On today’s episode of Author Hour, I sit down with Anthony Arismendi, to talk about his new book, Outsider Agent. Here’s a brief description:
Anthony Arismendi moved to the United States from Venezuela as a teenager in the mid-70s with the dream of becoming a US citizen and an FBI agent, despite the fact that he couldn’t speak a word of English.
Transplanted from the dangerous streets of Caracas, Arismendi’s unconventional thinking and out-of-the-box approach to life landed him in plenty of comical, often precarious situations. Still, he adapted his skills to a new culture, one harrowing day at a time, overcoming homelessness, prejudice and poverty to achieve the impossible.
Profoundly inspirational, Arismendi’s unique blend of hard work, perseverance and mysticism in the face of relentless adversity reminds us that our reservoirs of courage and determination run far deeper than we know, and that we should never give up on our dreams no matter how out of reach they might seem.
Here is my conversation with Anthony Arismendi.
Welcome into The Author Hour Podcast and today, I am honored to have Tony Arismendi with me. He has just authored a new book titled,Outsider Agent: The Extraordinary Adventures of an Immigrant and Mystic in the FBI, and Tony it is fantastic to get to chat with you today.
Anthony Arismendi: Thanks, Benji. Thank you for having me.
Benji Block: Well, you have quite the fascinating story and thank you for writing and taking on a project like a book and giving us your life story, because there’s so much we could go into; highly decorated, former FBI agent with the career of over two decades of undercover operations. So just give some of the flavor here, right at the beginning, for the type of undercover operations that you’ve been part of.
Anthony Arismendi: So basically, my career in the FBI, I worked organized crimes, drugs, money laundering, gangs, violent crimes. I was in the FBI SWAT team and spent the majority of my career developing and putting together undercover operations. So in those areas primarily and so, it was interesting to say the least and challenging and an adventure, really.
Benji Block: I love the adventure piece of it and there’s so many questions that I would have for just your journey, the trajectory of your life to end up where you did, and we’ll dive into some of that, but one of the questions I have is, what prompts you to go, “Man, I need to put this down on paper and write a book on it” because that is another type of project all in itself. What in the last little bit here has been like, the prompter to get you to writing a book?
Anthony Arismendi: You know, it had been something that I’d wanted to do for a long time but obviously, I was busy with life and my career and family and all those things and I think that I wanted to tell my story. I’m an immigrant, I came to the United States when I was 15 years old, I didn’t speak any English. I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela.
So when I came to the United States, just like many other people that come here, I had a dream, and the journey began for me. So it really — that’s a lot of it was just tell the story of this individual that happens to be myself and how I came to the United States and how I came to an amazing country, a great country, that embraced me and has given me every opportunity, and it does that for so many different people.
America is a beacon of light and to me, was the greatest country in the world and to me, my greatest achievement — other than having my sons — was becoming a US citizen, and I remember that. I felt like it was yesterday, it was just a great accomplishment and in my career, I felt like I needed to earn my citizenship. I wanted to earn it, I wanted to be able to not only say I’m an American, but to have done something to give back to the country that had given me so much.
Gave me opportunities and I probably wouldn’t have never had at any other place in the planet and so, this is that kind of a country where you can come and you can fulfill your dreams.
Weaving the Threads
Benji Block: I love the intersection of your life, the immigrant piece, the FBI piece and then the mystic piece. So we’ll probably spend some time in each one of those pockets. Before we get there I got to ask, when you’re compiling your life story, you’re also working with Larry, which maybe you can talk a little bit about that, but what’s the most difficult part of compiling your story and looking back on your life like this?
Anthony Arismendi: I think it’s just deciding, where do you begin, where do you go from there, you know? To compress a person’s life story into a book is a challenge and also, to be able to tell the story, and I believe I’ll be writing other books, to go from there. So what’s the origin story, what was the origin story for me?
Well, the origin story began in Caracas, Venezuela and growing up in a very dangerous environment from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. You know, “You’re in danger, Will Robinson.” And you don’t know any different and you being brought up by amazing people, my mom, and amazing women. I had incredibly strong women in my life.
My mom, she’s a she-wolf, tigress woman, beautiful but also very aware and in tune with her environment, and knowing full well that she needed to train my brother and I and my sisters to survive in a really tough environment, that has gotten even tougher. As you probably know, Venezuela is on the news all the time and it’s not for good things.
