A top mafia boss has shared his painful ordeal of leaving the mob life behind and claims even his own dad wanted him dead.
Michael Franzese was just 24 when he was accepted into the Cosa Nostra gang and says crime bosses warned him to never betray his new life on October 31, 1975.
He was later arrested 18 times, indicted seven, and stopped whatever he was doing to save his crew of 300. But after his last stint behind bars, he turned to God and vowed to do right by his wife once he got out.
Recalling the night he took an oath to the crime organisation, he said: “It’s not an oath that says ‘from tonight you’re going to murder and steal and kill,’ does that happen? Yes. Did I violate the oath? Yes, because I talk about it and I walked away from it.”
Michael was the captain of the Colombo crime family in New York and became a prime target for law enforcement after he defrauded the US Federal Government upwards of $350million (£278m) with a gasoline bootlegging scheme.
He became one of the most powerful men in the city and in 1986, Vanity Fair named him one of the biggest money earners the mob had witnessed since Al Capone.
In his late twenties, Michael had his own jet plane, a Bell helicopter, a 7,000 sqft house on two acres of land in Long Island, a house on the water in Florida, and a house on the beach in California.
By 1995, following several years in prison on racketeering charges, Michael’s life was guided by a newfound faith in God, who he turned to when confined to a 6 x 9 ft solitary cell, where he was housed for 29 months.
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What followed was several contracts on his life, including one approved by his own father – high profile underboss, Sonny Franzese, who was released from prison after forty years in 2017 aged 100, and died two years ago at 103.
“It hurt. My dad and I was so close but I also understood,” Michael says. “If I became a major witness and put people in prison, well my dad proposed me [to join the Mafia], so it endangers him too.
“Do I think my dad would have put a bullet in my head? No. We patched it up later on.
“We had a lot of his men around who respected him, I looked up to him. But he didn’t want this life for me originally."
He went on to say that his father was indicted for masterminding a nationwide string of bank robberies and was slapped with a 50-year jail sentence, reports Manchester Evening News.
“When he went off to do his time in 1970, I was 19, I was a pre-med student and I was devastated because he was 50 when he went in, I thought he would never come out alive," Michael recalled.
"They [ his father's friends ] said ‘if you don’t help him out, he’s going to die in prison, and that’s what led me to the streets. The best way to help him was to become a member of his life.”
But Michael had his wife of now 37 years, Camille Garcia, a devout Christian, send books to him in prison. They met when she was a dancer in one of his films and says there was an instant attraction.
Michael added: “That started my whole journey in a different way. I had previously married at a young age, we had three children in three years, with Camille, we have four, so I have seven children. Five daughters and two sons.
“This life is so destructive to families. My whole family was destroyed as a result of my dad’s involvement in that life. I didn’t want to do that to my family, I just couldn’t do it.”
When he was released from prison, he and his family moved straight to California for a fresh start. He sent a message to his dad saying he was finished, and that he wasn’t going to hurt anybody.
Now, Michael shares his advice as a motivational speaker and supports vulnerable people against following a life of organised crime.
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