There is a battle for history going on in America. The winners will write it and for all the rest of human time the losers will be whatever the winners say they are. The fight is hardly over truth, justice, philosophy or perspective. It is all about the dollars. And a good illustration of this new history in our recently commoditized world is a book “written” by a self-proclaimed hero currently named Charles Falco with the assistance of the “true crime” writer Kerrie Droban.
The book is titled Vagos, Mongols and Outlaws: My Infiltration of America’s Deadliest Biker Gangs. It will be officially published by the Thomas Dunne division of St. Martin’s Press on February 5, 2013.
I started looking for this Falco guy in May 2012 after he was interviewed by a Fox crime reporter in Los Angeles. The reporter’s name is Chris Blatchford. His “investigative report” was titled “The Green Nation is on a mission to replace the Hells Angels as the baddest outlaw biker gang.” The Green Nation – for anyone who just stumbled upon these words while searching for discounted beauty products or classic rock CDs – refers to the Vagos Motorcycle Club. Members of that club tend to wear a lot of green.
Police have long accused the Vagos of being a ruthless mafia. And, although the Vagos sincerely feel exactly the same way about the police, correct thinking Americans are compelled by both right wing and left wing social orthodoxy to agree with the cops. At the same time there is no denying that outlaw bikers are now a mass media commodity. You’ve probably noticed this. If you haven’t there may be other subtleties of the post-millennial world that yet elude you. Like, that little thing you see everywhere that looks like a model of one the black slabs in 2001: A Space Odyssey, is called an iPhone. Yes. It is spelled just like that. Welcome to Eisenhower’s nightmare.
An unignorable segment of the world’s male population, with a correspondingly obvious pile of loose cash, is fascinated with men like the Vagos. Motorcycle outlaws are the new James Bond. Like Bond, no one wants to defend them, no one wants to know them, no one in his right mind even wants to stand next to one of them lest they get blown up but very many men want to be them: Because of the untraceable guns; the uninhibited stompings and stabbings; the beautiful, easily available, wanton, multi-orgasmic women; the forbidden intoxicants; and, best of all, because outlaws demand the fear and respect that is usually reserved only for political nerds and the business school graduates who majored in stealing other people’s houses and pensions. The Vagos represent something unacknowledged but unforgotten in postmodern males. And, this fantasy identification with capable, confident, free, proud and dangerous men may say something about what has gone wrong with America. It might even partly explain the continuing cablecast of Sons of Anarchy on FX and The Devils Ride on Discovery. But, history is no longer about meaning. Blatchford illustrates that.
Blatchford was working both sides of this street during his two part, Sunday night, sweeps month news event. The story was so important that Fox devoted almost 15 minutes to the subject, divided between two newscasts, betting that Blatchford could manufacture enough vicarious thrills that his audience would tune in and then not change channels minute after minute after endless, commercial free, television minute. Fox accused the Vagos of being traffic scofflaws, psychopaths and sexists. Blatchford owns a George Foster Peabody Award, but in L.A. he is more famous for his dramatic delivery. He is to Los Angeles something like what John Facenda once was to Philadelphia. Blatchford explained one snatch of footage with a stentorian, “Even their own women, as you can see spelled out on the back of their jackets, are branded property of the Vago who owns them.” No matter how this pronouncement might look on a page it sounded more important when Blatchford said it.
Falco was one of the biker authorities Blatchford interviewed on camera. Falco is a large man with a slight lisp. He wore cool, dark glasses and the television reporter identified him as “Charles Falco who infiltrated the Vagos for two and a half years.”
I have a long and continuing interest in the world of motorcycle clubs and it seemed to me at the time that what Blatchford’s story really meant was that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was preparing for the long-expected racketeering case against the Vagos by softening up the jury pool. Now I think Blatchford’s expose had at least as much to do with history, cross media synergy and, of course, bucks.
The ability to type words into the Google search field also revealed that Falco was the subject of a forthcoming book then titled Inside Out: My Life Undercover with the Vagos. It took months to find the capsule review Blatchford wrote for Falco’s book. Chris loved it. “The paranoia of crooks, the desperation of incarceration, the fear of getting whacked, and survival working undercover in a brutal biker world devoid of common decency. You can read about it all in this book. But Charles Falco actually lived it and miraculously came out a better man. Chris Blatchford, author of The Black Hand”
I started looking for Falco approximately as an ugly, old drunk looks for love. I blindly bumped into bodies until eventually, one metaphorical closing time, I got lucky.
Falco’s name used to be Ashley Charles Wyatt. I don’t quite believe him when he tells me this but I later learn that he is at least named Ashley Wyatt and he has always answered to Charles. He went to high school in the San Fernando Valley and he has Wyatt tattooed on the back of his head. At one point he also had a Vagos Victorville side rocker tattooed on his right torso. Vagos remember him well.
