More than one year after the death of Jack Wheeler, an article appears out of the blue, claiming an obscure connection between an ex-Army Ranger with a shady past and a prominent man who was found murdered in Delaware. For those of us still thinking about this case, the connection seems to be speculation, but given that the authorities remained tight-lipped about ANY details in this case, speculation is all that we have.
What are the odds that John“Jack” Wheeler and Andrew Robert “Andy” Levene – two men involved in recent bizarre murder cases with a Delaware connection – knew each other?
Well, in tiny Delaware, where residents joke that there’s only two degrees of separation among the 900,000 residents, there should never have been any doubt.
Wheeler was a former Pentagon official and New Castle resident who was found beaten to death in the Wilmington landfill on New Year’s Eve 2010 after wandering around the city for two days. His murder has not been solved.
Levene, an Army veteran who ingratiated himself with the Greenville set while he fought off debts from real estate deals gone bad, killed himself in a Spanish prison last month after being arrested for killing a Connecticut jeweler after robbing him of $300,000 worth of diamonds.
Sources familiar with their association said Levene met Wheeler through a non-Delaware connection with Wheeler’s wife, Katherine Klyce.
Wheeler and Levene, a quarter-century younger, periodically met for lunch before Wheeler, a driving force behind the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., was killed.
After Wheeler’s death, sources said, Levene often spoke of knowing Wheeler to his friends in Chateau Country.
So what are the odds that the two homicide cases are somehow linked? [source]
Andrew Robert Levene, aka Robert Thomas, commits murder.
Andrew Robert Levene, a resident in the same town as Jack Wheeler, resorts to robbery and murder to make off with hundreds of thousands of dollars in diamonds. Levene had a decade-long history of money trouble and it seems his extravagant life-style finally caught up to him. So instead of declaring bankruptcy and moving on, he resorts to murder.
It began with a partial cellphone number and a sketch.
It ended Monday evening with the arrest of Andrew Robert Levene, known in New York City as Robert Thomas.
Levene, 41, a military veteran who grew up in New Haven and resided for seven years in West Havenbefore moving last January, is being detained in Spain as the suspect in the Dec. 8 shooting death of Yekutiel Zeevi, a popular Westport jeweler. [source]
Levene seemed to start life pretty normally with the exception of what was, according to friends, an anger problem. Perhaps a career that taught him how to focus his aggression into killing wasn’t the right choice. Born into what would seem to be an upper class family, Levene, perhaps, came to expect a certain lifestyle early on.
Friends of Levene said they grew up with him in the Westville section of New Haven. They said he went to school, graduated and went to Roanoke for college and then came back.
According to his friends, Levine had some financial problems.
Friends characterized Levene, known to some as Andy, as the funny guy with an anger problem. He joined the army because of the anger issues, they said. He eventually rose through the ranks and became a special forces ranger.
Levene was a married man with two children. He ran into financial trouble after he was honorably discharged from the military. [source]
Levene was born in March 1970 and spent much of his early years in Woodbridge. His father, Charles, who is an accountant, declined to comment on his son’s life, as did other relatives. But friends said he was smart and engaging.
“Andrew was a brilliant, gifted and bright student,” said Hillel J. Auerbach, a Woodbridge lawyer who knew Levene since the day he was born.
Levene graduated in 1988 from the exclusive Loomis Chaffee boarding school in Windsor, whose alumni include the late Gov. Ella T. Grasso, designer Jason Wu, and former Secretary of State George P. Schultz.
After his graduation, Levene’s life becomes sketchy. Public records show a brief stay at Roanoke College in Virginia, jobs at the Fusive Corp. in New York and later Adweek in Washington. [source]
Levene’s military service is posted in numerous places online. All of it seems to be identical. And distinguished. And created in June of 2011. (See PeoplePond, Tumblr, Gather, WordPress, Multiply , Workface, Ziggs, Scribd, Xing, ProOnTheWeb, Posterous, Plaxo, CVShare, Emurse) Almost as if he’d hired an online Agent/Publicist.
