Director / CrewIAmA newly freelance filmmaker from the UK. Attached is a link to my first short documentary on the highest welfare dairy farm in the world. AMA
Aug 28th 2017 by MarkHannant • 53 Questions • 86 Points
My short bio: Hi Reddit! I'm Marc Ruskin. I am a former FBI Special Agent, and I spent 20 years in Undercover Operations. I've juggled a dozen different aliases and have been awarded five commendations from the Director of the FBI. I've worked at US Embassies in Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Asuncion, the latter where I was given a Letter of Recognition from the Minister of the Interior for the rescue of a kidnapped former Miss Paraguay (Mariangela Martinez).
Since retiring, I've divided my time between a law practice in New York and extended sojourns in Liaoning Province, China where I've been studying Mandarin. My new book, The Pretender: My Life Undercover in the FBI, is now on sale.
Thanks to All of You For Stopping By.
** Had a Great Time! **
What other topics are you hoping to cover as your career progresses?
Brendon I was a huge fan of Home Movies.
How much if any was based on your own experiences growing up? I felt like Coach McGuirk was too real for just being a cartoon lol.
What sets you apart from the ever growing list of other 'cheap flights if you sign up to my newsletter!' guys?
Did you find it difficult to juggle between all the different aliases? What alias was your favorite? And do you ever bust them out anymore now that you're retired?
Anything and everything! I like portraiture so any interesting characters that I might come across. I'd also love to cover topics in other documentaries like social class and inequality.
a lot of home movies was "wishing" instead of reality. I wish that kids had that jokey relationships with adults. They don't actually. But it was all how I'd like to see things. McGuirk is ALL Jon Benjamin- he's a master.
Great question, I'll do my best to answer this: Flystein is a great service but it's specifically for flights you've already looked at and are looking for cheaper deals. They charge per request, too. Really useful if there's somewhere you need to go at a specific time and you want to make sure you're not getting screwed.
Skiplagged is really for the US, it's for hidden city ticketing. See my comments further down in the thread. Also a great tool if you're comfortable with the risks.
Scott and Jack have great sites, but they use humans to do all the work, and so by definition they will miss deals. I come from a programming and automation background, so I'm able to grab a lot more of the deals. Scott says he sends out 20-30 a month to his premium list, which to me seems like he's missing a lot?
There were about a dozen over two decades as a UC, but never more than three at a time. Alex Perez was my fav, with the pony tail, the bling, on the street day in- day out. One tough moment: had one 800 beeper for both Alex and Sal Morelli (budget issues), and got a beep from an unknown number. Me: "Yo" Him: who's this?" Me: "you beeped me! who you looking for?" and so on, until finally Him: "You Alex? Julio gave me your number." And so it went!
Just signed up. It says a team of highly trained experts are finding me flights. It also says monkeys entered my email address into your system. Is your company ran by automation? or is ran by HIGHLY TRAINED EXPERT MONKEYS??
What are the requirements for becoming and undercover agent?Were family or relationships allowed?
To quote from the surveillance agents in Reservoir Dogs, you have to "have rocks in your head" to be a UC. Seriously though, you need five+ years agent time, and if you have a family, they will need to have lots of patience to accommodate an unusual career. Most agents don't do UC work, and of those who do, most don't do it often. There are about 100 full-time UCs in the FBI at any given time - for a country of 300+ million people. I was privileged to be one of them.
Why can't anybody make these sites for domestic flights? I have seen a dozen people do this for international but I really need domestic sales.
Did you ever slip up and mix up characters? How do you recover from these situations?
Great Question! Because no one wants to pay for a premium service; and because the savings are a few bucks. Want to save on Domestic Flights? Get yourself the Chase Southwest card, get the companion pass, and go wild.
I never mixed up alias IDs. Each one was tailored to a specific case, each a unique persona. It was not that hard to keep them apart. When possible, I would try to use the same birthday, so a not to have to remember a dozen of them.
What are your thoughts on buying "connecting flights" such as JFK-ORD-some random city instead of just buying the direct flight? This obviously doesnt work with checked bags though.
During an undercover operation..have you ever got this feeling.."OH shit! They know..thats it this is my end" If yes, how you coped up with it?
