Everyone has heard of it, and Hollywood has made many movies that include it. Alas the Hollywood version is far from the real truth. The movie The Pelican Brief would have us believe that someone in the program merely steps into a private Gulfstream jet with a sackful of money and is whisked away to some idyllic location.

Sorry folks, that is not how it works!

For many reasons there are few people that have been through the process that are willing to talk about it. If you are in it, you certainly don’t want to brag about it. If you have opted out there are also good reasons to keep quiet. It is entirely possible that whoever you are being ‘protected from’ might knock on your door.

One person who has seen both sides of the coin is ex Gambino crime family member Andrew DiDonato. In 1997 he was faced with a tough decision, he had been on the run for 17 months, running not only from the Feds, but the Gambino family itself. There was a price on his head. To keep running merely delayed the inevitable, and that was death. The only question was would he die in jail, shanked by a fellow inmate, or die at the hands of a hired gun?

Andrew is not a stupid man, and with options like these he decided to turn Government Witness.

He has decided to talk to me about the Witness Protection Program, although obviously some details have to remain ‘in camera’ he has agreed to discuss the subject in generalities and some specifics.

not everyone needs a new identity, they just need a new start

Generally that involves moving from one state to another. It is a relatively simple process. Some people however do need a new identity, and that process is a different animal altogether.

Today’s wired world has made the situation even more complex. You can’t just ‘cook up’ a new drivers license with a new name on it. There is so much more that has to be done, and as Andrew says:

It has to be done legally

The name change, the SSI number, and all sorts of other documentation.

In fact on the phone with Andrew yesterday he told me a great story. To get his new life started he needed to have a bank account. So armed with his new credentials he headed for his bank of choice. They were happy to see him and all of the paperwork was filled out (well computer paperwork), suddenly he finds himself surrounded by bank security guards. “what is the problem” he asks. “This Social Security Number has not be activated” is the terse reply.

Oops! He is forced to call the US Marshalls and they extract him from the bank! They tell him to wait 3 months before using the SSN again.

It is hard to get a job at the best of times, but here was a man with a real problem, no resume (that could be used), no SSN that was valid, no bank account, and no history. That’s a hard road to hoe.

Andrew DiDonato finally opted out of the Witness Protection Program, as indeed several others have. I posed the question to him “Are you not worried that your enemies might seek retribution”?

His answer surprised me, yet I have heard it before from someone else in the program:

We all have a time to die, if it is my day, then it is my day

For those of you who do not recognize the name Andrew DiDonato he was a cog in the Gambino crime family wheel. His just released DVD Surviving The Mob is well worth watching.

BNN will be bringing some more behind the scenes stories about the Witness Protection Program in the coming days. We are also working on some current Gambino family issues, 14 of them have been busted on not just the regular RICO crimes, they are accused of running an under age prostitution operation on Craigslist.

Simon Barrett

Be Sociable, Share!