Jack Falcone: the FBI Agent Who Infiltrated the Mafia

Listen to True Spies podcast: Making Jack Falcone.

To join the Cosa Nostra you need to be of Italian descent - to talk the talk, walk the walk, and know your way around a menu. That didn't stop undercover FBI agent Joaquin ‘Jack’ Garcia, a Cuban-born American who spent more than 20 years in disguise as drug dealers, gangbangers, and baddies in a career that culminated with his infiltration into New York’s Gambino crime family.

Jack Falcone, FBI Undercover Agent
Jack Garcia, ex FBI Special Agent

Jack was even proposed for membership by influential Gambino crime family Captain Greg DePalma whose contacts included Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Dean Martin, and baseball player Willie Mays. With little more than his wits, a wire, and an encyclopedic knowledge of Italian food, Garcia infiltrated the most exclusive of New York clubs - the mob. It helped that Garcia looked the part, a burly 6'4" bruiser who grew up in New York.

Gambino, Bonanno, Colombo, Genovese. Lucchese. Five names. Five families. The Cosa Nostra - ‘Our Thing’ in Italian - is built on decades of rituals, hierarchies, and intricate codes of conduct - a hard nut to crack for an undercover officer like Garcia. Hard, but as he proved, not impossible. And despite what you hear, it seems the families are not going anywhere.

Every time you hear of one of these takedowns by the FBI: ‘Oh, the organized crime is done. Cosa Nostra is done.’ No, it isn't,” Garcia told the SPYSCAPE True Spies podcast. 


True Spies: making Jack Falcone podcast
Listen to True Spies podcast: Making Jack Falcone


FBI Special Agent Jack Garcia

Garcia was born in 1952 into a prominent Cuban family. Years later, communist dictator Fidel Castro came to power. Jack’s father was an employee of the outgoing, US-backed Batista regime so he fled the island in 1960 and moved the family to America - initially Washington Heights and later the Bronx, New York. Jack was an impressionable young boy when he watched with awe as Al Pacino starred in Serpico, a movie about a police officer who uncovers corruption in the NYPD. Jack was sold. Shortly after graduation, Jack filled in an application to join the FBI.

Jack became an American citizen in 1976 and, by 1980, he was FBI Special Agent Jack Garcia. Anxious to look the part, Jack bought a three-piece suit and wingtip shoes figuring he’d be working on bank robberies and catching fugitives. He really wanted to be an undercover operative like Serpico, though. Jack knew he could blend into New York’s underground in a way that a freshly-minted FBI agent from the Midwest could not.

When the FBI started working narcotics along with the DEA in the 1980s, Jack really blossomed. He was a fluent Spanish speaker and a natural on buy-bust cases involving major drug cartels from Colombia and Mexico. Jack moved around - Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Manhattan - and became the FBI’s go-to undercover bad guy.

Toward the end of his career, Jack took on a case that required more meticulous attention to detail. The Albanian mafia was trying to extort a Bronx businessman who ran a strip club. The gang was beating up customers and robbing the place - not just any place. The strip club was once operated by a captain in the Gambino crime family. This was Cosa Nostra territory.

The FBI was sniffing around, hoping to lock up a few low-level Albanian enforcers when a mobster linked to the Gambinos suggested the strip club owner pay the mob to ensure the Albanian gang went away. Coincidence? The FBI thought not. They figured the Gambino family was using the Albanians as a ‘cut out’, a buffer to put distance between the family, the crime of extortion, and the FBI. An idea was born.

Jack Falcone: the Cuban FBI Agent Who Infiltrated the Mafia

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Listen to True Spies podcast: Making Jack Falcone.

To join the Cosa Nostra you need to be of Italian descent - to talk the talk, walk the walk, and know your way around a menu. That didn't stop undercover FBI agent Joaquin ‘Jack’ Garcia, a Cuban-born American who spent more than 20 years in disguise as drug dealers, gangbangers, and baddies in a career that culminated with his infiltration into New York’s Gambino crime family.