I mean, I think it's ok for Domestic Flights, if you don't mind not ending up where you need to go.. My list specializes in international deals that save hundreds of bucks.. Hard to do that with hidden city ticketing. My big thing with hidden city ticketing if you book JFK-ORD-Podunk, and the flight gets cancelled to ORD, they're going to send you to Podunk no matter what. Do you really want that risk??
I was in a car with a subject, he was driving - generally a big mistake for a UC - but this was in the early days, and I learned as I went along - and he said to me "How do I know you're not an FBI agent?" I was posing as an Argentine public official receiving bribes in exchange for contracts (a white collar case). My response was that If anyone should be worried about the law it was me, not him, as in my country they'd lock me up and throw away the key if I got caught. For some reason, the logic seemed to satisfy him, and the moment passed....
What are some of the differences between real life FBI agent work and what you see in movies?
FBI Agents have, or used to have, a great sense of humor. In the films, like Die Hard, they're all black suits and grim faces: "We're taking over now." That never happens. We'd kid around with the locals, cops and trooper, and work together all the time.
Only if i would have known about this few months ago, i paid 1100$ for round trip from Houston to kolkata(India). Is that a fair deal or you guys could have done better?
What kind of clothing would you regularly wear? The stereotype is the black suit. Is there any truth to that?
$1100 is a lot... Most of the deals I see in my database are to Mumbai or Dehli, tho
The stereotype is just that. For the movies. An agent going out on an interview, particularly in a white collar case, will wear business attire. I would dress to fit the role I was playing, from street hustler with lots of gold chains (courtesy of FBI Seized Property) to refined European jewel thief in elegant suit and $30,000 watch.
When you were actively undercover, was duplicity more like a game to be won, or a burden to bear?
Good question. I've seen $287 dollar round trip flights on United (DIRECT!) from New York To Tel Aviv - that's a flight that usually costs $1000 most of the time.
In the last week, Air Canada fares were 80% off for about 4 hours because of a glitch in their system. To their credit, they're honoring the deal.
My personal favorite was an almost round the world trip in First Class from Myanmar all the way to the US for under $500, including suites in Quantas First.
Not a burden. Rather a way of life. You could call it a game, but I saw it more as a challenge. Did I have what it takes?
How was it getting high on camera on Getting Doug with High? Were you comfortable? Self-conscious?
Has there been any occasion where your mission/objective conflicted with your own personal ethics?
Edit : follow-up question : given your experiences, how has your perspective of the world changed from when you started to now.
Loved it and even more- Pot cured me of migraines- so now it's part of my life. Actual MEDICAL Marijuana- who wouldve thought??
Before working as a UC, it was black and white. The good guys (us) and the bad guys (them). I came to realize that it's a continuum, evil on one end, Mother Theresa on the others. And most everyone in the middle. And early on, I did form friendships with subjects, was invited to an intimate wedding, had a guy's son scratch my phony initials on his skateboard. Did not make me feel great.
Brendon, do you have any plans for a sequel to home movies?
What do you think about conspiracy theories in general?
I always thought it would be fun to see how not necessarily THOSE characters- but characters like that would survive in HIGH SCHOOL. probably be like my days in high school learning guitar and negotiating teen years. . .
As to conspiracy theories, there is an appropriate saying attributed to an outlaw motorcycle group: "The only way three people can keep a secret is when two of them are dead." Someone will always going to talk.
What are your thoughts on James Comey? Can you talk a little bit about how (if ever) politics affected investigations while you served?
Loren and I get approached to do a reboot occasionally- we both feel like we like where the show ended- and coming back to it wouldn't be the same. We'd like to honor the show by leaving it where we left it- it ended exactly the way we wished to end it!
Politics never effected cases that I worked on. One of the reasons I was attracted to law enforcement was that, ideally, it's objective and not political. In my time, I saw public corruption investigations of both Democrat and Republican officials -- no one in the Bu cared what the political affiliations of an official happened to be. The perception among many agents, in and out of the Bu, is that Directory Comey allowed the FBI to become politicized, to the detriment of the institution.
Will we ever see a fully functional Galaktibong helmet? That'd be pretty cool...
Also whatever happened to that guy Rikki Kixx choked to death? Like did he just leave his body there or
What were the most important things to do or remember while undercover?
