Be Amazing: Survive the Witness Protection Program


Whether you're looking to start your own religion, swallow a sword, quit smoking, find Atlantis, buy the Moon, sink a battleship, perform your own surgeries, or become a ninja, our new book Be Amazing covers all the essential life skills! And because we've extended our (amazing) book + t-shirt for under $20 deal through Friday, here's one more lesson from the book.

YOU WILL NEED: "¢ Assistance finding housing in your new community "¢ $60,000 a year in subsistence payments "¢ 1 reasonable job opportunity "¢ Identity documents "¢ Counseling (naturally) (Don't worry, all this comes standard with the Witness Protection Program.)

Created by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, the Witness Protection Program does exactly what the movies say—hide witnesses from vengeful thugs by giving them new identities. Since its inception, some 17,000 people have used the program—and no witness who followed the program guidelines has ever been harmed. In that spirit, we've provided this helpful list of "don'ts" guaranteed to make any government-funded moving adventure a little more pleasant.


Actually, the chances are pretty slim. To be in the Witness protection program, you have to be, well, under protection, in this case by federal marshals, who don't travel abroad. Even so, you should take our advice to heart because, unlike America's federally organized system, Great Britain's version of the Witness Protection Program is handled by individual police forces—and, apparently, this does not always work out for the best. In 2000, Alan Decabral, a witness to a gangland murder, was shot in a parking lot after living under Kent police protection for less than a year. And another witness, Thomas McCartney, charged police in Northern Ireland with failing to even give him his promised identity papers. Part of the problem is that most British police forces don't require witnesses to sever ties with former friends—let that be a lesson to you.


Seventeen percent of all protected witnesses commit a crime while under protection—including the first one. Joseph "The Animal" Barboza became the first person to use the WPP after testifying against the mafia in 1968. Given the name "Joe Bentley," he was moved to California where the FBI enrolled him in cooking school. But, in 1971, he ended up on trial for first-degree murder. The trial, and the ensuing conviction, blew Barboza's cover and he was shot in 1976, shortly after being paroled.


Life in a new city can be lonely sometimes, but it's probably best not to call up the old buds you left behind. Unfortunately, Brenda Paz, a 17-year-old witness against a notorious nationwide gang called MS-13, did just that in 2003. According to a 2005 article in Newsweek, Pas was hiding under a new identity in a Minnesota Embassy Suites hotel room when she invited two-carloads worth of MS-13 members to come check out the hotel's hot tub. Within days, she was dead.

Picture 14.png
Picture 14.png /

Want to get the new book plus a new mental_floss shirt for under $20? Here are the details.