David H. Levitt (Abt. 1844-18??), aka Sheeny Dave, Daniel H. Levett/Leavitt/Lovett/Leavett, James Lewis, Louis Lewis, Herman Lewis, Louis/Lewis Ruebenstein, David Goldenberg — Smuggler, Sneak thief, Pickpocket
From Byrnes’s text:
DESCRIPTION. Forty-two years old in 1886. A Jew, born in Poland. Married. No trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches. Weight, 180 pounds. Dark complexion, black hair, dark eyes, cast in left eye. Black beard, when worn. Dresses well. Is very quick in his movements.
RECORD. “Sheeny Dave,” whose right name is David Levitt, is an old New York thief, and is pretty well known in all the principal cities of the United States. He has served time in State prison in a number of States.
He was arrested In Buffalo, N.Y., on January 26, 1878, in company of a man who reformed about six years ago, for shoplifting (working jewelry stores), and both sentenced to one year’s imprisonment in Auburn (N.Y.) prison.
When his time expired he was taken to Baltimore, Md., for a crime committed there, but was not convicted.
He was arrested again in New York City, under the name of James Lewis, on January 15, 1881, for the larceny of two pieces of blue silk from the store of Edward Freitman & Co., No. 473 Spring Street, valued at $140. For this offense, upon his plea of guilty, he was sentenced to two years and six months in State prison at Sing Sing, on April 12, 1881, by Judge Cowing.
He was arrested again in New York City on December 21, 1883, under the name of Samuel Newman, for the larceny of a diamond bracelet, valued at $500, from Kirkpatrick, the jeweler, on Broadway, New York. He was indicted by the Grand Jury on January 10, 1884, and forfeited his bail on January 15, 1884.
He was arrested again on September 30, 1884, in York County, Maine, for picking pockets, and sentenced to three years in prison at Alfred, Maine, under the name of Herman Lewis. For expiration of sentence, see commutation law of Maine. He is still a fugitive from justice, and is wanted in New York City. His picture is an excellent one, taken in January, 1878.
So successful was this felon in issuing aliases that his real name is only suspected to be David H. Levitt, determined by a consensus of arrest and prison records.
Dave’s traceable career begins in April 1874, when he and pickpocket Tilly Miller were caught on the Niagara Falls suspension bridge smuggling silks from Canada. He was taken to Rochester, New York, where he faced trial in a U. S. District Court and was sentenced to six months and a $500 fine, with the time to be served at the Monroe County Penitentiary. However, while waiting to be transported to the Penitentiary, he escaped from the Monroe County Jail with the help of a female accomplice, known on this occasion as “Julia Reilly”. Why Dave chose to be a fugitive rather than take a light sentence is a minor mystery.
Tilly Miller was separately detained. She had been in Canada after fleeing from New York authorities for her role in helping her husband, Billy Miller, escape from Sing Sing with the assistance of bribed guards. The other woman “Julia Reilly,” was likely Mary Ann Watts, a shoplifter that had taken up with Dave Levitt after the death of her common-law pickpocket husband, Joe Wilson. Mary Ann Watts had been residing in Sing Sing until March 1874 (just a month before the smuggling episode), when she escaped using the same accomplices that Tilly Miller had used to free her husband.
Dave Levitt enjoyed his freedom for over a year, probably in the company of his fellow fugitive, Mary Ann Watts. However, in November 1875, he was caught trying to sneak watches off a jeweler’s tray in New York City. He first gave his name as Louis Lewis, but was later recognized as the fugitive David H. Levitt. He was handed back over to U. S. Marshals, and was sent to Auburn prison to serve his time for smuggling.
After being released, Dave was on his own again (Mary Ann Watts had, in the meanwhile, been arrested and sent back to Sing Sing). Dave soon took a new mistress, known only as Teresa. He continued shoplifting from jewelry stores, making a successful raid in early January 1878, in Baltimore, Maryland. He sent the loot to Teresa in New York for safekeeping. In late January 1878, he was apprehended in Buffalo after sneaking valuables out of a jewelry store and was sentenced to one year in Auburn State Prison.
While Dave was in Auburn, Teresa’s step-father stumbled across the hiding-place where she had stored the stolen valuables from Baltimore. He took the loot for himself; Teresa discovered it gone and confronted him, and another man overheard the argument and went to police. After interviewing all the participants, Baltimore officials now had the circumstantial evidence they needed to charge Dave with the robbery. After his time in Auburn expired, he was taken to Baltimore, but the case against him was weak enough to secure his acquittal.
He was caught shoplifting silk in New York City in January 1881, resulting in a two and a half year sentence in Sing Sing. Soon after getting out, he was caught again sneaking objects from a jewelry store in December 1883. He jumped his $500 bail and once more became a fugitive.
Dave then went to Maine, where he was arrested for picking pockets in September 1884. Consequently, he was sent to Maine’s state prison for a three year term.
In the late 1880s, Dave somehow resolved his debt to New York courts, but how this was done remains unknown. In the 1890s, he became a special detective hired, as Byrnes indicated in 1895, “by a major sea resort near New York City.” This was almost certainly John Y. McKane’s Coney Island police force, which was notorious for hiring ex-convicts.
A newspaper item from 1897 mentioned that Dave was no longer alive; the exact date of his death and the name he was using at the time are not known.