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Ron Levin’s Former Home

Oct 11th, 2019 | By | Category: Haunted Hollywood

Ron Levin's Former Duplex (2 of 16)

As a Los Angeles aficionado who has long been obsessed with true crime, it is rather shocking that I had no knowledge of the infamous Billionaire Boys Club murders of 1984.  Sure, I’d heard of the 1987 The Billionaire Boys Club miniseries, but figuring it a tale of financial woe, dismissed it as not something that would interest me.  It was not until earlier this year when the Grim Cheaper suggested we watch the 2018 film of the same name that I learned about the case – and became appropriately transfixed.  I spent the next few days fastidiously reading anything I could get my hands on concerning the killings.  Of course the tidbit I was most interested in finding out was the real-life location of murder victim Ron Levin’s house.  As it turns out, the movie played a bit fast and loose with its locales.  While Ron is shown living in a massive Beverly Hills mansion onscreen, he actually called a modest duplex at 144 South Peck Drive, just steps from Rodeo Drive, home.  What follows is the story of what occurred there, per newspaper articles, court documents and witness testimony (because the movie played a bit fast and loose with the facts, as well – as least as far as to what I think happened).

The Billionaire Boys Club was established in 1983 by Joe Hunt, who was born Joseph Gamsky (on Halloween, incidentally) to a lower-middle-class family in Chicago.  At some point, Hunt’s family relocated to Los Angeles, where he secured a scholarship to the prestigious Harvard-Westlake School.  Following graduation, Joe enrolled at USC for a brief time before dropping out and moving to the Windy City, where he began trading stock.  Not licensed to run an investment group, he did so anyway and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange booted him for it.  He promptly changed his last name, headed back to L.A. and formed another investment group – the BBC, named in honor of the Bombay Bicycle Club, one of his favorite Chicago restaurants.  He enlisted his wealthy former classmates from high school to provide capital for his new venture, which was essentially a Ponzi scheme involving commodities that I can’t properly explain here because I don’t entirely understand it myself (where’s Margot Robbie in a bathtub when you need her?).  It was not long before people began referring to the group as the “Billionaire Boys Club” thanks to is members who were all very young and very rich.  (That’s Hunt pictured below in a still from the Season 1 episode of Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege, and Justice titled “Billionaire Boys Club,” which aired in 2002.)

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Though Joe was initially successful in his trades, the group started spending money like water, buying fancy cars and clothes and leasing high-end office space, and it wasn’t long before more was going out than was coming in.  Once initial investors began seeing zero ROI, the high-end investments stopped pouring in, as well, and the BBC found itself in dire financial straits, only a year after being established.  That was when Ron Levin entered the picture.  (That’s him below, again in a still from Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege, and Justice.)  Joe thought the wealthy Beverly Hills businessman, who wanted to invest $5 million in the BBC, would be the club’s ticket out of debt.  In truth, Ron was nothing more than a flimflam man, though.  Not only did he not have $5 million, but he was setting Hunt up as part of an even bigger scam.  When Joe discovered that he had been played – and that his financial circumstances were more dire than ever as a result – he set out to murder Ron.  But not before getting some cash out of him first.

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On the evening of June 6th, 1984, Joe and his bodyguard, Jim Pittman, entered Levin’s Beverly Hills duplex (pictured below).  Still believing him to be a wealthy man, they forced him to write a $1.5 million check to the BBC and then shot him in the back of the head.  (In actuality, Ron hardly had two nickels to rub together – a reality Joe learned shortly after the killing when his check bounced.  I guess Ron ultimately got the last laugh!)  Pittman and Joe then wrapped Ron in a comforter, put his body in the trunk of Joe’s car, drove out to Soledad Canyon and buried him.  (At least, that is what has been testified to and confessed by Pittman.  Joe has denied all of it and Levin’s body has never been found.)

Ron Levin's Former Duplex (10 of 16)

Ron Levin's Former Duplex (3 of 16)

Ron had been scheduled to head to New York the following morning with Dean Factor (Shannen Doherty’s ex) of all people, as well as two other friends.  When the trio arrived at the duplex to pick him up, though, he was nowhere to be found and the men noticed that a few things in his bedroom seemed to be out of place.  Despite these anomalies, police initially assumed Ron had skipped town, largely due to his long history as a conman.