So at the time that I grew up, it was very dangerous and so you had to be in tune with that. Coming to the US and seeing that contrast was such an amazing thing. It was just like a kid in a candy store. Everything seemed beautiful, everything seemed bright, even homeless people, even the people that supposedly didn’t have anything, to me personally, through my eyes, they see this ink tail like that they had everything.
There is nothing that anyone could have told me at the time, and still now, that would make me change my mind about what America is all about. So that was just beginning, the origin story, and how it came here and the things that I had to go through and then setting my sights on the career that eventually, allowed me to serve and give back to the community, to Americans.
Benji Block: What did you care about? Let’s talk about you as a kid. You just get to the States. Who are you as a kid, Tony? What’s your temperament? Because I always wonder how that plays into then later getting into the FBI, and that side of things, but what’s your temperament like as a kid?
Anthony Arismendi: Well, that’s interesting question because you know, my parents created a bubble, obviously, for us to function and into where you nurture. My mom was not the cuddly type, “Come here, let me hold you” and all that. My mom was like, “If you’re not bleeding, then get up and go.” If I lose a fight then she would come and basically confront me and say, “Did you win the fight?” and my brother would have to, “Oh, yeah mom, he did really well.” My mom was a drill sergeant from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, for good reason.
You know, when you’re a kid, you don’t realize how valuable that was, how formative that was for me, because it really made me into the person that I am today, but she was like, “Don’t take anything from anybody, be fair, be square.” And I can tell you stories where my mom, she was a really, really tough person and also very disciplinarian, and she wasn’t just random discipline, it was always had an objective.
The objective is to train us, to make us really strong, to make us tough people. She put us in karate back in early 70s in Venezuela and there was this world champion karate master that had moved to Venezuela, and a lot of them had moved from — yet they realize that it was probably a few decades, actually, 16 years, I was born 16 years after World War II. So the reality, Europe was devastated and decimated, so you take what’s happening in Ukraine, you multiply that by every single country in Europe, and then you have it there.
So, people are unemployed and then to look for places to go, and a lot of them moved to South America. And so, this Shoko Sato, which is a master from Japan, somehow ended in Venezuela. He was actually from Miyagi Japan, Master Miyagi.
Benji Block: Amazing.
Anthony Arismendi: Yeah, he was our own Mister Miyagi. And there wasn’t TV like there is now. There was no social media, there wasn’t anything really, there wasn’t anything for you to really get your hands on. But I understood, I knew a little bit about what karate may have been and my mom and dad made a decision and put us in with this guy.
So, the formative years were about learning how to really be strong, fight, defend yourself and then, keep yourself from getting kidnapped, and if you don’t get killed by the spiders and the snakes, and you’re not too far from the jungles in South America. You can’t just cross some random river because you want to swim in it because there may be piranhas in it and they’ll eat you.
Benji Block: Yeah.
Anthony Arismendi: The spiders are larger than your hand and I mean, there’s so many different things that can kill you and if it’s not that, then there’s your fellow human because you live in this very clustered environment that’s very dangerous. So that was really the formative aspect of my life and that’s what my mom was doing. She, you know, [was] like a tigress or a she-wolf.
Benji Block: I love that description.
Anthony Arismendi: Training a cub to survive, you know? So you come to appreciate that later in life. You realize that she was very tough. At one time, I can tell you a story, we were getting portraits taken at the time where you just pay somebody, a professional photographer, and then she had taken parking place, and some Russian woman comes up, gets out of her car because she felt that my mom took her place, and comes up to the window and undenounced to my mom, just hits her so hard and slaps her.
My mom just turned red, turned around, looked at us and, “Stay in the car” and then, she was in akela, which is like a cub scout den mother and so, she had her scout knife in her purse. So she took a knife out and we were sitting in the back seat going, “Oh my God, what is my mom going to do?” She gets out of the car and she’s furious, and the lady sees my mom and sees the knife in one hand so she gets in the car, shuts the door, my mom goes around and she punctures every single tire in the car.
Benji Block: Wow.
Anthony Arismendi: The lady is just livid and then screams and yells at her in Spanish and, of course, she gets back in the car and then, like nothing had happened. It’s like, “Okay, let’s go. We’re going to get ice cream and go home.”
