I talk to Kenny Sunday afternoon.
Since 2001, he has been an important source of information for me about organized crime. I’ve never known him to lie.
I regard his new book, Breakshot, as a compelling and important read.
Luke: "Why did you write this book?"
Kenny: "I just wanted to get my story out. The truth. I was sick of reading all those other crappy books about lies."
Luke: "Why do you think you went wrong in the first place? As a teenager?"
Kenny: "I didn’t go wrong. I wanted to do it. It was something I chose to do."
Luke: "Why do you think you were attracted to the criminal life?"
Kenny: "It was exciting. It looked like it might be fun. I get bored really easily. If I do something and I get really good at it, it’s not fun anymore. It gets boring. I’m looking for new excitement."
Luke: "What was the year you flipped over to the feds?"
Kenny: "Around 1997."
Luke: "I first talked to you in 2001. You told me then that you were working for the feds."
Luke: "How many people knew?"
Kenny: "Not many, maybe four or five."
Luke: "You put your life on the line when you let anyone know."
Kenny: "Right. I’m not scared. I don’t care. I really wasn’t scared."
Luke: "And when did you quit working with the Mob?"
Kenny: "In 2005."
Luke: "Do you think anyone in the Mob started to get a sense that you might be an informant?"
Kenny: "No. Not until I was gone off the street. I just left and I never came back. They were searching for me. That’s when they started figuring out something was not right."
Luke: Why weren’t you killed?
Kenny: "Because it is not like it is in the movies where they are going to come at you with machine guns. I’m not stupid. I’m not going anywhere with them. You have to be a retard to get killed in Brooklyn. You’ve got to go with one of your friends. I’m a dangerous guy. They already knew that. If I was free and they didn’t grab my arm, at least somebody is going down. For sure. One hundred percent. I’m taking somebody with me. And they can’t do it in public. It would be too much of a hassle. Or they could use stealth. Most of the guys who are murdered by the Mob are murdered by their friends."
Luke: "Have you stayed in touch with any of these guys?"
Kenny: "I get emails from people all the time. Not the guys who wanted to kill me, but other people. I’m like a hero to those guys in Brooklyn."
Luke: "Why are you a hero?"
Kenny: "Because I did what I did and I don’t hide. I made my own blog to laugh about it. When people call me rat, I say, yeah, so what? I am. Big deal. I changed my life. So what? I don’t make any excuse for it. I just do it. This is it. This was my life."
Luke: "So, these guys, part of them would also like to break away from the criminal life they are in?"
Kenny: "Of course. They all realize it is a zero. There’s no winners. You can’t win. The government has unlimited resources and all the time in the world. Everyone is an informant. Everybody is riding on you. There’s no chance you can beat electronic surveillance. You can’t make money for a long period of time. You’ve got maybe five years on the street and then you’re gone forever. This is no way to live a life. You can’t have a family. It’s horrible. It’s a dead end."
Luke: "So, the Italian-American Mafia is in its death throes in the United States?"
Kenny: "Everybody says it’s dead, but it’s definitely falling apart. They no longer control unions. They no longer control big industries. They don’t control pornography any more. They definitely don’t control narcotics. The quality of guy is less and less. They can’t attract new guys because they don’t want anything to do with this. If you’re smart, you’re out of it. You have no pool to pull from and the feds are all over it because it makes headlines."
Luke: "Is there another criminal element that has taken the place of the Mafia?"
Kenny: "There are many."
Luke: "How have you spent your time since leaving organized crime?"
Kenny: "Writing. Reading. Working. Studying. That’s it. Trying to do good things and get my life on track."
Luke: "Where do you find excitement now?"
Luke: "What about friends? I assume that when you ran with a criminal element, almost all your friends were associated with a criminal element?"
Kenny: "Not really. My life was always compartmentalized. No one knew what I was doing. One side didn’t know what the other side was doing. That’s why I used a fake name all the time. The criminals weren’t my friends. They were associates. That’s why I don’t have a hard time leaving that lifestyle. I really don’t care. I have plenty of friends. I have friends I grew up with my whole life."
Luke: "Do you think Tara [the great love of Kenny’s life] will ever read this book?"
Kenny: "I don’t know. She doesn’t want anything to do with me. We have friends in common."
Luke: "Has she married?"
Kenny: "Yeah, she’s married. She’s got three kids."
Luke: "How do you think this book is going to effect your life?"
Kenny: "My anonymity will be gone. I’m going to definitely be on the front page. For years and years, I avoided getting my picture taken. I avoided going to big gatherings. I avoided the spotlight… I never wanted to be the boss. I wanted to be the second guy. I wanted to blend in with the crowd."
Luke: "Which parts of your old life do you miss?"
Kenny: "I don’t miss any of it."
Luke: "What does ‘Breakshot’ mean?"
Kenny: "It’s my FBI code name."
Luke: "There’s quite a bit of philosophy in this book that I’ve never heard you articulate. Where did that come from?"
Kenny: "I’m around idiots. Why would I articulate it? I read three to four books a week every week for the last 30 years… When you are talking to a guy on the street or talking to someone in porn, what am I going to talk to them about? When I speak, they’re just going to think I’m weird. When I went to school, I got really good grades…until I didn’t care about going anymore. I have a really good memory, almost photographic memory. When I go into a room, I memorize everything. When I read something once, I get it. I speed through books. There’s never been a book that I’ve picked up where I didn’t understand it. And not a subject.
"In my new life and new career, I work with people who went to Wharton School of Business. They have no idea about me."
Luke: "When I read this book, it takes my breath away what an evil predatory character you were?"
Kenny: "If you live in the jungle, you have to hunt. You can’t live among lions and not do what they do or they’ll just eat you. The pack will take you down. You can’t play being a gangster. You’re either a gangster or you’re not a gangster. Like Joe Villa. He decided at the end of his life that he didn’t want to be a gangster anymore. That’s cool if you don’t want to be a gangster, but you’ve got to leave that world. You can’t dabble."
"When I sold cocaine, I didn’t sell it to kids. I sold it to adults ten twenty years older than me. I dealt with gangsters, crooks, thieves, con men. They’re players in the game. They know what they’re doing. They made a conscious decision that they want to get involved in that lifestyle… I always felt bad when I was in porn. That’s why I never recruited women. If I met a new woman in the business who was reluctant to do it, I just said, get someone else! I don’t want to shoot her. I don’t want anything to do with tricking some girl into doing stuff.
"You and I were in the business. You know how they start off, they’re just going to do nude pictures on their own. Oh well, I guess I’ll do girl-girl. Then they find out that they can’t make any money. So they start doing boy-girl. They push them into stuff. They create this false world."