In the club he was called Charles or sometimes Tijuana Charles – the latter because he was almost arrested one night for pissing on a wall down Mexico way. The club name he gives himself in interviews including his interview with Blatchford and in “his” book is Quickdraw. That phrase was a jest thrown at him one night in a bar. The throwaway line was preserved on audio, in a device hidden in his asthma inhaler and apparently, after almost seven years reflection, he decided he liked Quickdraw better than Charles. There isn’t anything particularly wrong or unusual about revising one’s personal recollections. “Yes, I have a thousand tongues,” Stephen Crane confessed, “And nine and ninety-nine lie.” I think the lies mean something different with Falco than they did with Crane though, because Crane was honest and self-deprecating about his life while Falco now seeks to alchemize his personal recollections into a valuable commodity.
“What do you think when you hear that? ‘Quickdraw,’” a gracious gentleman asks me as I prepare to write this.
“Gunfighter,” I answer. The gentleman makes a silent, contemptuous gesture.
Falco also claims that members of the American Outlaws Association may remember him as “Chef,” possibly a reference to a previous career he claims as a methamphetamine manufacturer.
Falco has a Reno phone number but, he tells me, “I do not live in Reno and never have. I entered the Witness Protection Program in 2007. Thus, I was given a complete new identity which is what I use now.”
After riding with the Vagos the snitch earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, mostly online, in Bible Studies from Liberty Christian University and he went significantly into debt doing it. That surprised me. I had not previously known that a seeker could actually go into debt studying the Bible but Falco told me he had. And, even the United States Marshals are powerless against the kingpins of the student loan racket. “The Marshals do not allow you to get out of past debt,” Falco explains. “So in my case I owed several thousand dollars in student loans that I still pay under Ashley. These bills are sent to Marshal mail drops, which are then sent to DC, which are then sent to my area Marshal field office, who then sends them to me. I have several of these Marshal mail drops in California and Nevada that I use. Kind of cool on how this works! I am no longer in this program, but they still forward my mail. Even after you leave the WPP you keep your new identity, since it is now your legal new name. I hope that makes sense.”
The logistics made sense even if the part about going into debt reading the Bible did not. A face-to-face interview might have helped me better understand but my conversations with the snitch were accomplished in writing, by email with his muse and chronicler Kerrie Droban acting as an intermediary.
Falco has a GMX.com email address. Global Mail Exchange is a German telecommunications company. And, after I wrote to him at [email protected] he insisted that we use one of Droban’s email accounts. I suspect he is in Phoenix. If he wanted to avoid Vagos, Mongols and Outlaws as he has reasons to do, he might feel most safe in Cave Creek near Sonny Barger’s home, but that is only my blind hunch.
Even if Falco is exactly where I think he is as long as he is careful he will remain virtually invisible. There are at least two other Charles Falcos in Arizona. One of them is an almost famous, Harley riding, physics professor in Tucson. That Charles Falco was one of the curators of the Guggenheim museum’s famous exhibit “The Art of the Motorcycle.” So if you just Google Charles Falco and Arizona and motorcycle you will get the wrong man every time. The professor and the snitch both wear dark mustaches. A second Charles Falco in Arizona is an old guy in Yuma.
Falco agrees to be interviewed. “I am not doing this interview because I think you will make my book a best seller,” he explains. “My main purpose is to give you correct information.”
I begin with the obvious. “Will you be answering the questions or Kerrie? I’m sure it would be lovely to have a conversation with her but I would prefer to have a conversation with you.”
“I don’t know how to prove to you that I am not Kerrie,” the snitch replies promptly, “but I can tell you that she is a much better writer than me.” He answers multiple questions in a single paragraph. “I have never had anything to do with the HA. They were hunting us as Outlaws though, so I know how they operate. I never heard of a five part plan to get rid of motorcycle clubs. The ATF is not interested in motorcycle clubs, just motorcycle gangs. I think the ATF has done a great job in decreasing the amount of criminal activity these gangs participate in. If you compare the U.S. biker gangs of the seventies and eighties with current U.S. biker gangs, they have about ten percent of the criminal power they once had. I believe this (is the result of) the great job law enforcement (has done) in bringing these gang members to justice. I truly believe that.” Maybe he truly does.
The interview with the snitch stretches out. Near its conclusion, I while away a pleasant evening near the Beverly Hills end of the Sunset Strip with some gracious gentlemen who knew Ashley Charles Wyatt during all of his adventure with the Vagos. In the course of the conversation, as the night turned cold and I began to shiver, I asked the gentlemen to summarize Ashley Wyatt for me.
“Pussy,” one answered immediately.
“Snake!” A gracious gentleman shook his finger and another nodded his head up and down. “In a word, snake.”
“Punk,” one of them added in case I missed their point.
