It’s a story made just for Hollywood. A man, fully immersed in the drug culture of Southern California, deals methamphetamine to the tune of more than $500,000 a year. The only direction he’s headed is straight to the jail, especially after he’s caught in a raid by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Except, the DEA gives him a choice: go to prison for 22 years with no chance of parole or become an undercover informant.
While it may seem almost too good to be true, there’s no denying that this story did, in fact, take place. The born-again informant is none other than Charles Falco, a burly man whose exploits as an undercover operator for the DEA and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in three of the most notoriously dangerous biker gangs in SoCal are the stuff of legends.
In 2013, Falco published a memoir detailing his rise as an undercover agent titled “Vagos, Mongols, and Outlaws: My Infiltration of America’s Deadliest Biker Gangs.” Now, History has created a six-episode fact-based drama that draws its material from the book and Falco himself, and offers viewers a look inside the life of this zero-turned-hero of sorts.
Falco is a fascinating man. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he saw his life take a turn for the worse that landed him at rock bottom. After being contracted by the ATF to infiltrate the Vagos in 2003 (and later the Mongols and Outlaws), he quickly rose through the ranks of the biker gangs and gathered evidence that led to 62 total arrests. Now, due to the nature of his past efforts, Falco is in the witness protection program. This, however, doesn’t stop him from actively being involved in telling his story — spearheading “Gangland,” writing for the show and even appearing before each episode.
But through it all, Falco remained unwavering in his newfound pursuit of justice. He was given a second shot at life, and he took it. His intelligence shone through with each day that he went deeper undercover, and it’s something that was not lost on Nunes or Runyan as they acted out his story.
“He’s a keen observer of human nature, and he had to be to do what he did,” Nunes said. “It was pretty apparent that this was a guy who, if his circumstances had been different, could have done something very different with his life. As it turned out, because of the bad choices that he made early on, this was kind of his shot at redemption, going into the situation and taking these guys down.”
“His intelligence is the thing that kept him alive and also was able to allow him to get so deep,” Runyan added, “and not only do one gang, but three gangs.”
These days, Falco has put his active undercover work behind him. He’s since earned a graduate degree in criminal justice and works as an instructor for a national law enforcement training institute, not to mention adding “Gangland” to his resumé. Of course, for him, there’ll always be a nagging fear for his safety.
Here is a top 5 things that Falco told us that got us curious :
1. Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs) are anything but rebel nonconformists. To the contrary, they follow a strict military rank-and-file structure, implement an earned-patch system, vote in “officers” and insist their members wear uniforms (“cuts”).
2. OMGs are highly skilled warmongers; killing can be a purpose and mission. They meet regularly in so-called “Church” to plot, share intelligence, discuss surveillance of rival gangs and study their enemy combatants. They learn details, such as where their rivals live, work and play. And they can be methodical killers.
3. They understand protocol, and respect and adhere to strict rules and regulations within their own club — yet many of them cannot function outside these structures as civilized members of society.
4. Many members of outlaw motorcycle gangs are former and active military personnel and have been reported on both U.S. and international military installations. This legitimacy helps them facilitate criminal activity such as weapons and drug trafficking, or to receive weapons and combat training that they can then introduce to their gangs.
5. The deplorable treatment of women by OMGs is well documented, but whywomen willingly subject themselves to such abuse by these gangs is even more disturbing. A select few proudly wear their “Property Of” shirts while so-called “pass-arounds” willingly submit to sex acts by multiple members. Within each gang is a female hierarchy (not modeled after the military). Women are first “sheep,” then “Mamas” and finally “Ole Ladies.”