Former New York mobster speaks at Romford school about how his wife and God transformed his life
PUBLISHED: 14:21 31 March 2017 | UPDATED: 14:21 31 March 2017
The son of a notorious underboss of a feared New York crime family who stole millions of pounds, turned his life around when he met his future wife.
Former mobster Michael Franzese, 65, was invited to Frances Bardsley Academy, Brentwood Road, Romford, at the weekend to talk about his transformation from top member of the Colombo family to a devoted father-of-four who spreads the word of God throughout the world.
Speaking to the Recorder before the talk, he said: “I’m really excited to meet everyone and tell them all about my story.
“I love coming here, it’s the second time I’ve spoken in the UK so it’s great to be back.
“The weather is nothing like it is over in California where I live now, but I do love the people.”
Growing up in Brooklyn, Michael was the son of underboss John “Sonny” Franzese of the Colombo crime family. He is the longest serving federal prisoner in the United States at the age of 100.
After finishing school, Michael went to university to study to become a doctor but in October 1975 when his dad went into prison, he decided to quit college to take over his father’s work and eventually became a caporegime – a made member – of the mob.
He said: “I’m probably the most blessed, most fortunate person that’s ever going to stand in front of you.
“And the reason I say that is because if I had been left on my own to do what I wanted to do with my life and follow the path that I was on, I would have been either dead or in prison for the rest of my life. And quite honestly that’s what I deserve.
“That’s what I learned after spending 20 years on the streets.
“Every day, and I mean every day, in violation of God’s laws and the laws of man and I did it knowingly and willingly.
“No one pushed me into that life, I made that decision consciously.”
After working with the Russian mafia to sell millions of gallons of gasoline at lower prices than at legitimate gas stations, Michael made more money for the crime family than anyone since Chicago gangster Al Capone, according to a federal report.
Using his influence and power, Michael became involved in movies and it was on the set of Knights of the City – for which he was the executive producer – in 1984, that he met his future wife Camille.
Michael said: “I was sitting by a pool minding my own business, when all of a sudden out of the water comes this gorgeous 20-year-old girl.
“I saw her and I’m not kidding, everything went into slow motion, it was like a Pepsi commercial.
“To cut a long story short, I fell very much in love with this woman and she is now my wife going on 32 years this year.
“And people there is no question, that she was the catalyst that God used to lead me to the Lord.”
After marrying in 1985, just a year later Michael pleaded guilty to two counts of racketeering, counterfeiting and extortion from the gasoline bootlegging racket and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
Once he was released, Michael went back to Camille and they raised four children together. He began touring around parts of the world giving motivational speeches and talking about his relationship with God.
“She was not the first beautiful woman I met in my life but there was something about her and after 32 years and the way my life has gone, there is no question that God put her into my life.”