Liza with a “z” stuns one Tony viewer

Liza Minnelli, photo from theinsider.com

Liza Minnelli, photo from theinsider.com

So there’s Jack Garcia sitting at home watching the Tony Awards when Liza Minnelli’s win for special theatrical event is announced. She hops up onstage to accept the award accompanied by her choreographer and – this is where Garcia about falls off the couch – her manager Gary Labriola.

See, Garcia is former FBI Agent Joaquin Garcia better known as Jack “Fat Jack” Falcone, the erstwhile jewel thief who ran with Greg DePalma’s Gambino crew in Westchester a few years back. Garcia’s undercover work helped bring down the entire hierarchy of the Gambino Crime Family. He became DePalma’s right hand man, so valuable to the aging Mafioso that DePalma wanted to put him up for official membership in the crime family.

Part of the case included allegations that DePalma shook down Labriola, trying to get him to pay $12,000 for a lavish Las Vegas trip for the wives of reputed mob bosses. When Labriola balked, DePalma ¬†was caught on an FBI bug denouncing Minnelli’s diminutive longtime handler, “He’s not a munchkin, he’s a worm.”

But when it came time to testify, Labriola was gone. DePalma’s lawyers wanted him to call him to the stand to say DePalma didn’t force him to pay for the trip, that he did it of his own volition. But federal prosecutors left open the possibility of a perjury charge if Labriola said that. ¬†Labriola was out of the country when DePalma went to trial three years ago in federal court in Manhattan. His lawyer, Paul Bergman, said at the time he was not authorized to accept a subpoena for him.

“I wonder if he accepted the invitation to the Tonys for him,” Garcia cracked a a few minutes ago. “This weasel is willing to run out of the country then. But he’s standing there on stage for the whole world to see. Unbelievable.”

Labriola, it turns out, provided one of the hairier encounters Garcia had during his time undercover. While posing as a Florida jewel thief, he actually grew up in the Bronx and went to school at Mount Saint Michael on the Bronx – Mount Vernon border. So, too, and at the same time, it turns out, did Labriola.

But when they met while Garcia was undercover, Labriola didn’t recognize him.

Garcia, meanwhile, is working on a followup to his book about his time undercover with DePalma’s crew, “Making Jack Falcone.” This book will focus on his undercover work in police corruption cases.

In the interim, the 300-pound Garcia, whose book detailed as much of the culinary delights as criminal endeavors of the mob, is trying to take better care of his health.

“I’m looking for the doctor who is going to tell me fat is in,” he said. “But that hasn’t happened yet.”

Tim O'Connor

Timothy O'Connor has covered the federal justice system for The Journal News since 2002. He previously worked at newspapers in Orange County, New York, and New Jersey. Born and raised in the Bronx, he has a bachelor's degree in English and a master's in journalism.