Despite entering the Army in 1992, Levene became acquainted with General Wayne Downing, one of the most prominent military men in the Vietnam/Post-Vietnam era. Yet Downing retired from Active Duty in 1996. While it’s possible to know someone well in 4 years, it is definitely suspect that of all the soldiers who had the privledge to train with Downing during his Special Ops years, Levene would be the one chosen to say something about Downing in a 2001 Washington Post article with the prominent likes of DIA/NGA/USoD-I/DNI James R Clapper Jr.
The site findpeople.com said Levene enlisted in the Army in 1992 at age 21, training at Fort Benning as a paratrooper, rising to the rank of Specialist, Sergeant “and leader of a reconnaissance team” [as a U.S. Army Ranger who served under Gen. Wayne A Downing, commander of American Special Operations forces in Iraq.] After September 11, General Wayne Downing assumed the role of National Director and Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism under George W. Bush.
“Andrew Levene’s excellent skill set and leadership qualities took him overseas as a reconnaissance expert in a light infantry division,” the site said.
It later noted that he was “adept at community development and performed well in a non-governmental organization (NGO).”
“While stationed in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the former Soviet Union and Turkey, Andrew Levene became a liaison to local authorities and provided aid to local citizens,” it said, adding that he likes off-trail skiing, taking long hikes, and that hockey is his favorite sport.
Levene was quoted In a Nov. 20, 2001 Washington Post article on Downing titled, “The Secret Warrior.” His quote appears just below comments from former Defense Intelligence Agency director James R. Clapper Jr. praising Downing. Levene, too, gives Downing plaudits.
The Post article states: “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.” [source]
Military Discrepancies – Intelligence M.O.?
A second strange thing about his military service is the discrepancy Crested Butte Police Chief found during a 2008 Arson investigation into Levene in which he stated he was positive that Levene was involved in the Arson and used technical knowledge of the dynamics of starting a fire with an accelerant. Hank Smith’s finding doesn’t seem to match Levene’s storied military career.
But Hank Smith, a former Monroe resident and now chief of the Crested Butte, Colo. police department, uncovered another version of Levene’s military career.
While investigating a 2008 arson that engulfed a $5 million home Levene developed there [see below], Smith requested Levene’s military record.
The document Smith received from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis showed Levene enlisted May 7, 1992 in Springfield, Mass. and was discharged Aug. 21, 1992 from Fort Benning, Ga. The rank at discharge is private. There’s no mention of sergeant or being a Ranger.
“He was only in the Army for four months,” said Smith. “That’s hardly enough time to qualify as a Ranger.”
Levene’s Army records obtained from the National Personnel Records Center also indicate Levene had received an Army Service Ribbon for marksmanship in sharpshooting. [source]
Police Chief Hank Smith’s discovery was undoubtedly a legitimate one. Given his many years in the force, he would not make a mistake as elementary as misreading a background check on someone he was investigating, and according to the data he found, Levene was only in the Army for four months. It is important to note, however, the common methods used by US Intelligence when recruiting a soldier into their ranks – discharge, retirement or obscuring the actual records of service. By all appearances, Levene would have no connection to the United States Government after a certain point in time, which is exactly how CIA (and others) like it. This would free him to work corporate (NGO), deep or diplomatic cover overseas in places like, say, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the former Soviet Union states and Turkey – an American “front-line” in what is now the War on Terror.
A stint in a US Intelligence group (or private contractor) would make sense given the problems with his military record, his service with Downing (who may have, himself been IC connected – See Director of Special Projects at SAIC), quotations alongside Clapper and finally his connection to Wheeler, whom he may have known through Downing. Downing attended West Point just before Wheeler, graduating in ’62 while Wheeler graduated in ’66, both staying involved in various West Point groups after leaving. As is clear later, Levene also uses an alias and a dedicated burner phone during his planned-out murder and robbery of New York City Jewelers – tactics (deftly employed) that are essential to operational security and not likely used by a first-timer. This could be another indication that Levene spent some time lurking in the shadows.
The Murder Investigation.