My brother made that TRITON helmet and I really wanted it to be part of this whole album- I'm finding that when you can make something that was 2D into 3D something knocks in the imagination. Stay tuned because that Helmet (and much more) will be showing up
You have to be "on" constantly, never out of character. And think like a criminal, act like one -- not like a cop. A cop would ask "where did you get the heroin/guns/ whatever." A real criminal couldn't care less. I never asked that kind of question, which would set of alarm bells with the subjects -- even though the prosecutors often pushed me to do so. By acting like one of them, I was accepted as one of them.
First, I just wanna say that I love the new album! I've already listened to it three times. OK. I know you said previously that "Dethklok is dead", but are we ever gonna get to hear (or see) how their story was supposed to end?
What's your theory on DB Cooper?
He died when parachuting out of the 727.
Was there ever anything in either Home Movies or Metalocalypse (scene or dialogue) that you wanted in that cartoon network just totally shut down? What an example of something that didnt make it into either show?
When you were UC on Wall Street what was your cover? Trader, lawyer? Did that kind of cover require a lot of financial education?
Not really- the great part about working with them was lack of notes- we got more notes about home movies but thats because Khaki Jones who was our liaison back in the day loved and cared about the show so much
In COMMCORR, I started of as a clerk on the floor of the COMEX, one of the commodities exchanges, learned the business, and a year later passed the written and practical exams to become a local trader on the NYMEX. The case went down in flames after someone recognized me from my time at the DA's office, and blew my cover.
Wow, that's impressive commitment. I would have guessed that a position would have been arranged somehow. During that educational process were you ever tempted to leave law enforcement and become a trader?
When the case was over, it did occur to me that I could earn much more as a broker than as an agent. But if making a lot of money was a prime motivator, I would not have left the law to become an FBI agent.
Would you ever consider making another show similar to Home Movies or Metalocalypse with another network or streaming service? I love both of those shows, thank you for making them a reality!
aren't you worried you just posted the target on your back to reddit?
They were doing their job and I was doing mine. Most guys understand that. And having the entire weight of the FBI come crashing down isn't what most former subjects are looking for.
Hi Brendon! Thank you for doing the amazing music you do - you got me to better explore metal and find such an immense appreciation for it.
My question is if you got another chance to work on/finish Metalocalypse, would you? Even if it wasn't with Adult Swim and was with another network (assuming you got full rights over it and whatnot) would you want to finish up the storyline or just leave it where it is for posterity's sake?
what is the strangest thing you've had to put on an expense report for an operation?
All of that stuff is out of mine and the fans control- they have the rights. As we all know we tried to make it work and they said no and wouldn't even discuss- we know it'll go down as an injustice- the fans got screwed and I don't like that. I think we all know it was a bad move. I believe that the show is in its coffin forever. part of the reason I decided to make GII.
Myself and agent Rita F. put together carriers for my Mini-Nagra recording device that would allow me to carry it the place least likely to be searched - guess - It had an elastic waistband, and flaps with Velcro pockets in the front, and was worn over briefs, with baggy pants. I'd cut hole in my right pants pocket to run the on-off switch, held in place with a safety pin. Very high-tech. The bean counters authorized the minimal expense for the materials, but voucher must have read a bit odd!
Hi Brendon, will there be any chance that the upcoming issues of the Galaktikon comics will also go through the story of Galaktikon II?
In terms of doing illegal things to keep your cover, is there a line that UC's can't/won't cross? In other words, what would an UC do if the crew they had infiltrated wanted them to join on a murder or assassination attempt?
We're gonna see how the first one does and then figure out how to proceed!
There are absolutely lines that can not be crossed. There is policy, for UCs and Informants, concerning authorized criminal activity. Some property crime might be authorized in order to avoid compromising the safety of the UC or CI, not violent crime. And that is realistic -- many real criminals may be fine with property crime and want nothing to do with violence. If I, in my UC capacity, refuse to participate in a violent act, that does not compromise me as a UC. Me: "No way. I'm a thief, not a killer. If you want to risk a 20 year stretch, and enjoy hurting people, that's your business. Count me out." If anything, my credibility as a real criminal just went up.