“Also, he is stoned all the time.”
“Like obnoxiously stoned. Constantly.”
“And, he’s not very smart.”
Falco’s stupidity may be why he, unlike most biker authorities, has heard of me. “I have been reading your articles for years,” he tells me, “and I know you lean toward the one percenter side of stories.” He is broadminded and tolerant of my shortcomings. “While, I know most of what you believe about the ATF is incorrect I still value your right to free speech.”
If only we had been able to meet face to face I’m sure I would have said, “Thank you.”
Falco is evasive and vague about the events that led him to betray a group of men who all call each other “brother.”
The gracious gentlemen in West Hollywood are much more straightforward. “Charles was arrested in 1995 in Las Vegas for armed robbery. He got 5 years. Not sure if it was suspended or how that ended up. He was then rearrested at LAX for failing to declare over twenty thousand in cash that he was carrying on his person. Then he admitted it was drug money. He sold himself to the world and in March 2004 he started hanging around the Vagos. The raids were in March 2006 so he was around the club for a few days less than two years. Does that help?” It helped.
While Wyatt/Falco was awaiting sentencing, “he called every police force he could find and volunteered to work for them. He finally hooked up with the DEA and then with the ATF.”
Falco’s version is more cinematic. It is also contradicts what I have been told by multiple sources. Not that that means anything. Truth plus two dollars will buy you a cup of coffee.
“I started as a DEA informant,” Falco says, beginning where all good story tellers begin, in the middle of things, “and I was one for two years before I became an informant for the ATF. Prior to becoming an informant for the DEA, I was a drug dealer.
“I was one of the most loyal criminals I had ever met. I made most of my closest friends a small fortune. During those years I would have died before turning. That was before I was betrayed by everyone, loved ones, friends and business partners. Of course, shortly after this life changing betrayal, the DEA and US Customs raided my house. I had been betrayed in every way even though I had been loyal in every way. When the cops raided my house I was in a bottomless pit and that day my life was saved. I became an informant. But not by betraying friends. Instead I worked the streets like an undercover going after criminals that I had no prior relationship with. I started to enjoy the work and started realizing the horribleness of my past deeds. Working undercover made me feel like I was repenting for my misdeeds and I felt like I was paying back society.
“After two years of working for the DEA I decided that I wanted to do something big, like infiltrating a gang, but I was not sure which kind or which one. I convinced my DEA handler that me infiltrating a gang was the best way I could help society and myself. My handler referred me to a Detective in the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department who worked organized crime groups. I spoke with this detective and told her I could infiltrate any gang that a white male could become a member of and that all I needed to know was where they hung out. She said the gang that was committing a high amount of serious crimes was the Vagos MC. I had heard of them, but I had no prior relationship with any biker gang members, period. So she gave me the names of the bars where they hung out and from that information I was able to infiltrate the Victorville Chapter of the Vagos. Once I started to get close to some of the Vagos and it seemed I might be able to get in I was introduced to Koz and Carr (ATF Agents Darrin Kozlowski and John Carr). From there, the DEA handed me over to the ATF and Koz became my handler.”
“Koz is my hero. No other man has done more for me than him. He is a great man! You have wrong impressions of this guy and the rest of his team. They never, ever, went after these gangs as a personal vendetta. The ATF works gangs, that’s what they do.
“Koz is a great man. He always treated me with respect. He never looked down on me. He became a friend. He has always been there for me. Since I was an honest and devoted CI the ATF treated me as one of their own. In fact, they told the Vagos this when they arrested them. They still treat me this way. In fact, everyone I meet in law enforcement treats me as an equal, which is awesome. The government is much more loyal, fair, respectful and honest than any biker gang, criminal organization or maybe even any organization period. They are a true brotherhood of loyal, and honest friends.
“Ciccone (ATF Agent John Ciccone), Carr and Koz work biker gangs not because they have something personal against biker gangs but because it is their job to bring gang members to justice. The conspiracy stories are fiction when it comes to these three guys.”
In his book Falco describes himself as “a former Marine and ‘hard-core drug dealer,’ a ‘coyote’ who once smuggled human cargo across the border from Mexico.”
When asked to elaborate on his days in the drug business the snitch tells me, “I did move weight…I was a horrible man. From 1991 to 1995 I was a mid-level cocaine dealer. In 1996 I switched to selling meth. From 1998 to 2001 I manufactured about 125 pounds a year in meth, mostly in LA.”
I wanted to know more about his tragic betrayal by his friends.
“My betrayal I will not go too much into because I have forgiven and gone on with my life. It is very painful to reflect back, but I will tell you that everyone I was close to, with the exception of one person, betrayed me. Shortly, after the betrayals I became addicted to my own meth and shortly after that I was busted, so the police came at the perfect time. I was near death when they raided my house which turned around my life. After getting out of federal jail, I gave up meth and gave up living as a criminal.”