Levene had obviously planned this operation for a long time. The target was unimportant due to his training. Just as long as they had the diamonds.Or sapphires. Whatever put money in Levene’s pocket. Planning started in summer, 2011, possibly earlier. It’s possible that Levene even had false identification which he used to buy a cell phone on August 29, 2011. This, and a survivor, proved to be his downfall.
The initial break [in the murder case] came just hours after Zeevi was shot to death, his associate, Ronen Konfino, of New York City, wounded and six diamonds worth $300,000 were stolen from Y.Z. Jewelers in Westport’s Compo Shopping Center on Dec. 8.
From his Norwalk Hospital gurney, Konfino tried to remember all he could about the gunman. Two things stood out in his mind: The assailant referred to himself as “Robert” and he called several times from a cellphone whose number included the digits 347. Going back to the jewelry shop, police found a telephone number beginning with those numbers written on Zeevi’s desk blotter alongside a figure “$75,000,” according to the federal affidavit.
By checking Zeevi’s telephone records, they found two calls made to him from that number in the hours before the shooting.
That number became a focal point.
It was installed on a cellphone activated Aug. 29 at an AT&T store in Manhattan for a man who identified himself as Robert Thomas, according to the affidavit filed by Masterson and Restieri.
Later, other jewelers told investigators that a man named Robert Thomas entered their stores, inquired about expensive jewelry and left that same number behind.
But first, investigators would need to find those jewelers. They did so by combing the cellphone’s records.
That led to the second break: patterns of conduct.
They found three: The phone was mostly used to call jewelers, the phone was inactive for long periods and the last call or text message sent before the inactive period always passed through a cellphone tower near an airport.
That led to an assumption.
Investigators surmised the phone’s inactivity, with no calls made in the U.S., might mean the user was traveling overseas, where the phone could not be used.
So they began checking passenger lists on overseas flights leaving from those specific airports around the time of the last call or text.
One name reappeared — Andrew Robert Levene — and one destination — Spain.
Levene and his family departed on a British Airways flight from Newark to Barcelona, Spain, on Sept. 7 at 6:25 p.m., only 25 minutes after the last text to a jeweler, Levene returned to the U.S. on Sept. 26.
A day later, Robert Thomas, Levene’s suspected alias, began texting a jeweler. The texting continued through 4:54 p.m. Sept. 28 when it passed through a cell phone tower near JFK International Airport in Queens. At 5:35 p.m., Levene boarded an Air Berlin flight at JFK bound for Madrid.
From Sept. 28, through Dec. 5, the cellphone remained silent. Levene did not return until Dec. 5. Levene arrived at Philadelphia International Airport at 3:15 p.m. having flown from Madrid on Dec. 5.
The sergeant [investigating the murder] had already viewed the surveillance video, which showed Zeevi, a former Israeli commando, in a death struggle, bleeding from the first gunshot wound, desperately grabbing his shooter’s ankle in an ill-fated attempt to keep him from grabbing the keys and unlocking the door to freedom. The brief death struggle ended with a second, fatal shot.
Early afternoon, December 7, a man fitting that description was videotaped by surveillance cameras window shopping at several jewelry stores downtown. He entered one of the stores, discussed purchasing diamonds and left his name, Robert Thomas, and the 347 cell phone number with a salesperson.
More calls were made and messages texted to jewelers in Pennslyvania and Connecticut, including Zeevi. He wanted a sapphire ring and had a budget of $150,000, according to a salesperson at a Connecticut jeweler.
The owner of another store, who took a call from Thomas, who was interested in “high value diamonds, refused to unlock her door after becoming suspicious of his appearance.
But after several calls, he arrived at Zeevi’s store at 11:45 p.m. on Dec. 7 and spent the next half hour examining several diamonds under Konfino’s watch. He told Konfino he wanted “to sleep on it.” As they walked out the door, he offered to drive Konfino back to New York — the offer was refused.
The suspect returned the next day at 9:13 p.m. and soon changed Konfino’s life forever.