What is your favorite Metalocalypse episode and why?
What was it like having so many famous musicians guest star on your show?
Out of all of the characters that you voice, which voice is the hardest/most straining to do?
Favorite fictional FBI agent(s)?
I loved the DOOMSTAR the most. It had everything I love- characters going through change, music, the best animation we've produced, a 50 piece orchestra. . .
It was amazing- i found a way to pay my heroes to hang out with me.
easy- FACEBONES. my voice would just quit at some point honking out that garbage
Vincent Terranova, the agent played by Ken Wahl in the TV show Wiseguy was great, and very realistic. Showed the emotional issues of deep cover work for the first time.
Hey Brendon, knockout job on the album. It's seriously awesome and I've had it on pretty much constantly since I got it. I have a few questions:
How did you flesh out the Galaktikon story for the comics? Was it something that was always there that you wanted to get out, or did that come after the album was released?
How do you decide what voice to use on what song? Is it driven by story and/or lyrics, by music, or something else?
Any chance we can get Doomstar back in print on vinyl, even unautographed? I missed out on that amazing album art and would love to have a copy.
Thanks! Looking forward to the rest of the Galaktikon issues and crossing my fingers for a tour!
I know when preparing a new alias, you try to get as much real life experience to make sure the alias is authentic. Did you ever have to do anything disturbing/unethical/illegal when preparing for a new alias? And if so what did you have to?
thanks for digging GII!
For the Galaktikon Comic I took the first Galaktikon record and divided up the 9 tracks into 6 issues to tell a bigger 3 act story. So as you read remember you're just reading a part of one of the acts and the story is moving fwd. and it was great to have Eric Powell from the Goon reach out and make the comic a reality. He's such a creative guy and we work well together- i love the team he put together for the comic. And Steve Mannion is so damn good! I think this makes sense as a comic book because I used to describe G I as an "audio comic book album"
and regarding voices on GII I experimented with BRUTAL and CLEAN vocals on every song until I felt like it was all lining up musically in my head- so there were vocal experiments for both on every song- I went with which voice fits the right mood/story/ sounded the coolest!
I'll work on Doomstar Vinyl!
An example of the kinds of unusual things I'd need to learn: For one case, I went to Waste Management's facility in South Florida to learn about the working of the business. Over the years I learned a little bit about a lot of professions, in order to get on the inside. As to "unethical," it depend how you view lying. I was constantly lying about who I was, my history, etc. I learned to "live a lie." But nothing illegal, and no lying that would bring harm or loss to innocent bystanders (except a little bit, in COMMCORR - I learned my lesson). Often appearing to be doing illegal activity, when I really wasn't. Selling "hot" Swatches at 1/3 of list, out of the trunk of my car in RUN DMV, to create the appearance of being a hood. I had really bought them at market price, legitimately.
I've always wanted to hear an extended version of Dwayne's solo from Guitarmageddon. Any chance you have one of those lying around?
What percentage of construction companies in a close proximity to NYC would you say are involved in the mafia?
I think it's all in the episode! my guitar playing has changed a lot since then!
The La Cosa Nostra case that I worked in the mid-2000s involved money laundering and hot jewels. I could not comment with any personal knowledge on construction.
Hi I'm interested in becoming a special agent. I am a 23 year old male with a degree in pr and a national guard Intel officer. I plan on either getting a master's in international relations or a law degree. My other plan to be competitive is just volunteering to get orders overseas. Any advice?
The law degree would be the way to go. Makes you more competitive. Not so for the MSIA.
Just wanted to say GII is a sick record and I've been jamming it nonstop all weekend. I love that you've blended the Dethklok and Galaktikon sounds so perfectly.
Since I can't think of anything that hasn't already been asked, what's your favorite song on the record? Or what was your favorite to record? I honestly can't pick any favorites yet, every track is really solid.
What do FBI agents do at embassies? I thought FBI only was for crime in US.
Thanks for digging!
I really like Ocean Galactic, Could this Be the End, To Kill A GOD. but I like them all- just really like the way those turned out- but it changes every day!
