I was a pot dealer at thirteen, a cocaine user at fourteen, a stickup kid and coke dealer at sixteen, a coke smuggler for a Mafia drug trafficker at seventeen, a car-bomber and drive-by shooter at eighteen, the leader of a major narco-trafficking crew and an undercover FBI witness at nineteen, a club owner and accused murderer at twenty, a porn producer at twenty-one. Orange County had never seen the likes of me.
Nothing gets held back in Breakshot as Kenny “Kenji” Gallo provides readers with an unsettling, honest, straight-forward, un-censored version of life in the Mafia. It’s not glorified. It’s not cool. It’s awful. That is exactly what you find throughout the pages—the reader gets the bare bones, stripped down, harsh reality version of the mob lifestyle. This is not the Sopranos. What Gallo chronicles throughout the pages of Breakshot has not received a glossy Hollywood treatment. This mob informant is the real deal. Gallo wants the public to understand what he went through, the mistakes he made, and what he saw by infiltrating mob families in California, Florida and New York. Gallo, an Asian-American middle-class “kid” from Orange County, has a solid memory for his interactions with wise guys on all levels within numerous influential families. He had the charisma and talents to gain the confidence of major players in these different mafia families.
Now that I have been strictly crime-free for nearly five years, there is no other reasonable conclusion: I was a horrible, exploitative monster by choice, because I was happiest inflicting pain, misfortune and humiliation on others. I have no alibi, no excuses—I committed crimes for pleasure.
Breakshot is full of cringe-inducing violence, despicable behavior and attitudes, beyond crude language, and over-the-top racism and sexism. I could not read Breakshot without setting it aside for periods of time. Often, this memoir truly creeped me out. I don’t know what bothered me the most: the disregard for the value of life, the blatant lack of interest in anything but getting laid and making tons of money, the arrogance and bravado, the flagrant disregard for customs and standards, or constantly putting women down. Breakshot is almost a “scared straight” for Mafioso-wannabes. This is not an easy or enviable life. Once in, it is nearly impossible to get out except through prison, witness protection or a body bag. By sharing insight and minutiae of this lifestyle, Breakshot proves in the end that Gallo lost a lot to gain very little.
I spoke with Kenji Gallo by phone from his office in Orange County, Calif.
Amy Steele [AS]: Why did you decide to write the book?
Kenji Gallo [KG]: I just wanted to get my story out. I wanted to tell it like it is. I was tired of watching and reading all these other books and movies. Tired of it. They’re all just crap. People like the Sopranos because they think it’s so real. How would they know it’s so real? It’s not even close to be real.
AS: How do you think [The Sopranos] is not close to real?
KG: Nothing in the show is even close to reality. If they’re sitting in the same place every day, the Feds would already be arresting them. No one would be speaking to a shrink. It just wouldn’t happen. They’d just kill him. No one would listen to him. It’s just phony. I’ve watched like two episodes and I saw some guy beat up another guy at a bagel shop and I said, “This is just not for me.” Women have no say so at all. Not that I have anything against women but it’s a man’s gig. It’s a man’s life.
AS: What do you want readers to take away from Breakshot?
KG: The readers can see what a real criminal thinks like. What a real organized criminal is and how it is today. It’s not just some guy in Brooklyn going to a social club and playing cards. I was a real mobile 21st century criminal. I used computers. I used cell phones. It wasn’t a bunch of old guys dressed in suits. All of my friends are young. They can see that it’s a waste of life. All these music videos, everything that portray “the life,” all those that wannabe like that . . . people die. A lot of my friends are dead. It’s not cool. Hopefully people will see that. I wasted 20 years for no reason.
AS: That sometimes comes across but I had to put the book down a lot. It’s so violent and upsetting that I’d have to read something else and then come back and read a little bit. So I guess you did what you set out to do then.
KG: If you read any other organized crime book, [writer’s note: I have not and there is not one high on my TBR list.] it’s always a guy saying that he really didn’t do that much bad, he had a real bad childhood, he was beat by his dad or stepdad, he grew up in poverty, blah, blah, blah. And they’re all lying. They’re just making an excuse. I don’t make any excuse. Not even one excuse. I just did it because I wanted to do it. That’s it. It’s just right out there for everyone to see. Criminals aren’t nice guys. They aren’t funny. They’re ignorant. It’s a grind being around them. So it is upsetting.
AS: Why do you think the criminal lifestyle did have such an appeal to you when you were this “nice O.C guy”?