Falco’s statements to me and in his book are all a weird mix of truth and lies. It is obvious that he thinks I am so stupid that I will never catch on – and that I am so clueless that I will never try to verify what he says. For example, he does not tell me the name of the “Detective in the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department who worked organized crime groups.” In his book Falco calls her “Samantha Kiles.” Multiple public documents call her “Shelli Kelly.” The lie about Samantha/Shelli/Kiles/Kelly stands out in hindsight because it is blatantly gratuitous. I began to realize that Wyatt/Falco lies because he likes to lie and also because he can’t stop himself.
He tells me: “I was not paid anything for Operation 22 Green…. You don’t work for the ATF for money. If you are doing it for money you would work for the FBI or DEA…. I did it because I felt like I was doing something great for our society and the government asked for my help.”
So I asked him, “How did you survive while you were doing volunteer undercover work? The usual procedure is that registered CIs earn a salary, which is now up to about $2,500 a month. In general, CIs participate in criminal activity. That is the point of CIs. Officially UCs, undercover agents and TFOs, tactical field officers, cannot commit crimes so CIs do the crimes instead. In general, CIs keep the profits from their crimes. Additionally, CIs are paid a performance bonus that typically reaches six figures when their work on their case is done. Let me ask you again, what and how were you paid?”
He replies, “While I was doing the Vago case I was told even a DUI could put me back in jail. We knew I would have to get in bar fights occasionally, but that was it. I took it on myself to take a hit of a marijuana joint if it was passed around and I was in front of a large group of Vagos. I did this so that they would not think I was a law enforcement officer. The ATF did not want me to even do something as minor as smoking a joint, but I thought I needed to. Otherwise, I would have looked too clean. If a CI is committing serious crimes while working undercover he or she would be charged for a crime just like anyone else. Just because you’re a CI does not mean you are above the law.”
I am still too dull to understand how Falco kept a roof over his head, food in his belly and gas in his tank.
“It was fair that I did not get paid for Operation 22 Green; I was still under heavy charges. Even though I had already done a couple years of work for the government I felt like and still do that I owe them my life. For me Rebel, the government saved me, so I feel forever indebted.”
“I am a Christian. I teach the youth group at my church. For me God and the Government saved my life.”
“I do not have anything personal against one percenters. I look at them as the same as any other gang, no worse no better, but they are a gang. They fight and kill over territory they do not own. While doing the Vagos’ investigation I worked a 9 to 5 job. I delivered car parts for a dealership. I also worked as a handyman for the Vago chapter president of the chapter I infiltrated.”
That Victorville chapter President was Scott “Psycho” Sikoff. He was Wyatt/Falco’s most loyal friend and defender in the club and his only visible means of support. The snitch later reported to his handlers that his friend had sold him weed and fought by his side. Sikoff was subsequently charged with assault with a deadly weapon and distribution of marijuana.
When I become too annoying Falco writes, “I think you still look at our society from a one percenter view point which is anti-social. I could be wrong but your opinions seem slanted that way. I hope that does not offend you. In no way do I think I am better than you or anybody else. As an ex-criminal the first thing I had to change when going straight was the way I thought. When you’re a criminal or gang member you try to justify why you do what you do. When I was a criminal I thought the only thing that was wrong to do was hurt or kill the innocent or snitch. That is a completely anti-social way of looking at the world.”
“These one percenter clubs, gangs, are not as loyal as people think. After Operation Black Diamond (Falco’s last infiltration for the ATF) more than half the members (of the American Outlaws Association that were) charged turned. The loyalty and brotherhood these clubs say they have for each other is one hundred percent bullshit. Not only do they betray each other after being arrested, but they were doing it all the time behind each other’s backs – fucking each other’s old ladies, lying, gossiping, and backstabbing each other for power. Betrayal is the normal part of the outlaw lifestyle and I don’t say this just because of my betrayal when I was a drug dealer, but because it was a constant part of what the outlaw bikers did to each other. I witnessed it day in and day out. It is not CIs and UCs these gangs should be watching out for. It is themselves.”
Some of what Falco tells me about this counterculture is true and some of it is not. The Vagos, like all outlaw clubs, strictly forbid adultery with a club brother’s woman. The old lady to whom he refers was the wife of the other ATF confidential informant in Operation 22 Green. All motorcycle outlaws gossip and they probably gossip a little more about each other than the general population because clubs tend to be very closed societies. I am not sure Falco really wants me to pursue the subject of truth and lies with him.
“I have told some people that I am interviewing ‘a snitch,’” I write. “Is that a fair term, in your opinion? Do you consider yourself a cop? I watched a little of a bad Tommy Lee Jones movie called Black Moon Rising the other day. The blurb described Jones’ character as a ‘freelance FBI agent.’ Ever consider yourself a ‘freelance ATF agent?’”
