UPDATE: New Jersey officials say that it’s perfectly OK for registered sex offender Jeff Carson to perform magic for your kids. Read more here.
The man seen here is 51-year-old Burlington, New Jersey, sex offender Jeffrey Leach. He’s also known by his stage name, Jeff Carson, a magician who claims among his “satisfied clients” the Philadelphia Zoo. And for $250-per-hour, sex offender Jeffrey Leach will perform as magician Jeff Carson at your child’s birthday party.
In 2007, Leach was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a minor. In 2009, as part of a plea deal in that case, Leach pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual contact with a minor girl, according to court records.
Leach's entry in New Jersey's Megan's Law database of sex offenders states that he "inappropriately touched victim and had victim touch him inappropriately over a 6 year period." The Megan's Law site lists "Jeff Carson" among Leach's several aliases.
The Jeff Carson magic website clearly advertises that Carson offers magic shows for families and for schools. "I bring everything that I need," he writes in the "School Shows" section. "You just supply the students!"
There are several promotional photos on Carson's site that depict him with young girls, such as this image:
And to confirm that Carson still actually offers his services to children, I had a colleague call under the guise of hiring him to perform for a group of 5- to 12-year old children. "Absolutely," he told her. "Adults just like to watch, but the kids like to interact." He said the gig would cost $250 for one hour.
Carson appeared on schedules for the Burlington County Library System's children's programs in 2011 and 2013, and assistant director Heather Andolsen said she was unaware of the Leach-Carson connection, but that she would look into it.
In July 2013, Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences announced that Carson would be performing there in August as part of their BugFest. But that performance never happened. "His contract was terminated by the Academy prior to his performance, and our public safety department was on notice to ensure he did not enter the building," reports ANS spokesperson Carolyn Belardo. "The Academy takes the safety and well-being of our visitors very seriously."
As previously noted, Carson's website includes the Philadelphia Zoo on his "satisfied clients" list (it also includes everyone from Coca-Cola and McDonald's to the U.S. Air Force and Johnson & Johnson), but I was unable to determine when those performances occurred in relation to his inclusion on New Jersey's sex offender registry, or if they occurred. Dana Lombardo, director of communications for the Philadelphia Zoo, says that Carson and the Zoo have never had a relationship. "We did extensive due diligence to verify that he has never worked for us, we never contracted him," she said. "All vendors undergo background checks."
I spoke with a prosecutor in New Jersey who was involved with the 2007 case, and she seemed shocked that Leach is performing magic for children as Jeff Carson. A Megan's Law-division official in New Jersey took the information and said he would pass it along to the appropriate authority, and the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said it would investigate as well.
On Wednesday night, I reached Leach at his home in New Jersey and asked him if he thought it was appropriate for him to perform for children given his status as a sex offender. He told me that he didn't want to comment. "Offering a comment would mean that I care," he added. "And I really don't care too much."
UPDATE: As of 2:45 p.m., the jeffcarsonmagic.com website was no longer live.
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