We would coordinate with the National Police and Intel Services of the host country. Exchange info on international cases and work together. In Europe it was all very formal and proper. Me: "Can you provide bank info on a suspected Wall Street fraudster?" etc. The receive a report two week later to pass on to the NYO (New York Office). Now in Paraguay, it was different. I'd be bouncing in an unmarked car with locals, a revolver tucked into my waistband.
I really enjoy the work you do in music and musical parody, and as a fellow guitarist, think your skills are absolutely phenomenal. Thunderhorse was my white whale in guitar hero and on the real guitar I still can't quite get all of it.
Along with your music, I really follow your comedy career and I think Victor and Tiny, and - I guess Willy Mapleton - are my favorite comedy characters out there. Could you talk about their origin at all? And also can I write a spec script for their pilot? I'm not sure how you could play both roles though but I can't think of something with more potential.
Thanks for all the jams and laughs! Ian
You don't look Asian, how did you infiltrate a Chinese gang?
and I love doing victor and Tiny and have thought about making a TV show with them. They really are sweet guys who have each others backs and I love that about them. And I can pay both parts easy!
As the nephew of imprisoned Mexican cartel boss Gil Sandoval. His fellow inmate, Bing Gong Yong, serving life for kidnapping and murder, ran his heroin organization from inside prison. Gil was pretending to run his cocaine business, with me as his trusted lieutenant. And we wanted to expand into the heroin business. And so it went....
Obligatory "Have you ever shot someone?" question.
But seriously, since you spent a long time in undercover operations, is it really a thing for an agent to be "in too deep" that they begin to turn or sympathize with the groups they've infiltrated?
I am going through a Phil Collins Genesis phase. He (&Genesis) are under appreciated masters of song writing. I love their chords and pedal tones
love new masto and Gojira
First, I was in one shootout, in Buenos Aires of all places, Intervening in a carjacking while off duty. First (documented) shooting by an FBI Agent outside the U.S. No one was killed, and it's not like in the movies. Not like I had imagined. Take my word for it, once was enough. I did not like being shot at. And I'm impressed, all the time, by our combat men and women in arms, more now than ever. And yes, a UC can be to deep, that's why the Bu (as we call it) had the Undercover Safeguard Unit. To monitor and protect UCs. Check out MIPORN, with UC Pat Livingston, to see what can happen to a UC who spends too much time on the dark side.
Lyrics for become the storm? Did you take longer to make this second album because you had to incorporate a somewhat ending to dethklok as well as continue the story of the first album? I see there are some songs that tie into both story lines as well as some familiar riffs such as in murmai- I mean the ocean galaktik
Thanks for answering!
I know usually that's not a great question to ask a lot of people in these positions because usually having to shoot at someone isn't ideal.
And having read up a little on Livingston, I can understand how integrating into that kind of lifestyle be dangerous. But do you think it's still likely for that to happen in other kind of organizations like the right-wing terrorist group you mentioned? Or is it more complex than people realize?
My friend Mike G. infiltrated many Aryan Nations type organizations, and came out psychologically unscathed. To do this sort of work, one needs a fairly unusual skill set and personality make up. That's why the Bu's UC Safeguard Unit is so important.
Have you ever been close to dying before?
In the Buenos Aires shootout, there was a minor miracle. The shooter, on the back of a motorcycle, fired one round into my Ford Escort's windshield, I returned fire. Later, the locals found, a few yards from my car, the magazine (clip) from his 9mm Glock. Full of ammo. After he fired the first round, the one already chambered, the magazine fell out. Either it was not properly seated, or he inadvertently depressed the release. Had that not happened, he could -- would -- have sprayed 15+ rounds into my windshield, and you wouldn't be AMAing me today.
Brendon, after the 6 issue comic of Galaktikon, do you have any plans of writing a different comic, or possibly more stories within the galaktikon universe?
Which Mafia family, and what decade?
Which movie that ISN'T Donnie Brasco were your experiences most like?
What's your favorite mob movie?
Who should play you if there is a movie about your experiences?
I love the comic book medium so I think I might just stick around a while. . .
Genovese, around 2005, in Queens and Long Island. Couldn't watch an episode of The Sopranos for years after that op. Favorite mob film: Goodfellas based on Nicholas Pileggi's book. They got it right.
what's something that was considered standard operating procedure when you started, but was changed by the time you left?