“Calling me a snitch is a little harsh, since I did not snitch on these guys, but I can picture you referring to me as a ‘snitch,’” he answers. “Again, I was never (one of those) one percenter(s) who got busted and decided to rat his friends out so he did not have to go to jail. From the first second, I met these guys I was working for the government. Their true brothers that betrayed them would be snitches, not me. I always called myself a private government contractor. Of course, I don’t think I am a cop. I’m not crazy. But they do treat me as one of their own.”
I sought and interviewed Falco/Charles/Tijuana Charles/Ashley because I was interested in the psychology of men who do what the snitch did. My first guess was that maybe he identified with the police. And near the end of his book he or Droban wrote, “Post-traumatic stress – it floated through my subconscious…. I escaped into the company of other agents. We formed our own brotherhood bound by common trauma…. All of us prepared each day to sacrifice our lives for a greater cause…. Like the other agents, I lived my life off duty.”
I conclude the snitch is a narcissist and probably a psychopath. No, I am not a psychologist. You don’t exactly have to be Sigmund Freud to see that Falco is a narcissist. You only have to have gone to community college. That one time. For a couple of days. Or so.
Factually, Falco was a participant in three, intertwined, ATF run, biker investigations. All three were connected to a small cadre of ATF agents that members of the Bureau have frankly called “Ciccone’s Gang” after ATF biker specialist John Ciccone. Ciccone, who expects to retire in another two years, has spent most of his career in the Bureau investigating, collecting intelligence about and making cases against outlaw motorcycle clubs. He has – by his own account but there is no reason to doubt him – participated in more than 200 motorcycle club investigations. He works out of the ATF Field Office in Glendale, California. And since 1997, beginning with a “One Percenter Task Force” investigation of the Hells Angels and the Sundowners Motorcycle Clubs in Los Angeles, Ciccone has worked with ATF agents William Queen, Jay Dobyns, Vincent Cefalu, John Carr and Darrin Kozlowski on multiple occasions. Ciccone is a short, appealing and handsome man who has taken pains to avoid public attention but two of the associates, Queen and Dobyns, have written best selling books. Dobyns and Cefalu have reinvented themselves as “ATF whistleblowers.” Carr has participated in a direct way in at least four investigations of biker clubs. Kozlowski has participated in undercover investigations of the Vagos twice, the Warlocks twice, the Outlaws, the Hells Angels, the Mongols and the Sons of Silence. An outlaw named Kevin “Spike” O’Neill who is now serving a life sentence has called Kozlowski a psychopath.
Most Americans think police investigate crimes. Ciccone’s gang tries to catch club members in the act of committing crimes. Sometimes they suggest the crimes. Frequently, these government agents facilitate real or imagined crimes – going so far as to act out episodes of “guerilla theater” (a term used by an Assistant U.S. Attorney following one of these investigation) including staged gunfights and game planned drug transactions. Typically, these investigations involve extensive electronic and other surveillance and data mining of club members in the hopes of catching someone somewhere doing something illegal. What those members get caught doing are usually minor assaults and minor drug and firearms transactions that would be prosecuted in state court if they were committed by anybody but a motorcycle club member. But, motorcycle club members and associates are almost always prosecuted under the racketeering statutes called RICO and VICAR which carry penalties of up to life imprisonment. Although it is not illegal to belong to a motorcycle club, club members are frequently coerced into pleading guilty to that non-existent crime. The ATF, to a lesser extent the FBI, and with increasing frequency the Department of Homeland Security are all at war with motorcycle clubs. The war is international and it is intended to drive all motorcycle clubs out of existence. Creative legal strategies have been devised to punish members for simply belonging to clubs like the Vagos, Mongols and Outlaws.
In the most successful investigations, ATF agents or their proxies, called Confidential Informants or Sources of Information, actually join clubs in order to both gather information about the membership and practices of the target organization but also, when the opportunity presents itself, to discover or manufacture reasons to prosecute club members. It is an astonishingly expensive war on social and political dissent. It has intensified since the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks. It is, in fact, the greater part of the domestic “war on terror.” This part of the war against Al Qaeda is legitimized by rhetoric. Members and associates of clubs like the Vagos and the Outlaws are routinely called “domestic terrorists” and “street terrorists.” The clubs themselves are usually called “transnational gangs.”
Falco was an agent proxy in Operation 22 Green, Operation Black Rain and Operation Black Diamond. The names of these investigations are coined by bureaucrats for their estimated public relations effect.
