A Life of Crime

Photo Illustration by Liz Monroy / el Don
Photo Illustration by Liz Monroy / el Don

By Joanna Meza

On his first day of work Kenny Gallo expected a dull busboy job at a new restaurant in Costa Mesa. It may have been a normal job were it not for his boss, Joe Avila, who turned out to be the biggest drug dealer in Orange County.

Avila started asking Gallo to run special deliveries for him, and from that point on the job requirements changed. “They used to tell me, we’re part of the most exclusive man club in the world.

They drilled this into my head,” Gallo said. He later went on to work for the Los Angeles and Colombo crime families. Guest speakers Gallo and Andrew DiDonato talked to Santa Ana College students about their life of crime at Phillips Hall, April 16.

“You think you’re part of something great and then after a number of years you realize that you’re just a criminal,” said DiDonato, who was recruited by the Gambino crime family before he turned 18.

Organized crime ran in his family, which makes his involvement less surprising to those around him.

“It was a gang mentality. The only thing is, we were the most sophisticated gang in the world,” DiDonato said of the influence the mob had on him. Both men embraced a felon lifestyle.

Even when caught they didn’t reconsider their actions. DiDonato saw his time in prison as a chance to network.

“I was honing my skills, I was making contacts,” he said. Trying to find a fresh start, Gallo and DiDonato became informants for the FBI and have assisted in bringing down powerful drug dealers.

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“Everything organized crime touches, it destroys. It’s just a matter of what it destroys. All the stories are negative,” said DiDonato. “If I don’t come out and tell my story they still control me and people need to hear it.”

Gallo went on to become a personal trainer and screenwriter. DiDonato became a car salesman.

Both men have authored books that describe their lives while working for organized crime families.

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