Benji Block: Goodness.
Anthony Arismendi: So when I was in fights, all kinds of different things, I mean, my mom was just that tough and there were just really strong women, they were matriarchs. At one time, I was already an FBI agent and I got a call from my sister that my mom had been robbed. But then, I get the whole story and then my mom had been cased coming out of the bank with a little bit of money. It wasn’t much, and she was going home and some guy was following her, and in a motorcycle, a couple of them, and by the time they got to the house, one guy jumped off, tried to take the purse, my mom fought the guy, wouldn’t let go of the purse.
The guy broke her hand, my sister comes out of the house, in front of the door and engages the guy and beats him up. The gun drops and my sister jumps on the gun and just punching him. The other guy takes off on the motorcycle and, moral of the story, my mom got a broken hand, my sister’s having to explain to everybody why she’s beating this guy up.
Benji Block: You got some strong women in your life.
Anthony Arismendi: You know, and when you look at them, I mean, my mom was beautiful and you look at the book and the picture in the book and now, as an adult, I go, “Wow, my mom was a really beautiful woman” but she was very strong, she’s really driven for us to study and get a good education and all those different things.
That was my formative years. My dad was Gandhi meets Santa Clause. The philosopher, calm. He was the person whose just a very, the pacifist, basic ally and my mom was the warrior.
Benji Block: Opposites attract, yeah.
Anthony Arismendi: She’s the warrior, she just met and so, you know, they fought like cats and dogs, like most couples I guess. When they get to the point they’re going to get divorced and my mom would throw things around, my dad would run around like an NFL player trying to catch up the knickknacks, and it got to a point that they broke it off. And then my dad and my grandfather had interests overseas and then my grandfather saw what was coming in Venezuela way before it happened, and so he had been collaborating with my dad or talking to my dad about maybe leaving.
My dad was educated in the United States, went to one of the oldest military academies in the US I think, Cheshire Academy. Was, I think it was founded in 1776, I could be wrong, but he spoke English perfectly and loved the United States too and so, the suggestion was made. Do we go to Europe, do we go to the United States and that’s how it happened. There was just two very powerful families and divided because of the divorce and the impending divorce and what had been happening, and so one thing led to another and then we ended up leaving with my dad and my mom wasn’t really happy, because she didn’t really know and that was like my first secret mission, that we’re leaving and “You guys are coming, would you want to come to the United States?”
I thought it would be a vacation, maybe it would be an adventure and I didn’t really get that it would be forever. I was all for it and my brother was for it too and we did it, and then the journey began really.
Becoming an FBI Agent
Benji Block: It’s so interesting to hear how your parents end up playing a role in where you ultimately end up, but there’s a lot of people, right? With maybe just a feisty tigress mom, you don’t end up in the FBI. So we got to get to this piece because what translates from, all right, personal protection, your own Mister Miyagi karate kid moment to FBI, you get here, state side and what’s that evolution for you?
Anthony Arismendi: Well, it’s interesting, because going back to my ancestors, the George Washington of South American revolution or South America was Simon Bolivar. So Simon Bolivar, like George Washington, was the head of the revolution for all of South America, for all the country. In the United States, you had taxation without representation and all the different things going on that ultimately led to us breaking from England, you know?
In South America, it was primarily Spain, with the exception of Brazil, which is a colony of Portugal, but for all of South America was Spain. So when Napoleon Bonaparte was wreaking havoc in Europe, kind of like what’s happening right now with Ukraine and all that, he was wreaking havoc. That’s prior to Hitler and you know, those are generation of people that come along.
So Napoleon had displaced the king of Spain, Ferdinand and placed his brother on the throne of the Kingdom of Spain and so the colonies saw that as an opportunity to break from Spain, because Spain’s not being run by a king. It’s being run by Napoleon’s brother, who was not. So my great, great grandfather was the second in command of all the armies on the South American revolution.
Benji Block: Wow.
Anthony Arismendi: So he was second in command to Simon Bolivar and so his story was told to me many times, was told to my grandfather, to my father, to all of us.
Benji Block: It was in your blood.