Operation 22 Green employed two confidential informants, many dozens of ATF Agents and local police and lasted three years. During that time Falco and another informant made 25 alleged contraband purchases. At the conclusion of the long investigation police seized 132 legal firearms and two illegal firearms, 46 grams of cocaine, a total of about ten ounces of methamphetamine (I neglected to ask Wyatt/Falco if he cooked that crank), $15,000 in currency that was all later returned, firecrackers which were identified in the press as “explosives,” more than one thousand rounds of legally purchased and owned ammunition and numerous articles of clothing that indicated the wearer belonged to or supported the Vagos. Police also confiscated personal computers, photo albums, family souvenirs, cell phones and other personal items. The raids themselves were intended to punish their victims for belonging to a motorcycle club. At the conclusion of 22 Green 700 militarized police carried out an infantry assault intended mostly to punish club members and their families by wrecking their homes.
During the raids one Vago was found to have a Chinese throwing star embedded in a wall. He was charged with possession of a deadly weapon. Another Vago, a former martial arts instructor, home made a set of nunchucks thirty years before then literally nailed them to his garage wall as a decoration. He was charged with manufacturing a deadly weapon. During the dawn raids, a mother was pulled from her shower and dragged outside naked. A nine-year-old girl was only allowed to urinate if she let two Sheriffs watch.
Falco’s crowning achievement in this investigation was the tape recording of incriminating statements by a man who had knowledge of a homicide. The homicide was the result of a drug robbery gone wrong. One shot was fired, arguably by accident. One man was killed and a woman was wounded by the same bullet. Two subjects were charged with murder. One of them became a cooperating witness and was sentenced to one year in jail for voluntary manslaughter. The other suspect, Daniel Lee Foreman, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. It was not an open and shut case. Foreman would later write, “I was originally offered a seven year plea agreement on this same case…. The fact is, I turned it down on principle. Why should I accept any time for a crime I hadn’t committed?”
Falco told me, “Operation 22 Green was successful in my eyes, just for the murder case alone….”
After entering the witness protection program in 2007 Falco relocated to Lynchburg, Virginia and worked as a mechanic. He decided the next year “to return to my life undercover, but this time as a well-paid informant.” He volunteered with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to try to infiltrate the Hells Angels in Ontario in return for $1 million. When that fell through his mentor and hero Kozlowski introduced him to the Richmond, Virginia chapter of the Mongols. At the same time, Kozlowski was working undercover as a member of the Cypress Park, California chapter of the Mongols. It was the conclusion of ATF Operation Black Rain and the Virginia Mongols were entirely the invention of the ATF. The Bureau, using a paid confidential informant named Daniel Horrigan and a source of information named Lars Wilson, established the Virginia Mongols as a way to gain information about other motorcycle clubs in Virginia. After the raids that officially concluded Black Rain, the three ATF agents and two paid confidential informants who comprised the Virginia Mongols applied for membership in another motorcycle club, the American Outlaws Association.
That investigation was eventually named Operation Black Diamond. Twenty-seven Outlaws were indicted for racketeering in June 2010. Most of them pled guilty to racketeering, which might sound impressive unless you understand that under current case law every organization is a racket and every member who has broken any law in the last ten years is a racketeer. The Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church are, technically, rackets. Virtually no one beats a racketeering charge at trial. Everybody except for the very rich and powerful pleads guilty to racketeering because it is usually the smart move. One Outlaw was gunned down by federal agents in Maine. The charges against another were dropped. The racketeering acts with which the men were charged included having illegal slot machines in Outlaws clubhouses, buying and selling contraband and several minor and not so minor assaults.
The big target in Operation Black Diamond was Outlaws National President Jack Rosga, a 53-year-old grandfather with no criminal record who was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Falco/Chef played virtually no part in Operation Black Rain and was mostly an observer during Operation Black Diamond. All of the war on the motorcycle outlaw menace in this moment in America is a kind of a circus. And in that circus Ashley/Falco/Charles/Chef was once one of the clowns. And that proves to be the single most annoying thing about “his” book. The putative author has no story to tell.
“How did you connect with Kerrie Droban?”
“I saw Kerrie on Gangland,” the snitch answers. “So, I read her book. I thought it was great. I found her email address and asked if she would be interested in writing my book.”
“Blatchford was doing a story on the Vagos and he was referred to me. We talked on the phone and I told him I would love to do an interview with him. I watched him for years in L.A. and have always enjoyed his reports. He was very nice, professional. Other than that I don’t know much more about him.”
“Who referred you?”
“Blatchford was referred to me by my agent. He seemed to be a bright and nice guy. He loves to expose the truth about gangs, which I think is a noble thing.”
Falco’s agent is San Diego literary agent Jill Marsal. Marsal politely declined to comment about the Falco book. But she probably represents Falco in only a limited way called “hip-pocketing” which means she represents Falco for this one project. Her relationship with Kerrie Droban is more established.