Jack Falcone, FBI Undercover Agent
Jack Garcia, ex FBI Special Agent

Jack was even proposed for membership by influential Gambino crime family Captain Greg DePalma whose contacts included Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Dean Martin, and baseball player Willie Mays. With little more than his wits, a wire, and an encyclopedic knowledge of Italian food, Garcia infiltrated the most exclusive of New York clubs - the mob. It helped that Garcia looked the part, a burly 6'4" bruiser who grew up in New York.

Gambino, Bonanno, Colombo, Genovese. Lucchese. Five names. Five families. The Cosa Nostra - ‘Our Thing’ in Italian - is built on decades of rituals, hierarchies, and intricate codes of conduct - a hard nut to crack for an undercover officer like Garcia. Hard, but as he proved, not impossible. And despite what you hear, it seems the families are not going anywhere.

Every time you hear of one of these takedowns by the FBI: ‘Oh, the organized crime is done. Cosa Nostra is done.’ No, it isn't,” Garcia told the SPYSCAPE True Spies podcast. 


True Spies: making Jack Falcone podcast
Listen to True Spies podcast: Making Jack Falcone


FBI Special Agent Jack Garcia

Garcia was born in 1952 into a prominent Cuban family. Years later, communist dictator Fidel Castro came to power. Jack’s father was an employee of the outgoing, US-backed Batista regime so he fled the island in 1960 and moved the family to America - initially Washington Heights and later the Bronx, New York. Jack was an impressionable young boy when he watched with awe as Al Pacino starred in Serpico, a movie about a police officer who uncovers corruption in the NYPD. Jack was sold. Shortly after graduation, Jack filled in an application to join the FBI.

Jack became an American citizen in 1976 and, by 1980, he was FBI Special Agent Jack Garcia. Anxious to look the part, Jack bought a three-piece suit and wingtip shoes figuring he’d be working on bank robberies and catching fugitives. He really wanted to be an undercover operative like Serpico, though. Jack knew he could blend into New York’s underground in a way that a freshly-minted FBI agent from the Midwest could not.

When the FBI started working narcotics along with the DEA in the 1980s, Jack really blossomed. He was a fluent Spanish speaker and a natural on buy-bust cases involving major drug cartels from Colombia and Mexico. Jack moved around - Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Manhattan - and became the FBI’s go-to undercover bad guy.

Toward the end of his career, Jack took on a case that required more meticulous attention to detail. The Albanian mafia was trying to extort a Bronx businessman who ran a strip club. The gang was beating up customers and robbing the place - not just any place. The strip club was once operated by a captain in the Gambino crime family. This was Cosa Nostra territory.

The FBI was sniffing around, hoping to lock up a few low-level Albanian enforcers when a mobster linked to the Gambinos suggested the strip club owner pay the mob to ensure the Albanian gang went away. Coincidence? The FBI thought not. They figured the Gambino family was using the Albanians as a ‘cut out’, a buffer to put distance between the family, the crime of extortion, and the FBI. An idea was born.

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The Bronx, New York City, where Jack Falcone worked
The Bronx, New York, Cosa Nostra territory


Bada bing: shaking down the Bronx

The FBI called Jack. They wanted him to go undercover as an Italian wanna-be gangster.

“And I said: “Italian? I'm Cuban. What are you kidding me? I eat rice and beans and fried bananas,” Jack recalled. “You want me to become…” So he goes: “Yeah, listen, I think you could do it.”

Jack liked a challenge. He agreed to pose as the hapless strip club owner’s new business partner - a transplant from Miami with a taste for life’s less virtuous pursuits, looking to launder some drug money through the club. He would pay off the Gambino mobster and use that new friendship as leverage to gather intelligence on the rest of the organization.

The FBI had to move fast - any delays could mean more violence. Jack needed to establish his legend and a fake background story - and it had to be convincing. If you want to rub shoulders with the Cosa Nostra, you need to be demonstrably Italian-American. Food, and the rituals around it, are a big part of that cultural identity. So, Jack was sent to mob school and he was going to eat well doing it.

To hear more about Jack’s thrilling undercover operation, listen to True Spies podcast: Making Jack Falcone.

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