Anthony Arismendi: It was in my blood and had been passed on down, and my great grandmother, she was even more fierce. She was an amazing woman and she had gone through all kinds of different — and that’s in the book. There’s a couple of appendixes that I have in the book, where she was captured and used by the Spanish as a pawn to try to get my great, great grandfather to turn himself in because he — they just couldn’t take him out. So she was transported and sent to Spain to appear before the king and she became a little bit of a celebrity.
She sort of defied, she was a beautiful woman, she was 18 years old or so, and so there’s some drama that takes place there on the way to Spain, they get attacked by the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Benji Block: Wild.
Anthony Arismendi: The pirates realize that she’s a prisoner of the Spanish and then she decides that she’s going to go and she has to appear and she apparently doesn’t curtsy or bow to the king and so the word spread that she’d defy. There was a British diplomat in the court that was taken by her and then, after a while, she was allowed to walk around freely and he conspired to get her out of Spain, ended up in England, after that Philadelphia and then eventually, went back to South America to Venezuela once the revolution is over.
So all those stories, all those things that influenced me tremendously, and it was inside of me to want to serve in some capacity, but I also felt that I was an American and not South American. I felt an affinity for the United States that I could not explain to anybody, even from a moment I could even think and speak, I just felt that and so even back as a child, I wanted to serve in the US military.
I want to serve in the United States. I wanted to be an American. So that was already wired in me when I landed in this country and I was going to pursue it in one way or another. Of course, you know, you have to go through to become a resident and the visas and all of that stuff and then at some point, you got to become a US citizen but that was part of the journey of getting to where I needed to and that’s one of the reasons too that I appreciated my citizenship.
I appreciated everything this country has given me because I had to earn it and I wanted to earn it. Even after I got it I thought, “What can I do, what do I need to do to really earn it, to really feel that I am an American but I have earned my place in America?” I would say to people lots of times, when I came I would see things differently, you know? Just everything seems so – no one could ever tell me or could possibly tell me that anything that would change my mind about that.
I mean, I remember just watching TV one time and seeing some people working out and then it looked like a gym and they were just really buffed and lots of muscles and they look kind of not happy, but they look like they were in really good shape, and somebody said to me, I asked, “Who are they? Where are they” and they said, “They’re in prison” and I was stunned. I couldn’t believe, “What do you mean they’re in prison?”
With muscles like that? I mean, they look like they’re getting food. I mean, what kind of country is this, you know? So those are things that I think that when you view them through that lens, you’re stunned and that’s one of the reasons that I always felt like the sky was the limit. You can accomplish anything here and then you have to give back. You really truly have to give back.
So I felt that that was really one of the reasons that I wanted that story to be told and then me write all the books.
Benji Block: Yep. Okay, so take me to the way you thought about the FBI before you were in it, and then once you were actually in it, like what was the biggest misconception that you had that maybe something just what people think it is versus what it is in reality?
Anthony Arismendi: Well, you know at the time I came in was in the 80s, mid-80s and so you know the FBI was already had a phenomenal reputation and has gone through like everything, phases. At the time, there had been a shootout in Miami where FBI agents had engaged some bank robbers that were robbing armored cars and killing people randomly and so the FBI agents were chasing them.
Anyway, and so it was very costly and they’re people that I actually know. So the hero of the fight, really the real former military who had become FBI agents, who are actually fighting a bunch of military guys and the whole thing solved itself. So, that was in the news, it was a movie called, Mississippi Burning. There was, Donnie Brasco, Joe Pistone, an undercover agent in the mafia.
The book had just come out and the movie wasn’t out yet. but I got to meet him and we crossed paths later. but I read the book and so there is all these other different things that I try to get my hands on because there is no social media, there’s no computers, there’s nothing. You’re going to get information, you got to go to the library or you got to find books to read and my goal really was to serve.
So I had a list once I graduated from college, and then once I had completed all the different things, I have my citizenship, all that, I had a list of places that I wanted to go to, and I was going to apply to everything, every branch of government and find some way for me to serve. The first one on my list was the FBI. So the first place that I went to was the FBI. I remember walking into the federal building and then going through the process of going to a room and make sure I am not a threat and then I go on meet this guy.
