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Record Company Mogul Morris Levy Faced Prison for Conspiracy Conviction

May 23, 1990

GHENT, N.Y. (AP) _ When record company mogul Morris Levy died, he left a legacy of shady dealing in a career that spanned more than 40 years.

Levy, who died Monday of cancer at age 62, was facing a $250,000 fine and 10 years in prison for a May 1988 conviction on two federal counts of conspiring to extort $1.25 million from a Pennsylvania record wholesaler.

Free on bail, Levy tried to have his sentence reduced to zero in January because of his failing health. Although that was denied, he eventually was granted a 90-day stay and would have reported to jail on July 16.

Levy owned several nightclubs in the 1940s and 50s, including the world famous jazz mecca Birdland in New York. He became active as a music publisher and record company owner in the 1950s.

His company, Roulette Records, produced such hits in the 1950s as ″Why Do Fools Fall in Love″ and ″Peppermint Twist″ and helped develop such stars as Tommy James.

In the 1970s, Levy entered the record retail business and opened a chain of Strawberries record shops in the Northeast. Eventually, he became linked to organized crime.

In a case authorities called an example of how the mob was trying to infiltrate the recording industry, Levy, Roulette comptroller Howard Fisher, and reputed Genovese crime family member Dominick Canterino were charged with the attempted shakedown of record wholesaler John LaMonte of Darby, Pa.

Levy denied the allegations, but after a three-week trial in federal court in Camden, N.J., a jury convicted Levy, Fisher and Canterino.

Levy appealed but a federal appeals court upheld the conviction in October.

Prosecutors had presented hours of taped conversations obtained by government wiretaps at Levy’s office and other locations.

FBI documents filed in the case said government agencies believed Levy, a self-made millionaire, had been involved with organized crime for 20 years.

Levy had been the principal shareholder of BeckZack Corp., which owned the 81-store Strawberries chain. He sold the chain last year.

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