Although former FBI agent Giovanni Rocco may have succeeded in tackling the New Jersey family in 2015, his subsequent life was not blessed with the glory of a heroic federal agent.
Speaking with the New York Post, Rocco said his mission with the DeCavalcante crime family was the last case ever he could use his shrewdness on because the later days to him were all about surviving retaliation.
“I was being treated like a gangster,” the former agent told the outlet. “My house had to become a fortress. I was isolated. I couldn’t work on any new cases because of the level of exposure. The whole thing was just a nightmare.”
The DeCavalcante is the very real-life crime family in New Jersey that HBO took on to produce their renowned “The Sopranos” series that premiered between 1999 and 2007. Much like their movie portrait, the DeCavalcante is not to mess with.
Rocco was the very agent that took down one of the most challenging targets: Charlie “The Hat” Stango. But not all the mobsters he went after got arrested or sprung, unfortunately, and many were living in the same community of Elizabeth in New Jersey.
To add to the dangerous situation, not long after Stango’s capture, his longtime girlfriend Patricia moved to a house right around the corner from Rocco’s place where he led his real life with his family.
Aware he was surrounded by enemies, all Rocco could do was to employ all his agent skills in trying to protect his own identity and his family’s.
He camouflaged himself with a thick beard, and he had to teach his children to increase their vigilance, as G-men.
“They were trained to be suspicious of everyone,” he writes in his book Giovanni’s Ring. “If a Lincoln Town Car or a Cadillac turned into our street, we would be on pins and needles.”
Rocco recalled the low moment when he saw the news that actor James Gandolfini of “Sopranos” was on TV when he was still an undercover agent. It reminded him of the dangerous world he was diving into.
“Unnervingly, some of the clips they showed had been filmed in the same Peterson neighborhood I had just left,” he writes in his book. “And many of them reminded me of the true nature of the world I now inhabited: a world without honor, whose inhabitants could easily refer to me as ‘our friend’ today and, without a moment’s thought, put a bullet in my head tomorrow.”
Nonetheless, there was something beyond that of the fake relationship Rocco successfully built during the time he spent with the DeCavalcante.
When the FBI decided it was time to get Stango, Rocco admitted he did not want to send the man behind bars.
“I wanted so badly to tell him,” Rocco writes. “I wanted to say, ‘Charl, make a phone call. Turn yourself in now. Make a deal. Keep yourself out of jail. I am so sorry.’ How sad is that?”
Stango pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, and he was given a sentence of 10 years in prison. According to the New York Post, his jail time is due to end on March 21, 2024.
Months after the arrest, Rocco and his family were finally put into the FBI’s witness protection program. They have since continued their lives under different identities and moved far away from their old place close to Stango’s girlfriend in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Holed up just like a mob rat, when the FBI called, they advised him he only had hours to leave. “We left our house with toys on the floor,” Rocco reminisced.
Retaining little contact with friends and family members now, Rocco still cannot disclose where his new home is.
“I was the first task force officer that it ever happened to,” he said. “Once I left I couldn’t come back for anything, even a funeral for a guy I worked with. I felt like what a gangster feels when he goes to jail, to lose everything. That hurt.”
The former agent said since the downfall of Stango only gave the DeCavalcante a new boss, Charles “Big Ears” Majuri, he must keep on with life in utter consciousness of retaliation.
“The necessity for each of us to be vigilant,” he writes, “continues to this day.”