He’s pretty buffed, I think he was former military just looked like what I thought an FBI agent would look like at the time, and my journey began there, and I remember thinking, “Well, whatever happens here, I’m going to apply to the Navy, the Army, the Marines, everybody.” I am going to apply with everybody because I am going to serve in some capacity but the process took two years and the recruiter, exactly what he told was what it was.
I mean, it was exactly – I think that organizations are only as good as the people in them, and organizations change but the people in them are good. There are a lot of really good people that I trained that have risen in ranks and now they’re running operations and things, and I know and I hear back from them all the time and those are the people that are running it. I think that lots of times, the people that get appointed to positions were not the real doers.
They are not the doers of deeds. They get appoint to a position or they are not the people that should be running an agency but the bulk of the personnel agents, you know they’re good people. They are very good people in the organizations and so, it’s really more about who gets elected and the politics behind it and all that but when the career agents, the career military, the career law enforcement, a lot of times that they get bunched up with a bunch of bad apples and that is the only experience people have, and it’s sad.
It’s a sad thing because there are really good people and great organizations and everything starts from the top going down.
Opening Up to The Formative Signs
Benji Block: Well, there’s a piece of this puzzle that we haven’t discussed yet, which is in the title you say, a mystic in the FBI, that’s the second part. So immigrant and mystic. What is that crossover there? Because there is a line, I’ll just read it right from the book: “Tony would find later in his law enforcement career that he could use astrology to help him get into the mindset of his adversaries.”
Just a little bit like the mystic side of things, it almost feels like a little bit out of left field to the conversation we’ve had so far. So where does that crossover, Tony and the mystic side of you?
Anthony Arismendi: You know, there is this aspect to our lives that we don’t see and it has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with, we’re not from here. I mean, we live 100 years and then we go, where do we go? We go back to where we came from and where is that? Okay, well that’s different for a lot of different people. You know, religious people will tell you one thing, other people will tell you other things.
But the reality is, we are really definitely not from here and we’re only here for a period of time. So I was always open to that. I had experiences in my life that brought that out in me and that spirituality in me, and then in my career, obviously, did that a lot, but early on in my life, I had experiences that happened to me, and so that really opened me up to be in tuned with what happened.
You know, what happens to us when we die? What happens to our spirit? You know, that is the perennial question that’s been asked for eons and some people may have answers, and so I went on a quest to try to figure that out for myself. Not across the lighting or pontificating or trying to explain to people or convince people of anything. I just did it for myself. I want to find the answers, like everybody else does.
What’s my purpose? Why am I here? Why am I doing this, and if I am serving? I think that everyone has their own way of finding that. I found that for myself and in the process, I discovered things that were out there, that you get promptings sometimes from your ancestors. There’s things that I mentioned in the book that all of a sudden something, the unexplainable, and then it wasn’t meant for anybody else but me.
It was meant for me to nudge me along not to lead a path that I was on, and so somebody from the other side comes through. For example, I’m in college and a situation where I am just thinking, “Well, there is just no way I’m going to finish” because I don’t have any money. I’m going to have to make a decision that is going to derail my entire life and it’s just like butterfly effect, that one little thing that derails you completely.
Then I’m sitting there. I’ve been sitting there for years and never really bothered to look at the books that are next to me and just one of those random things, I grabbed the book, a gigantic tome, put it in front of me, opened it to the right page, and here’s a portrait of my great, great, great grandfather, an exact page that tells the South American revolution and here in English, this narrative that tells us a story of some incredible challenges he had to go through just as George Washington and Jefferson and all these people.
I mean, they got caught by the British, they’re going to hang them, they want to corner them and he was risking his life. So I am thinking to myself, Oh my gosh, you know that was meant for me right then and there and had he not done the things he’d done, I may not be talking to you right now, okay?
Benji Block: Yep.
Anthony Arismendi: So the thing is, is that those things were formative in the sense they opened me up to spirit, to be open to the fact that there is another world that I am seeing and we’re not alone and that is coming out. Every single day, there is one thing that tells us, I mean for anybody at this day and age to think that we are alone out there in the universe with this little tiny grain of sand called the planet earth and then we’re just, “Oh, no we’re going to Mars.”
We are going to other planets and we may not see it in our lifetime but we’ll see it, and so all those things are the mysteries of mysteries, you know? We have tried to solve in our day and age where all of those things are just right there in our fingertips. All have to do is Google and look and read and somebody is looking for something. So we are on the cutting edge of all of these scientific discoveries that converge with this unseen world.