Droban is an attorney, a former prosecutor and a mother who practices law in a country club suburb north of Phoenix. She aspires to earn what Robert Frost’s called the “gift word,” which is “poet.” Droban is widely reviled in the outlaw world. Many club members think her total lack of sympathy for and her fatuousness about motorcycle outlaws is annoying. And, just when she is starting to enjoy some commercial success she seems to be fading as a writer. Long before she became a biker authority Droban wrote a few lines I particularly like.I’ll tell you about my days in Kenya: Inevitably, flying termites litter the porch With wings in the season of heavy rain. Males struggle naked on the stones, Their female mates already gone. Umbula, the cook, fries them in chocolate. I cannot describe the taste
There has never been much money in poetry and after her days in Kenya, if there actually were days in Kenya, Droban became a prosecutor. Her prince turned out to be a Glendale, Arizona homicide detective named Sergei Droban. She turned to prose and she had no more success than most writers until her social and professional connections introduced her to the ATF infiltration of the Arizona Angels. Her first publishing success was Running With The Devil. It was the best book published about Operation Black Biscuit. Although, that is faint praise. The other writers were the pompous and self-important Julien Sher, the psychotherapeutically intriguing Jay “Bird” Dobyns and the children’s book author Nils Johnson-Shelton.
Voila! The poet began to appear in publicity photos wearing a black leather jacket. Step by step, Droban stopped being a writer and instead became a “brand.” As dogs learn to sit up and beg, she learned to say, “My author brand is graphic realism. Raw, gritty stories that demand an audience.” Marsal became her agent and she sold Droban’s second biker book, Prodigal Father, Pagan Son: Growing Up Inside the Dangerous World of the Pagans Motorcycle Club, to a mystifyingly successful writer and editor at St. Martin’s Press, named Rob Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick, 43, became a big success after he wrote a bad and un-insightful book about the year 1969 called 1969. He sold and was paid for what the world most needs now, yet another biography of Bruce Springsteen, and he published a biography of former Senators shortstop Cecil Travis. He has been described as “a journalist, a historian, a sociologist, and a sportswriter.” He has been a talking head on the History Channel and he “also writes about film, music, sports, and cultural issues for The Huffington Post.” After he published Prodigal Father, Pagan Son he bought the rights to Droban’s collaboration with Wyatt/Falco in November 2011.
About his work as an editor Kirkpatrick has written, “I specialize in narrative nonfiction and have built an eclectic list including history, sports, pop culture, and biography/memoir. I look to publish entertaining and compelling stories – especially books that should have been written before but hadn’t – and seek to effectively position all my books with memorable titles, enthusiastic blurbs, and eye-catching covers. In my ‘free’ time, I’ve also completed a PhD in English….”
Kirkpatrick ignored a request to answer basic questions about the Falco book. The questions he would not answer included “How was the book fact checked? Was it submitted to the ATF for authorization?” “Should a ‘true-crime’ book be true? Is it necessary that it be true?” And, “Briefly, in what ways are you responsible for this book?”
I believe he wrote the book blurb that he expects will “effectively position” the Wyatt/Falco/Droban collaboration. The blurb argues, “In separate investigations that spanned years and coasts, Falco risked his life, suffering a fractured neck and a severely torn shoulder, working deep undercover to bring violent sociopaths to justice.” Falco’s injuries are significantly overstated. The snitch couldn’t keep up with an ATF agent while riding his motorcycle in the rain in Virginia, ran onto the grass and went over the high side.
Kirkpatrick continues, “Falco’s engrossing account of the dangers of the biker underworld and justice is perfect for fans of FX’s Sons of Anarchy as well as Hunter Thompson’s classic Hell’s Angels.”
Kirkpatrick’s job is to create book products that pander to niche marketing categories. With this book he is chasing the Sons of Anarchy audience. He is also chasing after people who have read Hunter Thompson’s book about the Angels. He wants to tell those audiences a story that looks to him like a proven success. In other words he thinks the snitch’s tale is the exact same story that has sold well for almost fifty years. And also, he thinks Falco’s book is exactly the same as a story that was invented in a conference room in Hollywood. He either doesn’t care or notice that neither Droban or Falco is exactly in Thompson’s league as a writer, or for that matter even Kurt Sutter’s.
You should know about Kirkpatrick because whatever story Falco told Droban, and whatever story Droban wrote, it has now been tailored to fit a well worn editorial formula. This is simply how modern publishing works – just as Blatchford trading his cache as a journalist to ingratiate himself to Marsal and Kirkpatrick is exactly how modern journalism works. This is how Jenna Bush became a best selling author and journalist. Kirkpatrick exemplifies what Jay Dobyns meant several years ago, by “some 5th Avenue pogue whose biggest risk in life has been to decide how much of his 401k to take out to buy his yacht.” St. Martin’s offices are on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.
