In collaboration with some of the show's writers, I authored Don't Go to Jail: Saul Goodman's Guide to Keeping the Cuffs Off. I figured it was one and done—but then the publisher asked me to write Get Off the Grid! Saul Goodman's Guide to Staying Off the Radar (in bookstores April 25th).
Get Off the Grid walks readers through pulling off an identity reboot—just like Saul did when he skipped town in Breaking Bad. I'm exclusively previewing my book here to coincide with Better Caul Saul's Season 3 return to AMC on April 10.
In the excerpt below, you'll learn the basics of getting a new identity and leaving danger (as well as angry drug cartels) behind.
Let’s say you’re in a tough position. You’ve gotten yourself into a tangle with some unsavory characters working on a dangerous project, and man, can you ever see the electrified piss lightning bolts on the horizon. You don’t have to be psychic to know how many things are falling apart. So what’s to do?
The solution is to get away, to get anywhere. Maybe you could find a job working fast food at a mall in a snowy Midwestern city—because who the hell would think to look for a fugitive there, right?
Maybe in this situation you simply don’t have time to sit down with a book like this, or noodle around on the Dark Web. Remember when you were in high school and you had the sneaking suspicion that all the cool kids were hanging out and brewing moonshine without you?
Well, if they weren’t then—they are now, virtually and anonymously on the shady digital alleys of the Dark Web. Prepubescent moonshine is probably the tamest thing you could acquire there.
If you don’t have time to wander the labyrinthine cesspool of the secret Internet to find an escape hatch from your life: that’s when you will probably want to start hunting for someone local who already has his or her own nefarious sources and some practice providing others with vetted, authentic papers that the happy folks at border patrol wouldn’t blink twice at if you wanted to go on a little jaunt to Canada to stock up on maple syrup or maple whiskey or maple lima beans, whatever it is you’re in the mood to eat.
We can call these friendly and helpful merchants “identity brokers,” though that’s a confusing term because it might also refer to the scum of the earth services that harvest the e-mail address from your “Coffee Cake Digest” subscriptions and shop it around to a million other mailing lists that you’re probably not interested in (unless you like your spam with a side of “GROW TEN INCHES IN TEN HOURS TO PLEASE YOUR MAN!”)—sometimes those services are called identity brokers, too.
Our brand of identity brokers are a little bit like drug dealers, except instead of hallucinogenic lollipops, they’re doling out passports and IDs. They frequently do their work for nice people born out of town who seek to grab that brass ring of American citizenship. Colombians anxious to try Seattle’s Best Coffee, Russians looking to ditch the fur boots for a pair of white Nikes, English folks who discover they’re Anglophobes—the usual suspects. Here’s how that might play out …
Let’s say our neighborhood ID retailer is Sam. If you don’t know who your neighborhood ID retailer is, just nonchalantly wander under the bleachers at your local high school and ask the chain-smoking, fifteen-year-old sipping from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper sack. She’ll tell you who has the goods, for a price.
Sam learns that Ricardo in Mexico City is seeking to shed the skin of his old life in the ciudad and start anew in Albuquerque. New Mexico sounds like just the place to be his new Mexico! Sam has a connection in Puerto Rico—which is a U.S. territory, for those of you who missed that day in your elementary school geography class—and his guy in San Juan has amassed a tasty collection of vital papers.
We’re talking social security cards, birth certificates and other personal docs donated willingly (or more likely, without the consent of) by-God true American citizens. Puerto Rico ships off this solid info from people who may not even know it’s been stolen or are too dead to care, and then our fine businessman Sam hands over a matching set of social security card and birth certificate to Ricardo for a cool $2,000.
Ricardo gets ready to live in the land of enchantment and Sam lines his pockets with some sweet, sweet pesos.
That’s a simple breakdown of how one guy could change his identification and gets away with it, but let’s be real: he’s walking above a pit of tigers on a tightrope made of dental floss. Even if there is no evidence the vital info is stolen and no computer alarms go off, Immigration and Customs agents are on this kind of scheme like guac on corn chips. There’s a non-trivial chance that this set-up is a self-writing headline about the ICE busting up a Puerto Rican pipeline of immigration fraud.
The takeaway here is that the procedure for securing a new ID in-country, through a different broker and without the pesky problem of having to finagle a passport, is a little safer than trying to provide Ricardo from Mexico City with his new start as Diego from San Juan, a legally papered U.S. citizen. Yeah, it’s the whole border-crossing thing that gets you.
Unless you’re a bird, salmon, or tarantula: adding the immigration element makes travel much more difficult. So let’s set that aside and just deal with brokering a new identity that keeps you inside your national borders.
To cut a long story short and save us both the headache and future court appearance: this method? It’s not worth it.
“But Saul,” you wail in distress, “you—you—you hypocrite!” Yes, I know. I had a guy who knew a guy and all that, and hey, voila, here we are: me in this shadowy place with a new life and you frustrated I just told you my solution might not work for you.
Just remember that as a state-sanctioned officer of the court, it was often my pleasure to defend what our judgmental society might call “the dregs.” Folks who were in dire need of creative and charismatic representation in the courtroom.
Plenty of my clients paid in cold, hard cash. A few, though, had to make arrangements. If you’re the type of guy who collects friends easily, maybe you should consider making the acquaintance of a few less-than-savory characters (all of whom have hearts of gold, their mothers will swear!) who might be able to hook you up when the turkey hits the tarmac.
If you’re not blessed with such a varied social circle, what you’d have to do in order to find a contractor willing to do all this scut work might not be practical. The corners of the Internet where mysterious identity brokers ply their trade are also full of nasty crap like the types of porn that are illegal in all nations and would likely make the devil himself turn up his nose. Sure, you could find marketplaces for authentic new passports and driver’s licenses—but the danger factor is way too high.
I’ve guided clients through some treacherous waters before, but I can’t look over your shoulder and say “don’t click that” or “not sure it’s a good idea to call that number.” Just imagine: you could be shaking some fresh ground pepper all over your Caesar salad while you browse the Dark Net and then—achoo!—your index finger slips and two weeks later, your youthful new bride Oksana is ringing the doorbell. Whoops!
So that’s my word on getting a broker to ferry you across the river into your new life: the risk may not be worth the reward for the future Miss Ann Onymous.