Being undercover, he says, is like crawling into a different mind. “You actually become someone else,” he says. “You can’t lose yourself completely, but you do lose yourself enough to know how those people think and what they are thinking and how they will respond to what you are saying. And that is huge. It’s psychology.”
Which is why he was so good at it. Presutti earned his bachelor’s degree at Xavier in psychology, a subject that attracted him from an early age. His father worked in a New York state prison as an occupational therapist for the criminally insane. Among his clients: David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam” serial killer.
“I was always fascinated by why people do what they do,” Presutti says. “I was particularly interested in why people wanted to hurt each other.”
Understanding the psychology of the criminal mind helped him stay alive during his undercover assignments. “When I understood how they were, I could more quickly assess their motivation,” he says.
It worked. His FBI supervisor once called him “one of the most successful and prolific undercover agents in the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” He’s trained agents in Scotland Yard, Russia, Estonia and at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Hungary. And he’s made it through with all of his limbs—and his sense of humor—intact.