The Trouble With Harry Jay Katz

Harry Jay Katz's act is wearing thin. Philadelphia's aging libertine is facing lawsuits, accusations and bankruptcy. Still, the party must go on.

Katz warns me against placing faith in the testimony of “scorned women.” As much as Katz talks of scorned women, however, it is Harry who turns shrewish when an infatuation goes sour, throwing bombs and insinuating criminal behavior. For Croge, he gives me two typed pages of her alleged shortcomings. This isn’t an isolated incident. What follows are examples of what he has to say about various former flames:

“She’s a junkie … She’s a drug dealer who supplied the Grateful Dead … She was all coked up and had her brain banged out by a bunch of guys and this was on her honeymoon … She asked me to have her ex-husband killed… We picked up a heroin junkie at Circa and she took her home and made love to her in the car… She forced me to have sex with her fat cousin…”

Of course, even if some of these accusations happen to be true, they mostly demonstrate that Katz appeals to an unusual strain of women. Katz himself blames his lady problems on his inability to perform due diligence. “I hate to use the term fatal attraction,” he says, “but I see someone or see a piece of art that makes my heart sing, I know if you get too close, it’s not the same. Goose pimples are important to me— not so much an erection, but goose pimples. I want my heart to sing, be it for an hour, a weekend or a meaningful relationship that ends in the morning.”

In court, Croge alleged that Katz had fraudulently obtained credit cards in her name. Among the evidence submitted was a credit report listing American Express and other credit cards requested to be sent to Katz’s address a full four months after she had moved out. Furthermore, Croge presented copies of two credit-card applications from June and July 1995 listing Harry Jay Katz’s address. (This wasn’t the first time Katz was accused of credit card fraud by a loved one. In his 1994 divorce proceedings from Andrea Diehl, it was alleged that Katz forged Diehl’s signature to credit cards and accrued an estimated $125,000 in debt— all of which was found to be Katz’s responsibility. Katz, who served five days in jail for missing a child-support deadline, insists they were joint credit cards and denies any forgery or fraud. A delicious irony: Diehl now lives in Vermont and runs a counseling practice with Katz’s first wife, Julia.)

When asked about the Croge credit-card applications under oath, Katz took the Fifth. But because Croge was contesting his bankruptcy claim, Katz’s finances were thrown open. Among the interesting things found was that in the seven months after Katz’s claim of bankruptcy, $61,000 was deposited to a corporate account that he had access to. That account was not listed on his bankruptcy report. In his testimony, Katz claimed it was not his account, but that of his children. When pressed, Katz admitted that he was the sole signatory on the account, that family members deposited money into it, and that he paid his bills from it. In fact, court documents show that from 1988 to 1997, Katz deposited nearly $1 million into the account, including $182,000 since his 1995 bankruptcy claim.

Although it is hard to pinpoint where exactly Katz gets his money, it seems Harry’s mother serves as his maternal MAC machine. During his bankruptcy trial and in pretrial depositions, big-spender Katz painted himself as a penniless 56year-old depending on the kindness of his elderly mommy. When asked by Croge’s lawyer how it worked, Katz described their phone calls: “Hi, Mom. It’s Harry. I’ve got a bunch of stuff here that needs to be taken care of. Is it possible to take care of it, please?”

Croge testified Katz made lavish claims to her: that he had $3 million to $4 million in the bank and that his family owned 10 percent of the land in New Hope. (Katz’s brother, Philip, lives on a sprawling family estate there.) She also alleged that Katz’s home held a signed Picasso, antique furniture and cases of wine. In his defense, Katz maintained that his house and all of his furniture were owned by other members of his family. This doesn’t square with a notarized letter sent by Katz to Chestnut Hill Bank in January 1986. Hoping to obtain a loan to open Hesch’s, Katz claimed a net worth of $1 million. In a subsequent letter to that bank, Katz upped his net worth to $3 million to $5 million. He listed the East Falls home as his own, with a value of $550,000. Katz also maintained he held a one-third interest in the family’s New Hope property. Katz now says he inadvertently included his home in the letter.

Federal Bankruptcy Judge David Scholl didn’t agree with Katz’s poverty plea. He dismissed his bankruptcy claim, stating that Katz “systematically, consistently, unrepentantly, and therefore knowingly, failed to schedule assets or list creditors for the express purpose of avoiding further investigation of his affairs, which constitutes fraud.” He also chastised Katz for attempting to introduce alleged sordid details of Croge’s past into court. Christine Shubert, the bankruptcy trustee of Katz’s claim, appointed lawyer Edmund John to investigate whether any other assets are available to satisfy Katz’s creditors. So far, Katz’s home has been searched for valuables and his mother has been asked to give a deposition. According to court documents filed on September 9th, John alleges that Katz currently holds a 12.5 percent interest in the family’s New Hope property valued at $15 million in 1990, making Katz’s share $1.875 million.

When asked about Judge Scholl’s proceedings, Katz is succinct. “This little fucking guy,” says Katz. “This Howdy-Doody-looking guy, this Jew-hating motherfucker— I knew from the get-go I was fucked.”