This may not be exactly what you're asking about, but addresses the issue of changing times as they affect UC work. When I started, I carried a real tape recorder, reel-to-reel. A Nagra or a Mini-Nagra. If the bad guys found it....Now recording devices are all digital, nothing to worry about, they can be disguised as anything. On the other hand, in those days there was not internet. As long as you did a decent job crating your fictitious ID, you were relatively safe as to your alias. Now there is Google, and if it looks like Alex Perez did not exist until two months ago, you've got problems.
What's the closest you've come to being uncovered?
Also have you ever had any near death experiences?
There were a few times. Once, in RUNDMV, I was chatting with a few subjects - we were friends already - in the lobby of Yonkers DMV when a subject from COMMCORR walked in. I extricated myself, close call. Then there was that shootout in Buenos Aires....
They can afford the best lawyers.
Get a law or accounting degree, work out regularly, and don't post anything online that can come back to haunt you.
Hi Marc, I know this isn't exactly your area of expertise, but is there a real "X-Files" type of department within the FBI? Or is that just purely for entertainment purposes?
If it existed, I would have heard about it. I got around a fair bit throughout the organization. It would have been a challenge: UC infiltrating the Alien Community!
Hey! Thanks for doing the AMA. How'd you get started in your field?
When I worked for Senator Moynihan in DC, as a young legislative research assistant, I met a special agent from the DEA (it may have still been the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs - BNDD in those days). He was about to retire, and made a big impression on me -- his integrity compared to what I saw around me in the Congress. If you think the mean streets are rife with crime, the absence of ethics in Washington was staggering. (I'm not referring to Moynihan, who's integrity was unparalleled).
Greettings Marc Ruskin. Were there any instances where you had to compromise your principles, and were there any time that you had to turn in a bad guy who genuinely became your friend whilst you were undercover?
No, I did not compromise my principles, and was never pressured to do so. If there was a gray area, I'd talk it out with the case agent or supervisor. And yes, there were times were I had become friends of sorts, and the subjects were ultimately arrested. Particularly in RUN DMV, in the early nineties. (Young UCs can be too eager to succeed, as I was, and as was my fellow UC in the TURKEY CLUB UN OP, with the mob, years later). Afterwards, I resolved to keep it strictly business. My attitude: "You've got friends, I've got friends -- I don't need more friends, I do need more money. I'm here to do business."
Would it be possible for the people with integrity to lose control of the organization, and if so, what would be signs that this might have happened, that the public might notice?
It is hard to imagine a scenario where leaders with integrity lose control of the Bu. There would have to be "rogue agents," a virtually impossible situation to develop. On the other hand, where there to be leaders at the top with questionable integrity, or absence of independence from political pressure, then there would be a real problem. Signs to look for would be apparently unsubstantiated investigations conducted against critics of those in high places, or conversely, the shutting down of investigations targeting those in high places.
Have you even been forced into a situation where you had to get drunk, or take drugs to keep your cover going? How do you deal with situations where you might have to "party"?
My attitude would be "I'm here to do business. Make money. I'll party when I get back to Miami." My line was often that I lived in Miami, doing deals all over the U.S. and overseas. By being elusive about where I was at any given time, I could avoid situations where a subject would want to meet right away. "Sorry, won't be in New York until next week." Ie. not until we've had time to plan it out and make it as safe as possible.
Why is it that when large financial organizations, banks mostly, have been found guilty of fraud, often hundreds of millions of dollars, that the organization is fined, but no individual in the institution is ever indicted?
I'm pretty sure Ivan Boesky and Mike Milliken were indicted, and I believe they served time. It happens, but you're right, not enough. Leaving tens of thousands of senior in poverty after stealing their savings is worse than pretty much any crime I dealt with.
Thanks for doing this AMA! My question is:
As an active military member transitioning out soon, I have always wanted to work as a special agent and work on domestic cases. I already have a TS SCI done through a SSBI from the FBI for my current job. Could this help me with the application process and what is the best way to contact for setting up an interview?
Your background sounds great. With your clearances, you've already been vetted once, and emerged as trustworthy. You'll need to apply to take the written test, but keep in mind that is years since I went through the process. You'll need to check the website for your local FBI office, and speak to a recruiter there. Good luck!