The product of all these invisible social and economic forces, of Wyatt/Falco’s egomania, Kirkpatrick’s fatuousness and Droban’s ambition, is a dismal and bloated vampire novel with Falco starring in the role of Van Helsing. Just as the snitch now called Falco truly believes in his own importance I truly believe that publishing this waste of perfectly good trees should be prosecuted as an environmental crime. Most of what Wyatt/Falco/Droban/Kirkpatrick tell readers are lies. Not mistakes, not hyperbole but simply lies. There are so many lies that a legion of fact checkers would go blind trying to correct them all. Over and over, Vagos, Mongols and Outlaws are described as rabid, ravenous wolves. Civilians are innocent, fluffy, little bunnies. Oh no, little bunny! Don’t go in that bar! No! No!
Because Falco did so little other than get stoned and incriminate a man who may or may not be guilty of murder, much of the book attempts to describe what Wyatt/Falco dreamt. “I dreamed of rushing rapids, of light shallow water, of warning Vs in the ripples. There’s something down there, I shouted into cold winds. But no one heard me. River left. I paddled furiously toward shore. River left. Get out. Get out. Eddy the boat. Obstacle ahead.” Apparently Droban thought that if she just free associated enough of this crap, the word count might eventually total the number specified in her contract.
Most of the book is written in a narrative voice authors usually use to manipulate their readers into closely identifying with a fictional hero. “My heart hammered against my chest. Surrounded by dark shapes clad in denim and dirty patches of heat, I had never felt more alone. As an informant, I had no backup, no surveillance team, no one to hear the bullet penetrate my skull if things soured…. Not only had I confirmed for the government that the Vagos trafficked in drugs and illegal weapons; I had also established they were involved in committing homicides, the violent trademark of motorcycle gangs. I swelled with a sense of duty, of serving society. My role was no longer about self-preservation, it was about justice.”
Over and over Falco wears his duplicity like a Silver Star:
“I wanted to shout out, ‘Not me, not me, I’m not one of them. I’m one of the good guys.” “I wasn’t my costume, I wasn’t a badass. I was one of the good guys.” “Through our testimony we would likely join the ranks of other ‘brave and noble’ men who paid the price to crush Al-Qaeda terrorists or chill further mob violence.” “Meanwhile, Koz worried that I had become too soft, ‘too nice, too much of a gentleman’ gangster. He didn’t want me to be like ‘fucking James Bond,’ but he urged me to ‘be more aggressive, act more like a real gangster.’” “For three years I knew my role, and the culmination of my life’s work.” “Strangely, the lying bothered me the most even though I had been deceptive about my life since I was nineteen years old: first as a drug dealer, then as an informant and now as a completely revised person.” “Like soldiers returning from war, I imagined I experienced similar post-traumatic stress.” “Neither Twist nor the Vagos loved me or each other, they loved the idea of me and their brotherhood.” “For the briefest of moments I felt what a celebrity must.” “The whole idea that Vagos would defend each other, even die for each other, was bullshit. Code, club colors was all illusion and delusion. The seduction of being someone else was an addiction.” “I drifted off to my safe place, my subconscious.” “Some experiences are too profound to translate: war, military service, and life undercover.” “In a few hours, I would return to that lonely place, to the underworld, inhabited by undercover operatives, where my life completely transformed.”
Really sings doesn’t it? Maybe it was the prose Blatchford loved. How about you? Do you think you would like to read another 70,000 words of this?
The phony Falco informs his eager audience that all Vagos are phonies. “The notion that motorcycle gangs had any interest in charities or children was perverse. They needed money to fund their drug and arms deals. And they fit into the real world the way sociopaths blended, by mimicking human emotion and wearing acceptable masks, by pretending to care about children’s causes.”
And, among other atrocities, members of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club are anti “little people.” In one of the dozens of story lines in this insider account Falco becomes afraid that his new club brothers might force him to fuck the three-foot-tall porn star Bridget the Midget. “That night I crawled into the van, but sleep eluded me. Bridget floated into my conscience.” Into his “conscience.” Not his consciousness but his conscience.
I finish Falco/Wyatt/Charles/Droban/Kirkpatrick’s rotten book and abandon the interview with him. I know before I write half of it that this article is already a loser. I don’t want to write about Falco. I don’t like Falco. I want to punch him in the face.
I want to punch Falco in the face that night on the Strip. I want to punch somebody in the face as I make the always thrilling, diving right turn from Sunset onto La Cienega with a very important taxi in a hurry just behind me. I want to punch the cab driver in the face. I want to punch somebody in the face because I have been told, by people who love me, that I have anger issues.
And, also I want to punch somebody in the face because we now live in a moment of lies. The government lies to us. The government lies to itself. The police lie to judges. Doctors lie to patients. Charles Falco, Kerrie Droban and Rob Kirkpatrick are all lying. And, I know those lies are tomorrow’s historical truth. And, if I throw enough punches at history maybe I will leave a mark.