By Gregory Kirschling
Updated November 08, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

Rick Cowan doesn’t look like his picture. The NYPD detective is in disguise to promote Takedown: The Fall of the Last Mafia Empire (written with Douglas Century; Putnam, $26.95), which describes the three years he spent undercover in the trash industry, amassing evidence that would finally help break the back of the New York Mafia’s garbage cartel in 1997. EW wore a wire for a sit-down. — Gregory Kirschling

JOB DESCRIPTION ”None of these TV shows or movies do going undercover any justice. It’s…a full-time thing that doesn’t stop. I became Dan Benedetto, trash executive.” CLAIM TO FAME ”I said on the stand that to prepare myself, I’d go to the park, smoke a cigar, and read The Trade Waste News. And then it was right there on The Sopranos!… Tony Soprano reading the Waste News and smoking a cigar.” WISEGUY GRUMBLING ”Today even in the Mafia it’s the Me Generation. [Back then] a made guy gets taken down and some other guy will say, ‘They took down Joey, I’m gonna go after ’em.’ [Today] they’ll say, ‘Joey got taken down, I’m going to get elevated to his position. Good for me, more money in my pocket.’ It’s not like it used to be.” WHO’D PLAY HIM IN A MOVIE? ”My wife wants Tony Danza.” He shrugs. ”What about Robert De Niro? He changes his appearance so well.”