That had changed when his father went to jail and was sentenced to fifty years in jail. At the age of nineteen, Michael Franzese became the head of his family and had to make money. He visited his father in jail and told him that he wanted to quit school and earn money with the mob. His father was against it and they argued the pros and cons for a bit and in an interview, Michael had said that his father asked him, “Michael, if you had to kill somebody, could you do it?”
Michael said that he thought about it for a minute and replied with, “If the circumstances were right, I think I could do it, yes.”
Michael said that his father told him that was the right answer and told Michael to go home and someone would be in touch with him.
Michael Franzese soon became a soldier in the Colombo crime family under caporegime Andrew Russo. Michael was at the second annual Italian American Unity Day at Columbus Circle when Joe Colombo gave Michael some flyers and told him to go pass them out. When Michael took the flyers, he walked a few steps away when he heard gunshots and Joe Colombo was shot and killed. This was Michael’s first foray into the violence of the mob and he was only twenty-one years old.
Michael Franzese rose through the ranks of the American Mafia in the Colombo crime family by eventually becoming a caporegime himself. Michael made money by loansharking, buying college basketball players and telling them to throw the game in where they would win but would not cover the point spread. He made money through extortion too but his biggest money came when he pulled the gas tax scam. He was approached by someone who owned a gas station and he told Michael that he found a way to keep the tax money that was owed to the government each quarter.
Michael was very interested in this. Michael would collect the tax money every week and after the first quarter, the government didn’t get their tax money, they would send a letter to the station and a letter would get sent every quarter until the company got a year behind. The government would come to the station after a year or so and find that the station was closed. He was eventually making over a million dollars a week with this scam.
Michael Franzese was able to walk away from the life that virtually no one has been able to do without going into witness protection or spending the rest of their lives in jail. He was able to beat the law and avoid jail but he knew that the government would still come after him so he struck a plea deal to do some jail time. Michael Franzese served eight years in prison and when he was released, he became a man of faith and a motivational speaker. His first time as a speaker was after he was released was to speak to student athletes and warn them of people who wanted to make money off of them and off of their sport.
Today, as part of Michael Franzese Ministries, Franzese travels around the country to speak at churches, corporate events, at risk youths, or for anyone who is looking to beat the odds. He talks of his time in the American Mafia, the money making scams he pulled and how he walked away from that life and how he is still alive to talk about it today.
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