Kenji Gallo says it was like riding a tiger – that’s how he describes living a life involved in organized crime and the American Mafia.  He was riding a tiger that he couldn’t get off, for fear it would eat him.

How does a kid from California end up in the Mafia? Kenji remembers two things from his childhood years: feeling empty, and admiring the guys with money, power, and glamour. When he got his first job in a restaurant as a teenager, he was introduced to organized crime.

Kenji began selling cocaine, and soon started making deliveries, even flying drugs around the United States. By the time he was in his 20’s, he had built relationships with members of the Mafia, and through those connections got involved in the porn industry and sports betting.

It was all about making money, and feeling powerful. He read books on the power of positive thinking, and put those principles to work in his businesses. He was driven to get the nice car, the Rolex watch, to make more and more money.

At the same time, he saw how this way of life took its toll. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he wouldn’t live to see his 40’s. There seemed to be an expiration date on this lifestyle, and he was approaching it.

Kenji was always either going to jail, on parole, or on probation. Many friends were killed, or sent away for life in prison. But he was riding a tiger, and there seemed to be no way off.

Then one day he got a call from the FBI. They asked to meet with him. He assumed he was getting arrested again, so he prepared for another long prison term.  But this time was different. When he met with the agents, they said they wanted to offer him a deal. They asked if he would become an informant for the FBI – a temporary arrangement where he would wear a wire and gather intelligence on organized crime.  Kenji wondered if this could be a way out, and a way off the tiger.

“I asked them, what do I get out of it? They said, ‘The only thing you’re going to get out of this is a fresh start. The end of everything; a new you.’ And I thought, this is great!  This is what I really wanted. It seemed like a dream come true.”

What seemed like a dream, turned into 8 grueling years of living a double life. All during this time, Kenji wore a wire and recorded conversations with organized crime members. The stress began to take a toll on him when an associate asked Kenji to come along on a hit. They were planning to kill someone.

Kenji had made a commitment to the FBI not to commit violence, but he couldn’t see a way out without blowing his cover.  The stress of that experience was the final straw.  He knew he had to quit his double life.

Kenji entered the Witness Protection Program, and began a new life, with a new identity. He decided, from that point forward, he was going to be a good person. He was not going to commit crimes.

Kenji wrote a book about his life in the American Mafia, and sold it in Hollywood. He started businesses, and began putting his skills to work. He was living the Hollywood lifestyle, writing and selling screenplays, and training actors in mixed martial arts.  He was successful.  But still, unhappy.

“I was living a life that had no meaning.  I kept thinking, there’s got to be something else. I was still depressed, and my life was going nowhere.”

Money, fame, glamour – none of it could fill the void.  It turned out, only Jesus could do that.  Hear about Kenji’s life-changing encounter with Jesus in Chapter 17 of Epic.

Kenji Gallo – Making a fresh start