Three days after the murder, on Dec. 12, Levene flew from Philadelphia to Amsterdam before traveling to Spain.
Never again was the cellphone used. [source]
The Social Climber is Busted.
[Described as a “social climber”], Andrew Robert Levene was well known in exclusive Pennsylvania foxhunting and land preservation circles. According to the Daily Local, Levene was a former resident of neighboring New Castle County, Delaware [where Wheeler also resided] until he and his family moved to Spain last August.
Levene had been introduced to high society in Pennsylvania’s Unionville and Chadds Ford community just over the Delaware border by “disgraced financier Donald Anthony Walker ‘Tony’ Young,” the Daily Local News story said. Young reportedly swindled more than $25 million from area residents in an elaborate Ponzi scheme.
“He knew a lot of people,” the newspaper quoted an anonymous man describing Levene. “He was sociable, and had a lot of the same charm as Tony Young. He seemed like a nice guy, new to the community …friendly and outgoing.”
The unidentified source, who met Levene at horse racing events, said that although Levene mixed easily with wealthy people in the Wilmington, Del. and Unionville, Pa. communities, he did not seem ostentatious.
“He wasn’t like a Tony Young,” the Daily Local story said. “He didn’t try to act like he had a lot of money. He never came across like a bad guy.”
The story said that two people who knew Levene said that he had reportedly retrieved a gun from the home of the Realtor in Chadds Ford, Pa., where he had left the weapon before leaving the country.
He apparently returned to the area from Spain, asking for the handgun, the men said. He later returned it to the friend, “a local Realtor with longstanding ties to the Unionville community, a few days later, without explanation,” the story said.
“When the friend learned what had allegedly happened in Connecticut, he sought out law enforcement authorities and turned over the gun last week, those familiar with the matter said in interviews on Friday,” The Daily Local News said.
The El Pais story recounted the massive manhunt for Levene and said it ended in a seventh floor, Ikea-decorated, 1,900-square foot apartment that he rented for 2,200 Euros ($2,900) a month.
“The police had spent days looking for him, but the man had no schedule, traveling constantly, appearing and disappearing,” the newspaper said.
The break came when an informant in the building sent a text message to a detective saying Levene was in the building, El Pais said.
Levene’s wife and children—reportedly 5 and 7-year-old sons—led a normal life with the children attending school in Barcelona, the newspaper said. Levene had traveled with them there in August, federal authorities said.
There was speculation the family had relatives in the city but this could not be confirmed.
While finding clothing used in the crime, investigators did not find the six diamonds worth $300,000 stolen from Westport, El Pais said. [source]
Debt From Real Estate Problems and Money as Motive for Multiple Murders?
After the Army, Levene got involved in real estate developments, and used at least 34 different addresses for himself from Connecticut to Colorado.
He established his first limited liability corporation — The Lot One Group — using a New York address in swanky Amagansett in the Hamptons. It was registered with Connecticut’s Secretary of the State on Sept. 2, 2004 with Auerbach, the Woodbridge lawyer, as its agent.
“He was into real estate development,” said Auerbach, “building high-end homes.”
But even prior to that, Levene was buying property.
There was a Washington, D.C. property, an apartment in Virginia Beach, Va. purchased for $146,260 on Sept. 27, 2001; an apartment in New York City purchased for $433,000 in November 2003; an East Hampton, N.Y. home acquired for $675,000 and the office property in Amagansett.
In Colorado, Levene developed two luxurious properties in the ski resort area at the foot of the Rockies in Crested Butte. One sold for millions. The other burned down and he was paid millions in insurance money.
Hank Smith, the town’s police chief, is convinced the Dec. 7, 2008 fire at Levene’s second property, 103 Bear Scratch Road, was arson and Levene was involved.
“The water supply to the sprinkler system had been turned off,” Smith said. “The handles were broken so they could not be turned back on.”
The chief believes the arsonist also opened the crank handles on several windows on the homes’ top and bottom floors to create a chimney effect for a devastating fire.
“My belief is the fire took off a lot quicker than expected,” Smith said, “because several jugs half-filled with gasoline were left behind.”