Ron Levin's Former Duplex (1 of 16)

When Levin’s check didn’t provide the funding Hunt had anticipated, BBC member Reza Eslaminia suggested the group kidnap his father, an exiled former Iranian dignitary named Hedayat Eslaminia supposedly worth a whopping $30 million.  (That’s him below, once again in a still from Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege, and Justice.)  Reza figured the boys could get Hedayat to sign over his vast fortune to them via some good old fashioned torture.  Knowing he wouldn’t give up his money easily, the group rented a house in Beverly Glen with which to hold him until he turned, after which they’d kill him.  Bernice Rappaport, the realtor who leased the boys the residence, told Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege, and Justice that during the tour they were only interested in seeing the basement.  Way to be inconspicuous, guys!  A van was then rented, a steamer trunk procured, and Hunt, his closest friend Dean Karny, and a few other BBC members headed to Belmont in Northern California where Eslaminia lived (and very near to where I grew up, which makes it all the more strange that I knew nothing of the case!).  On July 30th, they entered his apartment, beat him, put him in the trunk, stuck the trunk in the van, and began driving back to L.A.  Somewhere along the way, though, he died due to lack of air.  Hunt still tried to acquire his assets, but once again the joke was on him.  As he quickly learned and as was the case with Levin, Eslaminia was worth far less than originally thought.  Per a 1998 SF Gate article, following his death his estate was valued at around $200,000.

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By this time, many members of the BBC had grown fed up with Hunt’s continual failure to dispense dividends.  Two in particular, brothers Tom and Dave May (heirs to the May Co. department store fortune) were especially frustrated and went to the police to report both that Joe was swindling people out of millions and that he had murdered Levin.  Detectives immediately got a warrant to search Ron’s duplex and made a startling discovery.  Sitting half-hidden behind a trash can in the office was a veritable murder checklist, pinpointing items like “tape mouth” and “hand cuff.”  Running seven pages long and hand-written by Joe himself, the list was titled “At Levin’s TO DO.”  Joe was arrested soon after.

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As the police closed in on other BBC members, Joe’s BFF Dean (pictured below) quickly turned state’s evidence, agreeing to testify about Ron’s murder in exchange for immunity.  He also told police that Hunt was responsible for Eslaminia’s killing and led them to his body.  Joe was eventually convicted of Ron’s slaying in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  He later went on trial for Eslaminia’s death, during which he inexplicably represented himself!  I guess he did an OK job, too, because jurors wound up deadlocked, a mistrial was declared, and prosecutors declined to pursue the case further.  Hunt’s bodyguard, Pittman, was also tried for Ron’s murder – twice actually and both resulted in a hung jury.  He eventually pled guilty in November 1987 to being an accessory after the fact, though when he tried to lead police to the body, none was found.  (Dun dun dun!)  Dean was put in witness protection immediately following the trials, where he has remained ever since.

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Despite the violence that took place there, Levin’s former home truly is an idyllic little duplex, each unit boasting 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, about 2,900 square feet, a den, formal living and dining rooms, a fireplace, crown moldings, walk-in closets, plenty of built-ins, a courtyard, and parking for 3 cars.  You can see interior images of both apartments here.

Ron Levin's Former Duplex (16 of 16)

I am fairly certain that Ron’s unit, addressed #144, is on the bottom floor of the two-story French Traditional building, which was originally constructed in 1936.

Ron Levin's Former Duplex (9 of 16)

Interestingly, per court testimony given by a friend of Levin’s, in the early ‘70s Ron lived at 148 South Peck Drive, right next door to the building he would eventually be murdered in.

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Ron Levin's Former Duplex (8 of 16)

You can see the neighboring structures and their proximity to each other below.

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Ron Levin's Former Duplex (12 of 16)

Levin moved to 144 South Peck in the mid-70s and never left – or if you believe Joe Hunt and his defense team, perhaps he did leave one summer night in 1984 and is now living the good life somewhere, completely off the grid.

Ron Levin's Former Duplex (4 of 16)

For more stalking fun, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Los Angeles magazine and Discover Los Angeles.

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Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: Ron Levin’s former duplex, from which he disappeared on June 6th, 1984, is located at 144 South Peck Drive in Beverly Hills.  Prior to that, he lived next door at 148 South Peck.

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  1. Von says:

    Love a crime post and the dun..dun..dun. Classic!


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