From Cuban Immigrant to Paisan
Not all spies are of the Bond kind. This spy became something of the “Don” kind.
Joaquin “Jack” Garcia is a son of Cuban immigrants who fled to the US from Castro’s regime. He's a big guy averaging about 375 pounds, with an enormous personality and sterling self confidence, incredible courage and dedication. At six foot three, he's a big man by every standard.
Bigger than life.
What comes with being overweight, however, is a bad ticker, and this almost ended his career and his life. But with all the close scrapes he's been in during his storied career as an FBI undercover agent, this writer thinks anybody could have acquired a heart condition.
He started off in the FBI impersonating Cuban drug dealers who were flashing cash, wearing lots of gold, moving dirty money. The whole bit. At the same time, he was learning on the fly the ways of the streets and how to impersonate some kind of Tony Montana. Being a Cuban who didn't learn English until he was about five, doing the Cuban bit was comparatively easy.
Actually, this is not exactly true : he really started out being the FNG in some regional FBI office. The guy they never took out on a raid or invited to have a few after work.
But when they finally brought him along on a raid for the very first time, he showed them that, while he was around, they never had to take a battering ram on a raid anymore. Then he got his chance at undercover work.
Everybody was very impressed by his performances. Jack Garcia turned out to be a natural undercover agent. Living in the streets as a Cuban drug dealer, he once took down sixty two bad guys in one fell swoop, almost starving a whole city of dope as a result, and then spent months in court testifying to put them away.
He was all over the place. Seemingly pushing dope and laundering money in Miami; buying counterfeit Marlboros in containers from China (which turned out to be his ticket into the Mob); trying to sell explosives to an alleged would-be terrorist, but finally taking him down just because of his addiction to sleeping pills. When they searched this suspect's apartment, they found the licence plate numbers of all the FBI cars that had secretly been tailing him during the investigation. He had made all of them...
Now, Garcia was running investigations all over the place. He was overexposed, even burned in some cities and lots of people could easily have made him as an FBI agent. He reportedly ran one hundred covert investigations during his career, a lot of them at the same time.
Would you risk to do one more?
He did. As he himself admitted, “I just can't say no”.
Garcia was asked to impersonate a business partner in a New York strip joint. A simple job, really. The Albanian mob was trying to muscle in on the place. They came in and roughed up a few patrons, trying to persuade the owner to pay them protection money.
The owner freaked and called the FBI. This turned out to be an extremely wise move because the FBI sent Garcia in, posing as an Italian business partner in the strip club. He was now wearing a wire, backed by tough-guy real world and street wise FBI agents, and in a position to take down the nascent New York Albanian Mob.
But then, as things turned out, the Gambino family decided to pick him up instead, as an Associate. Greg DePalma, a capo in the NY mob, took him under his wing!
The hell with the Albanians, right? His mission suddenly and unexpectedly became something else altogether. He was now in a position to infiltrate the Gambinos, one of the five New York mob families.
Joaquin Garcia had now become Jack Falcone, an Italian mobster. But at first, he was just a Cuban guy trying his best to impersonate an Italian mobster. At first, he didn't even know what he was doing. Just a Cuban immigrant hopefully passing himself off as a goombah.
His legend was that he was an Italian dope dealer and B&E ring leader from New Orleans, who was in “the Life” but not really connected. He had come up to New York on business and hooked up with Greg DePalma, a grizzled old mobster who was making a dazzling comeback out of jail and reinvented himself as a new capo who kicked up lots of money for the mob.
Garcia researched his role to the hilt. He also had his own personal FBI consiglieri: a genuine Italian-American Special Agent who took him to “Mob School”, showed him how Associates and Made Men handled themselves in the Mob hierarchy, and then went on to help him all the way through the case as his handler. So Garcia went to Mob School where he learned Mob culture while he was on the street on his own impersonating a real Mob guy. He and his FBI consiglieri ate at a lot in Italian restaurants, just so that Garcia would learn the ropes of Italian cuisine (at their expense), and get acquainted with this culture of meeting around a table full of food.
Mob guys carry lots of big bills. He learned to not keep this cash in his wallet, but to carry it in his pocket, tied together with one of those large elastic bands they hold broccoli together with in supermarkets. Joaquin Garcia also watched Italian cuisine shows in his spare time. Also in his spare time, while on a family vacation to New Orleans, he haunted cemeteries until he found a grave that said Falcone, just so he could say that his parents were buried there to beef up his legend.
He learned how to behave, what suits to wear, all about Italian cuisine and how to pronounce everything the Italian way. He found that mobsters are Italian cuisine experts, so he had before him the daunting task of learning every detail of Italian cuisine down pat as if he'd eaten it all his life. Garcia really loves eating, so this part wasn't especially difficult for him. Mobsters are also hedonists who are very concerned, actually fanatical, about their appearance. So he had to dress the part in expensive Italian suits and get manicures (he loved it!).
As as an example of what he was getting into, pronouncing the word prosciutto wrong could have had him killed. Why? Because real Italians from the neighborhood say “prochiutt'”. Just imagine that your very life is hanging on how well you pronounce pasta e fagioli
Now, it's just a fact of life that the vast majority of administrations spend half their time shooting themselves (and everybody else) in the foot and the rest of the time trying to blame somebody else for the damage. It just looks like that's what bureaucracies do. A refuge for those who can't, won't or don't : cowards, freeloaders, incompetent hangers-on who relish power and bring nothing to the table.
That's exactly why the FBI bureaucrats tried numerous times to shut Garcia down before he had concluded his investigation of Greg DePalma and the Gambino family, at enormous personal risk to his life and also at the expense of his own family's sometimes wavering support and unity.
The maggoty empty suits even summoned him to a meeting where his very presence would have put him in mortal danger, and then interfered when he tried to protect himself by coming to the meeting by the back door. For Jack, it was an uphill fight against a lot of those people who were supposed to help and support him who turned out to be career idiots. The upshot is; the FBI empty suits shut down the operation just when Greg DePalma was about to make Falcone a Made Man, a position from which he could have brought down all the New York families, not just the Gambinos.
Which behooves me to ask the following question loud and clear : Who are these bureaucratic maggots working for, anyway?
Some empty suits did not want a potentially dangerous investigation going on while they were finishing their term as empty suits. They were only in the FBI for the pension and nothing else.
Some other empty suits didn't want to have to deal with an FBI undercover agent being “Straightened Out”, being made a Made Man, a Wiseguy, a “Friend Of Ours”. For whatever administrative reason that popped up in their pointy little heads, that was the death knoll. That's what put an end to Garcia's two year plus career as a Mafia associate.
They shut him down just when he was really about to become a full fledged wiseguy in the New York mob!
I have to say this : Joaquin Garcia would have had balls of stainless steel, if balls of stainless steel were made out of depleted uranium.
Please bear with me while I go over this again : after posing as a Cuban dope dealer he, at great risk to his life, and for more than two years, then impersonated an Italian mobster, learning all about mob culture as he went along on the fly. He also wore a wire every day of his undercover assignment with Greg DePalma, generating thousands of hours of useful recorded evidence, and all the while fighting useless bureaucratic shitheads who were trying their bestest to shut down his investigation.
A leftover detail?
I'll give you a leftover detail :
To this day, his natural inclination to say Joo (instead of you) comes back to haunt him.
Ma va fangoolo! This dude must have been blessed. Just read the book. It almost gave me a heart attack...
Joaquin “Jack” Garcia; Michael Levin : Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover Agent Takes Down A Mafia Family, (2008), ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-5163-8 Find it on Amazon