KG: I just get bored really easy and it just had this allure to me and I just thought I hadn’t got to the right point yet. I thought, ‘I’m not to where it’s going to be really glamorous.’ And it just never was. It’s not the lifestyle that people think it is.
AS: If you were so smart, you just never wanted to become more educated and go to college?
KG: I did go to college but I didn’t finish college. I also read about three to five books a week, anything I can get my hands on, on any subject. I really like history. In my lifetime, looking back, I really would have loved to have been a history professor or teacher. But I kind of just left home. That’s why I changed my name. My family has nothing to do with my life. Nothing to do with me.
AS: You’re so much nicer to talk to, not what I expected at all. In every chapter you say you are this “smart, clean-cut, well-spoken guy.” Why did you feel like you had to say that? Were you trying to point out the thuggishness of a lot of the other people? I think that’s one of the things I couldn’t take. The treatment of women. There was this one guy who said, “Oh Kenji you just have to treat women like crap, like property. They aren’t worth anything.”
KG: They’re really stupid. At the end, I couldn’t wait to get off the streets. I couldn’t wait for the FBI guy. I was so happy because I couldn’t take being around them anymore. I was never the kind of guy who cheated on his wife or cheated on his girlfriend. I just wasn’t that kind of guy. I’m a nice guy to women. I had a lot of women friends. I had gay friends, I had friends who were black, friends who were Mexican. It’s just not the norm for that kind of lifestyle. I wanted different things and that’s where a lot of the differences were. I wasn’t a big drug addict and drinker like the rest of these guys. I treated women different. And I read all the time. I’d have a book with me all the time and they would make fun of me. I held them in contempt. I kind of looked at the world like I was an anthropologist. I just watched, observed. The thing with me is I actually took notes just for my own purposes back then.
AS: So that’s how you could have such a good recall too to write the book.
KG: Oh yeah, I have a really good memory. I remember details of what we did that day. And I wasn’t high or drunk so it made things a lot easier.
AS: In the beginning though, you were dealing drugs and using them. Isn’t that sort of against the rules?
KG: I didn’t really use them every day. If we went out, I’d use drugs. If I was working, there was no way. My work ethic, everyone knows. Even now, I get up at 4 a.m. I go do cardio. I’m behind my desk by six. I’m working. I’m emailing. I’m doing this book and everything else. At 12, I do jujitsu for three hours. I come back and work for another hour and then I go home. I haven’t missed a day in two years.
AS: You had the top porn star lays list which I did not like. And you had your ex-wife Tabitha at five which I thought was pretty degrading. What was the point of putting that list in the book?
KG: Well, it’s not degrading if you knew my ex-wife. It is what it is. A lot of guys wanted that. I didn’t really care. I didn’t really want it in there but people ask about it all the time. I just put it there because it’s pretty well known the girls I hung out with. [Tabitha]’s really made a mess of herself. I did care about her a lot, honestly. I loved her. I wished I could help her. I still care about her. I don’t want anything bad to happen to her. She was special to me and I wish her the best. They [porn stars] are looking for attention. They are constantly seeking that father figure that they can’t find. Nothing is good enough for them and nothing ever will be until they find happiness within themselves.
AS: So you’re saying that you didn’t treat women that objectively? You can tell this really bothered me. At a lot of points in the book, women are demeaned and described in negative terms.
KG: I’ll clear this up. I was speaking negatively about the porn women because they don’t want to help themselves. They’re selling themselves and their bodies out for a few pennies. They make themselves look as bad as everyone else. That’s the point I’m trying to get at. I would never raise my hand to a woman. I treat every woman with respect as long as she treats herself with respect.
AS: You talked about the mafia code of honor and that you didn’t respect it. What are your thoughts on that?
KG: There is no code of honor and the rules only apply to those who they don’t like. They steal each other’s money. They steal each other’s wives. If a guy goes to prison, they rip off everything that he has. Out of sight out of mind. They don’t take care of anyone. And they all sell drugs and they all do whatever they can to make money. So there is no code of honor.
AS: So you said you were really ready to get out. How difficult was it to flip and work for the FBI?
KG: As soon as they asked me, I thought for like seconds and said, “Yeah, sure.” They said, “You don’t want to talk to a lawyer about it.” I said, “I made my decision. I’m on Team America.” They offered me a new life. I was over it. And I just wanted out. To leave the life, hasn’t been difficult at all. I don’t miss anyone in the business.