle-based military defense expert whose mysterious 2010 murder made national headlines.

This curious coincidence reminded me of the poem “The Unknown” by the distinguished poet Donald Rumsfeld:

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns…

In the weeks following Wheeler’s murder, his bizarre final days were captured on security cameras, showing someone clearly acting in a very odd way. Which raises all manner of questions.

Was he disoriented near the Wilmington train station because of mind control from cell towers? Hmmmm….

He was definitely out of it if after wandering around with one shoe he picked up a hoodie and walked into East Wilmington, known more for violent crime than defense policy.

Were those mysterious bird deaths (over 10,000!) in Arkansas around the time he died part of a Mitre secret military project that Wheeler was going to blow the whistle on?  Maybe….

The conspiracy theorists in the blogosphere have it all figured out though… check out all the top-secret facts this Swedish blogger “knows:”

“I suggest that the sanctions (against Iran) have greatly been tightened up by what John Wheeler et al. learned of what Iran was seeking regarding WMD from the laptop that the ICE agents in Operation Shakespeare captured from Amir Aldabili, the faulty information that CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling fed Tehran on how to trigger a nuclear weapon; and the 6.5 earthquake that the NRO caused near Hosseinnab, Iran on December 20, 2010, collapsing the 400-meter deep shaft that the Iranians had to build in order to test any such weapon.”


But back on planet Earth in Delaware….

Why did Wheeler have anything to do with this mysterious Levene — maybe just two former ex-military types talking about classified secret military projects?  Can you imagine Wheeler’s luck if Levene got involved in selling his house as he allegedly wanted to?

And what of Levene’s military service?  Police in Crested Butte, Colorado, where Levene is suspected of burning down a house in an insurance scam, report he only served four months in the army, and doubted that Levene could become an Army Ranger so quickly.

This contradicts Levene’s numerous social networking profiles, like this one from Tumblr:

“Andrew Levene is a veteran United States Army Ranger who enlisted in 1992. A year after completing basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, Andrew Levene was promoted to the rank of Specialist. Following relocation to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Andrew Levene was promoted again, to Sergeant, and appointed leader of a reconnaissance team for two years…”

So did Levene made all this stuff up?  He sounds like the kind of guy the army would distance themselves from whether it was true or not considering his recent meltdown and subsequent suicide (supposedly while he had a cellmate?).  Could it be possible that the same guy who was apparently friends with convicted swindler Tony Young (the Chester County man who defrauded many horse country swells) would make up such a shady story?

And if he was creative with his biography, why would someone with hardly any military experience be quoted in a 2001 Washington Post story, about Levene’s professed mentor and superior officer, General Wayne Downing:

“He is an icon in the special operations world,” says Andrew Levene, a former Ranger sergeant who served under Downing’s command. “He is the consummate warrior. He is the one to say, ‘We have to hunt these people down and kill ‘em.”

Is this just sloppy journalism?

Unlike Tony Young, whose bogus backstory was the subject of a 2009 Fortune magazine piece, Levene is a more slippery character.  Anyone plotting armed diamond heists after they drop their kids off at Friends School probably trumps a polo playing sociopath like Young.

After almost all of Young’s assets (the massive homes in Pennsylvania and Maine, the big boats, the cars etc.) were in receivership, a Fortune magazine reporter caught up with Young in the driveway of his last remaining property in Palm Beach, Florida, and he seemed confident that he was going to climb out of the shadow of his Acorn Ponzi scam, and finally arise like a phoenix.

The exclusive Palm Beach property was sold about a year ago this week, and Young now has 17 years to try and save his twenty-three cents an hour prison salary to pay back the 21 million dollars owed to his victims.

Twenty-one million dollars may sound like a lot of money, but by my calculations Levene figured out how to generate 1/70 of that amount in a five minute diamond heist!  All you have to do is shoot people with no remorse, something that might come easy to a shadowy black-ops vet, like Levene claimed to be, but is harder to reconcile with the four month army-version of Levene.

When a Massachusetts court judgment caught up with Levene a few months before Wheeler was murdered, the walls were closing in on the family (his common-law wife seemed to be squarely in the middle of many of Levene’s questionable business ventures).

Somehow the money from his alleged two million dollar 2008 rip-off in Colorado was drying up, and they had just sold their Nantucket property for a $300,000 loss, even though they still made a million off of the sale.

Where was all this money going?

I guess it’s no surprise that a jewel thief and a Ponzi schemer aren’t great financial geniuses, but it is strange that both these guys moved to this area around the same time, and within a few years Levene was hanging out in Young’s house. I wonder what they talked about?  Levene’s schemes were small potatoes compared to the house of cards Young had constructed, but it’s perversely entertaining to think that Levene was envious of Young’s fake life, and that maybe Young was dazzled by Levene’s tales of military derring-do, each of them thinking that the other someone legitimate.

Insurance companies, contractors, business partners, they all sued Levene and he sued them right back, the whole time living like an international player. “When he was in town, he’d throw his money around,” said one of the guys in Colorado that sued and was then countersued by Levene. “He’d take me and couple people out to very expensive dinners.”

The whole story with the missing $300,000 diamonds from Levene’s fatal jewelry store robbery made me think about his wife and her expensive Mercedes station wagon and how Jack Wheeler drove a 1993 Oldsmobile. People like Levene and Young really wanted that chateau country lifestyle. But enough to take the chance of robbing a jewelry store and shooting two people? (Oh, and in yet another twist, the poor fellow Levene allegedly killed was said to have training in the Israeli special forces.)

As part-time detective Jeff Lebowski in the “Big Lebowski” explained to his client about the wife’s spending spree, “she wants more, man! She’s got to feed the monkey!” All those dinners and cars must add up.

While Levene and his wife struggled to keep up appearances on Snuff Mill Road, not too far away, there was drama going on in another family: Frank and Regina Marini were being sued by the Wheeler family (John’s wife Kathleen Klyce is co-plaintiff) to stop construction on the New Castle house that ended up blocking the Wheeler’s river view.  Wheeler’s cell phone was found in the Marini house after ‘incendiary devices’ there were set off (later revealed to be rodent fumigation bombs) and he was then found dead days later in a Newark landfill.  Armchair investigators speculate that it must be someone who knows the Newark area and a person or persons capable of lifting the 225 pound Wheeler into a dumpster.

And is it just a coincidence that Levene up and moved his family to Spain around the same time that Wheeler’s wife  revealed that her credit cards had mysterious charges for plane tickets to Spain?

“…there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know”

No kidding.

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About the Contributor

Andrew Flaherty

Andrew Flaherty

Wilmington native. University of Delaware graduate. Media and Pop Culture junkie. Exploring the unusual and offbeat in the area.

1 Comment

  • Too close for comfort. Why are no details about the Marinis ever discussed in Delaware? Did Levene socialize with the Marinis? Did Jack Wheeler attempt to burn down the new house or not? Levene knew something about arson….maybe he coached Jack and double crossed him.

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