The crank handles, the jugs and other evidence has been sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation which found DNA remnants, Smith said.
Now he’s hoping that can be compared against Levene’s.
The chief said his department considered several suspects, including contractors who went unpaid for work they did on the property.
“He burned a lot of people by not paying them,” Smith said.
Levene purchased the vacant lot at 103 Bear Scratch Road for $1,195,000 on Feb. 9, 2006, according to court papers. After it burned down, Levene and his wife, Alicia sued American International Group, Inc. in Colorado federal court, accusing their insurer of breach of contract by failing to pay for the full $5 million plus loss.
Yet Levene was also sued in connection with the property.
In July 2010, Kevin and Michelle Davidsen of Westerville, Ohio and Joel Davidsen of Moutonborough, N.H. sued Levene in Delaware’s Court of Chancery, claiming they were being bilked out of their share of the insurance proceeds after investing a combined $445,000 in the project.
In April 2008, Levene allegedly told the Davidsens he was having financial problems and needed to use $155,150 of their development funds, according to their suit. They agreed as long as that money was included in the repayment.
In November 2008, he told the Davidsens he could not make the $20,000 monthly payments. They agreed to pick up that debt and paid $41,167 on the mortgage before the fire consumed the home.
After the fire, the Davidsens claim Levene lied and misled them about the insurance proceeds and never repaid them.
While trouble was brewing in Colorado, Levene was spending a lot of time in Nantucket, flying back and forth in his personal plane, according to Perry, the property manager.
There, he formed two more LLCs, one called Cambridge Street Partners and the other called JLP Madaket Partners. Both listed a Nantucket address as office headquarters. Levene and his wife, Alicia, also purchased a home in Nantucket in 2006 for $1.6 million, using a $1.28 million mortgage from Washington Mutual.
Perry, a partner hired to renovate a property owned by Levene, said the first indication he saw that there were financial problems came when Levene, who had a pilot’s license, sold his plane.
Up until then, he was flying in from Delaware regularly, Perry said.
Things changed fast for Levene and in September 2011, Levene told his a family friend and Lawyer for one of his LLCs, Auerbach, he was offered a well-paying job in Spain with a hedge fund and would be moving his family there. [source]
According to delawareonline.com, Silverleaf Business Solutions LLC sued Levene on Nov. 5, 2011 [1 month before Zeevi Murder] for his failure to pay a $300,000 promissory note taken out in November 2007. According to delawareonline.com, with interest, Levene owed $556,298 (resulting from a Sept. 2, 2010 Massachusetts court judgment against Levene – source).
A previous Delaware suit filed in July 2010, the site reported, says that Levene had solicited $445,000 from the plaintiffs (Benabby Inc. Disaster Specialist in Nantucket, Mass) to purchase the land in Crested Butte, Colo.,to build the luxury home [which was] destroyed by fire.
The suit claimed that while Levene received more than $2 million in insurance proceeds, he failed to distribute the funds to the investors, who had a 42 percent stake in the deal, or provide them with any financial records, said delawareonline.com.
It said that in April 2011 [4 months after Wheeler Murder], “the plaintiffs, Bannaby Inc, dropped the suit, saying they had resolved their differences.” [source]
Levene’s Miscellaneous Travel Details
After the Jewelery Store murder, Levene was scheduled to depart on a flight from Philadelphia InternationalAirport on December 9, 2011, at 1825 hours, to return to Madrid. However, Levenecancelled his flight, instead departing at the aforementioned date and times; details as follows:
On December 11, 2011, Levene booked a flight from PhiladelphiaInternational Airport to Madrid at 1830 hours; he missed that flight. Levene then signedup to fly standby on two flights: one at 2050 hours to Amsterdam and one at 2110 hoursto London. Levene ultimately flew from Philadelphia to Amsterdam at 2050 hours andarrived in Amsterdam on December 12, 2011.