What is the best way for a criminal to secure and leverage the best deal in exchange for assistance in an investigation? What's the highest level of crime you've seen essentially forgiven in exchange for such help?
In SUNBLOCK, a UC op targeting a Malaysian Chinese global heroin importation and distribution investigation, I was posing as the nephew of Gil Sandoval (not his true name, of course), the head of a Mexican cocaine cartel in the eighties, serving "natural life" with no hope of parole. One the most interesting and challenging cases of my career. At the end, I testified on his behalf at the re-sentencing hearing. Altogether he must have served about 18 years. For a long time, our lives were in each others hands. A slip up by me, and a shiv in the back for Gil. A slip up by him, and I'd be going to a UC meet with a melancholy end.
How do you feel about the portrayal of the FBI in pop-culture?
Also, did you ever flaunt the fact that you were an agent? Not for anything nefarious, just to see how people react. Let's face it. It's a pretty bad ass job!
Agents are for the most part very nice guys and gals, with great humor. NOT like in the films at all. And we did not flaunt it. I would tell people that I was an attorney, and leave it at that. A friend from San Juan, Bob B., would tell people he worked for Social Security (he never had a follow-up question!). It's not the kind of job you want everyone to know you're doing. Just a matter of discretion. And if one person in your building finds out (as happened to me in San Juan), then the whole building knows.
What is the typical budget for an investigation, and what is the largest budget you've seen?
There is not typical budget, really. The case agent, the agent running the show, drafts a Proposal, which includes a budget (I drafted one once, for a case that I later was the UC in, and my RUN DMV case agents then handled that part of the op)s. It's a comprehensive undertaking. Big cases have to be approved at FBIHQ, with DOJ input, and if approved, so is the budget. Whatever it take to get the job done.
Which FBI TV show/movie/series do you consider the most (or somewhat) accurate in your opinion?
TV: Wiseguy. Film: The Infiltrator, Infernal Affairs, The Departed.
The FBI have always been protreyed in media as always wearing black suits no matter what.
Is this true in real life FBI?
Or do you dress differently sometimes.
The black suits are for Die Hard and Men In Black. Its a popular stereotype, and just that. Just as the stern visages and absence of humor.
What are the best ways to figure out if someone is lying to you in a face to face conversation?
Also, are you any good at poker?
I believe that it takes years of being lied to get to the point where you can tell. As and Asst. DA, I interrogated several 100s of subjects when I worked in the Investigations Bureau, and after being lied to a zillion times, I developed a feel for it. Very useful to me as a UC.
How did you make your way "in" as an undercover? It's always puzzled me how a random person can make their way into something like a NY Mafia Crime family or a big heroin organization.
Developing a credible scenario that allowed me to get my foot in the door would take months of planning. In SUNBLOCK, case agent Mark C. and I came up with a plan that I would pose as the nephew and trusted lieutenant of imprisoned Mexican cartel boss Gil Sandoval. I even traveled to Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary and spent a day with Gil, in the visitors' hall, working on our common history, so that we could pull it off. Fellow inmates saw us embrace and talk warmly, and had no doubt that I was family.
Recently saw The Infiltrator and was very impressed. One or two scenes were I thing the Hollywood screenwriters got out of hand (I would NEVER have allowed myself to be take to a meet blindfolded, no way). Better to blow off the meet. If Mr. Big wants to meet, we do it in a way that's safe for everybody. THAT is how real criminals behave. They're not going to jeopardize their safety to make a few dollars.
Have you ever had to make an arrest out of working hours?
There is no such thing as normal working hours for a UC. I would return beeps (pre cellphone days) from subjects at 11:00 PM on weekends. Otherwise those alarm bells go off in the back of their mind: "how come he only works on weekdays?"
Your thoughts on COINTELPRO, and on whether the organization is doing anything today that, when revealed, will be seen as being on that same level?
The positive consequence of COINTELPRO was the creation of the Attorney General Guidelines, which delineate in minute detail what FBI agents can and can not do. There are sections of the AG Guidelines for UC ops, and for everything else. And it is my experience that they are adhered to with near religious attention. Deviation from the Guidelines is really not tolerated. Not to say that there can't be a bad apple, but that would be the exception.