The two are not divergent. They are convergent, you know? So when you look at the planets, the planets are going to do their thing whether we like it or not, whether we live our hundred years, they are still going to circumambulate, and they’re going to do their trajectories. So how did they impact us? Astrology has been around for thousands of years, it didn’t happen yesterday. It wasn’t a part of the tabloid that somebody put together.
Astrology has been there for thousands of years and so is there something to it? There is something to it. Our bodies are made up of primarily water. So if you ask any sailor or anybody, they will tell you, if you take the moon out of the equation and the moon rules the oceans. You take the moon out of the equation, we’re going to have a cataclysmic event. So if my body is comprised primarily of water, what would make me think for a second that the planets are not going to have an impact on me of protoplasm?
The planets don’t care what anybody else thinks, they’re going to do their thing, so it does. So eons ago, somebody wrote down every time the full moon comes out, people go berserk.
Benji Block: That’s the one everyone knows, right?
Anthony Arismendi: Exactly. And so every time this happens, that happens and so and it is being documented and it’s been studied and it is not something that just started yesterday and I found that I started really reading a lot about it, and went along with my spiritual discovery — and this is also going along while I’m still an FBI agent — so it was a discovery of, and I realized that, people are predisposed to certain things and they’re wired in a particular way.
There is a consistency to it. You know, if a person is Aries or as oppose to a Pieces or Cancer, I mean there are certain elements of it that are similar, not exact, but similar. So it could be like coffee. You could have a really strong coffee that’s pure coffee or you could have water with three drops of coffee. You can still call that a coffee. So that could be a very strong Aries or a very weak Aries, and then the transitions.
You do a transit chart on a natal chart, and then you can see things that predispose a person to do certain things or to pull in certain directions, and I found for myself that there is lots of accuracy. This is accurate and nowadays, it’s more out there. It’s more acceptable and more palatable, but it’s come and gone, obviously. And then in the modern generations, or in the last couple hundred years, it’s come and gone.
But it was something that not only fascinated me, but I studied it and just devoured any book, anything I could get my hands on, and I found it to work. I found it to personally give me some flavor or an idea of what the person may do, you know?
Benji Block: It’s so interesting, and this just scratches the surface of where the book goes, sharing your life as an immigrant, as a mystic and as an FBI agent. I want to wrap the conversation up by just asking Tony, when someone finishes the book, they’ve read your story, what are you hoping is the main takeaway, the thing that really sticks with the reader?
Anthony Arismendi: I would hope that when they read the book that they look at it as a mirror. Every single person has a story and we have challenges that we go through and we overcome in different ways, being open to the possibilities also, in retrospect, introspecting about themselves. You know, looking inside themselves for answers. We’re in a society where everybody is looking to externalize.
You are looking for something to make them happy, everything, you know? Happiness really lies within ourselves, and so in finding that grounding that allows you to connect to yourself, to your spirit, and to know that you do have a purpose, and whatever it is that you do, you don’t have to have done some grandiose thing. I mean, your life matters and what you do matters and serving and giving. I hope that it gives hope and inspires people in some way and it touches them in some way, and that’s really my hope.
Benji Block: Yeah, it will. I love it. The title, Outsider Agent: The Extraordinary Adventures of an Immigrant and Mystic in the FBI. Anthony Arismendi, thank you so much for stopping by Author Hour today and I know there’s going to be those that want to connect with you. Is there a good way to do that online or where can we check out your work outside of just the book?
Anthony Arismendi: Yes, they can go on anthonyarismendi.com, also on Instagram @anthonyarismendi on Instagram and I’m new to social media, being that I was in the business that I was in, I wasn’t.
Benji Block: You weren’t being too public.
Anthony Arismendi: No, I didn’t have a LinkedIn picture for eons, I mean like for two months ago. In fact, I just started Instagram because I’ve been told you have to be in social media. You can’t just be hiding out and so yeah, Instagram and they can do that and there will be a website, Anthony Arismendi.
Benji Block: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for taking time and sharing part of your story with us. I know the book is going to be a great resource for so many.
Anthony Arismendi: Thank you, Benji, I appreciate it. Thank you for your time.
Benji Block: Absolutely.
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