There whereabouts and activities of Andrew Robert Levene between the time of the murder and the time of departure is unknown with the exception of the information regarding the transfer of the murder weapon to a friend. [source]
Connections to John P Wheeler III
Aside from the reports that Andrew Robert Levene and Jack Wheeler were aquainted with each other through an unknown person by Jack’s wife, Katherine Klyce and frequently met before Wheeler’s December 2010 murder, Andrew Robert Levene also had direct links to both Wilmington, Delaware where Wheeler was last seen and owned a home, and New York City, where Wheeler also owned property.
In addition to this, in an interview after Wheeler’s murder, Klyce mentioned:
In recent weeks (February 2011), some of her cards have had mysterious charges, including two plane tickets from New York to Madrid totaling $3,000, according to Klyce.
Levene made many trips to Spain from the New York area, including one on August 3rd, 2010 – before he had solidified his plans to relocate his family. Levene obviously had some connection to Spain predating his late August move. If records going back to early 2011 could be examined, more trips to Spain will probably be found – perhaps even one (with his wife) around the time of the mysterious ticket purchases.
It has long been suspected by many in the internet community as well as Wheeler’s wife, Katherine Klyce and Family, that the murder of John P Wheeler was no ordinary murder, but a professionally executed assassination. While the motivation is unknown, it is completely plausible to believe that a man of his importance and involvement could end up the target of a hit by a well-connected individual or perhaps a larger organization within the US Government.
Andrew Robert Levene had both the skill set, tools, proximity, shady past and (most importantly) the motivation to accept a paying job as a contract assassin. Wheeler’s family offered $25,000 for information regarding his death – of course, no one came forward because they had already been paid a lot, lot more. Shortly after Wheeler’s murder, it should also be noted that Levene was suddenly able to resolve a monetary legal conflict with Bannaby Inc, about which, Bennaby stated they had “resolved their differences”.
Did Andrew Robert Levene know John P Wheeler? Sources say yes, but definitive proof is not readily available. If he did know Wheeler, could his connections in US Intelligence/Miltary have contacted him knowing he was a man who would have no problems with “taking care of a problem”? Probably.
Levene’s suicide makes little sense. Levene seemed to exude a certain tough-guy persona and was known to have anger issues. On top of that, he was involved in Special Forces for a number of years. It’s not likely he was afraid of being in jail. And according to some information, Spain’s extradition treatise state that they will only extradite on the condition that no death penalty is sought. On top of that, there would have been years of appeals, chances for mistrial, etc. Having two young boys couldn’t hurt his cause. The man just seemed too self-important/selfish to harm himself. Could Levene have just been a coward hiding behind the facade of a bad-ass? Yes.
But what else could have happened? Could Levene actually have been silenced to prevent him divulging any secrets? Maybe. Are there more murders, scams and illegal activity the public is not yet aware of? Not unreasonable at all given his ridiculously long history of sketchy dealings. OR…could Andrew Levene even still be alive? Suicide just being a cover for a bought “get out of jail card” or Government orchestrated escape for an appreciated assassin? Less plausible, but not crazy.
All in all, there are still more questions than answers in the Murder of John Wheeler, which is now a little more than a year old. The facts surrounding his death are probably still sealed due to order by Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, also a “Greenville Set” elite that very well may have rubbed elbows with Andrew Levene a time or two. Newark and Wilmington Police probably still refuse to release any details they have because they don’t want to “compromise the investigation”. Which leaves those still searching for an answer to grasp at whatever threads and specs of evidence they can find, no matter how fleeting and circumstantial.
The real tragedy is that John Wheeler deserved more than this pathetic excuse for an investigation from his country. A man who gave so much got so little in return. Was Andrew Levene a murderer? Absolutely – and it’s fine that he’s no longer in this world. Men like Levene serve to draw a greater contrast between those who are truly admirable, like Wheeler, and those who would shatter the lives of families like the Wheelers, the Zeevis and even their own. May the family and friends of Yekutiel “Kuti” Zeevi and Jack Wheeler find solace in the positivity and light that their lost loved ones brought into their lives.
For more information on the murder of Jack Wheeler, see: