Michael Franzese (born May 27, 1951), is a former New York mobster with the Colombo crime family who was heavily involved in the gasoline tax rackets in the 1980s. Since then, he has publicly renounced organized crime, created a foundation for helping youth and become a motivational speaker. during his mafia career, Michael Franzese was one of the most powerful, richest and successful mobsters in America. FBI Agent James Kallstrom once said of Michael Franzese:
"For over a decade, Michael Franzese was the most powerful and richest gangster in the world. Frenzies is also one of the most intelligent, creative and successful Mobsters in American history. In 1982, Michael Franzese had a jaw-dropping net worth of an estimated $35 Billion, (which is equivalent to $86.3 Billion as of 2017), Franzese always kept his unbelievable and incredible net worth very secretive, which is why he was never officially listed as one of the world's richest people, however, Michael Franzese was secretly one of the most powerful and richest people in the world. Franzese is one of the few criminal billionaire's in history of the world. Michael Franzese had the power and wealth of a king, he lived like a king, if not better than a king, and he could do anything he wanted to do. In 1980, Michael Franzese owned the most expensive house in America, Michael Franzese lived in a $150 Million, 110,000 square foot mega mansion in Miami Florida, he had a 600 foot golf course, 200 foot tennis court, olympic size swimming pool with a luxury hot tub inside his mega mansion, he had a luxurious cave swimming pool with waterfalls, He had a huge movie theater, He had a massive aquarium, he had a massive lake, he had a lake house, he had 2 apartments inside his mega mansion, and he had over 800 acres of land. Franzese had a $1 Million condo in Staten Island. He had several apartments in Brooklyn, New York. He had a $6 Million, 8,000 square foot mansion in Manhattan. He had a $10 Million luxury mansion in Las Vegas. he had a $15 Million luxury beach house in Los Angeles. He had a $25 Million beach house in the Bahamas. He had a dozens of jet aircraft's, helicopter's and airplane's. He had a 500 foot luxury mega-yacht. He had four 250 foot luxury yachts, he had 7 luxury boats. He had two 150 foot yachts. He had a $50 million personal airplane. He had a $30 million personal jet. He had a $10 million personal helicopter. He had a $20 million cargo plane. He secretly owned a private island in the Bahamas, just in case of needing to go into hiding. He had 4 Lamborghini's, 3 Ferrari's and two Porsche's. Franzese also had multiple high-tech weapons, he had an M60 Machine Gun, .50 Caliber Machine Gun, RPG'S, Grenade Launchers, he had a Mini-Gun, he had Sawed-Off Shotguns, AK-47's, Sniper Rifles, Uzi Sub Machine Guns, and Assault Rifles, and hundreds of Grenades. Michael Franzese owned dozens of businesses in New York City, and Miami Florida, such as a construction company, he owned bars, clubs, five star restaurants, Italian Restaurants, strip clubs, and other legitimate businesses. During the time that he was a captain in the Colombo Crime Family, he ran a crew of 400 soldiers, that would of done anything he ordered them to do in a snap of a finger. he also had a hit-squad working for him, with up to 200 professional and ruthless hitmen, he could have had anyone murdered in a heartbeat. Franzese even had more power, reach and influence than some of the higher-ranking members in the Colombo Crime Family. Franzese was fiercely loyal to the Colombo Crime Family, he would of done anything for his crime family, for an example of his loyalty, when one of his fellow mobsters was on trial he would often send his crew to intimidate Jurors or the Prosecutor by brutal beatings, death threats, or threatening to kill their families, and it always worked for mobsters, they would get extremely intimidated, because they know the mafia's vicious and fearsome reputation, and they know that the mafia is virtually invincible, and will not hesitate to kill them or their families or anybody for that matter. Franzese would never bribe a juror, because he knew they had no power, and they would be easy to intimidate. Franzese often said that "it's a waste of money to bribe a Juror because they are just civilians." Franzese always succeeded to intimidate Jurors. Franzese would sometimes even go as far as to intimidate the Judges, which he has succeeded to do, however, normally Franzese would bribe the Cops, Judges, District Attorneys, and U.S. Attorneys which he also succeeded to do. It was Unbelievable the immense power, influences, and extremely long reach, that Michael Franzese had. Not only did Franzese make Billions of dollars on the Gasoline bootlegging Racket, but he also made an enormous amount of money in, like most Mobsters, Extortion, Loan Sharking, Illegal Gambling, weapons trafficking, pornography, prostitution, cigarette smuggling, protection racketeering, wildlife smuggling, Truck Hijacking, Aircraft Hijacking, skimming, bookmaking, Building Trades, Construction, Waste Management, and Labor Unions. However, he was primarily focused on making money in the Gasoline Bootlegging Racket. Unlike most Mobsters, Franzese never was involved in Drug Trafficking, or committing dozens of murders. Franzese exerted his power and reach into bribery and corruption, for an example he had a lot of Police, Judges, District Attorneys, U.S. Attorneys, Councilman, Assemblyman, Senators, politicians, and Mayors on his payroll, Franzese would sometimes even succeed to bribe EPA Agents, IRS Agents, ATF Agents and FBI Agents. Franzese was a Legend in the world of the Mafia, Michael Franzese goes down as one of the most powerful, successful, clever and richest Gangsters in history."
U.S. Attorney Ed McDonald once said of Michael Franzese "During Michael Franzese's mafia career, he used his brains, and he was highly-intelligent, extremely clever, very creative and very sophisticated. Unlike most mobsters, Franzese was not a particularly violent, treacherous and ruthless man, in fact he didn't commit no more than one or two murders, however, what he lacked in violence, brutality and ruthlessness, he made up for in intelligence, efficiency, shrewdness, and cleverness, and most of all, he was an incredible and immense money-maker for himself and Colombo Crime Family, and the Five Families as well. I would describe Michael Franzese as a genius, he's a criminal mastermind, and one of the most successful and clever mobsters in American mafia history. I would consider him the most intelligent, creative and successful criminal in history.
Member of the Colombo crime family Edit
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Franzese is the step-son of Colombo crime family Underboss John Franzese. After finishing high school, Franzese entered Hofstra University and started a premed program. However, in October 1975 Franzese decided to quit college and work full time for the Colombo crime family. He was put to work as part of Andrew Russo's crew. Russo was also acting underboss at the time. By the 1980s, Franzese had become a caporegime, or captain, in his own right.
Gasoline Bootlegging Edit
Franzese's rise in the Colombo family came from the infamous gasoline bootlegging rackets, which were very lucrative for the family. Working with the Russian Mafia, Franzese sold billions of gallons of gas. The family would collect the state and federal gas taxes, but keep the money instead. At the same time, they were often selling the gas at lower prices than at legitimate gas stations. In the mid-1980s Fortune Magazine listed Franzese as number 18 on its list of the "Fifty Most Wealthy and Powerful Crime Bosses in the World". Franzese is a Multi-Billionaire, he made tens of billions of dollars for the Colombo Crime Family, and the New York Mafia, and he had a net worth of $30 Billion, however due to his astronomical restitution payments of over $115 Million, and money hes had to give to his family to survive while he was in prison, and all the money he had to spend on lawyers, and for his bail, his net worth has fluctuated to $10 Billion. According to the FBI, Franzese made more money for a crime family than anyone since Chicago Outfit boss Al Capone.
Entertainment and Sports Management Edit
By 1980, Franzese was a partner with booking agent Norby Walters in his firm. Franzese's role was to intimidate existing and prospective clients. In 1981, Franzese successfully extorted a role for Norby in US tour for singer Michael Jackson and his brothers. In 1982, the manager for singer Dionne Warwick wanted to drop Norby as an agent. Franzese met with the manager and persuaded him to keep Norby.
In 1985, Norby set up a sports management agency with Franzese as a silent partner. Franzese later testified as a prosecution witness that Walters invoked his name to frighten college athletes into signing management contracts.
Franzese was also a co-founder of the film company Motion Picture Marketing, which distributed such films as Savage Streets with Linda Blair. In 1984, Franzese was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida producing a film called Knights of the City when he met Camille Garcia, an evangelical Christian dancer from Los Angeles. Franzese asked Garcia to meet him and have a meal but didnt appear for five times. Garcia and Franzese eventually married. According to Franzese, his wife was the catalyst for him to become a Christian.
In 1985, Franzese was indicted on 14 counts of racketeering, counterfeiting and extortion from the gasoline bootlegging racket. In 1986, Franzese pleaded guilty to two counts. He was sentenced to ten years in federal prison with $115 million in restitution payments.
In December 1987, while in prison, Franzese made a decision to walk away from the Colombo family and organized crime. In 1989, Franzese was released from prison on parole after serving 43 months. Franzese moved to Los Angeles. Prosecutors considered Franzese to be a high ranking member of the Colombo crime family and sought his cooperation against his former organized crime associates.
On December 27, 1991, Franzese was sentenced in New York to four years in federal prison for violating the probation requirements from his 1989 release. Franzese had been arrested in Los Angeles on a tax fraud accusation and was sent back to New York for the probation hearing. In court, prosecutors complained that Franzese had only started making the balance of his court ordered restitution payments earlier that year. Prosecutors also said Franzese was not considered by the government to be a cooperating witness. He was ultimately released in 1994.
Motivational speaker Edit
In 1992, while out of prison on parole, Franzese authored an autobiography, Quitting the Mob. In this book, Franzese discussed his criminal activities, life with his father, and interactions with former Gambino crime family boss John Gotti.
Franzese is the founder and chairman of the Breaking Out Foundation. According to the foundation's website, Breaking Out is dedicated to educating, empowering, and equipping youth to face life's challenges, especially gambling addiction. Franzese has spoken on more than 400 Division 1 college campuses, speaking to student athletes as an NCAA life skills speaker. Franzese has addressed professional athletes with Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Football League (NFL). Franzese serves as a keynote speaker at corporate events and leads seminars for business and law students. He frequently speaks at Christian conferences, special events, and church services.
Franzese has been interviewed on the Jim Rome Show, ESPN, Home Box Office (HBO), Fox Sports, Cable News Network (CNN), CNBC, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), MSNBC, NatGEO, Fox News Channel, Huskers Illustrated Radio, and USA Today. On July 23, 2002, while appearing on the HBO television program "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel", Franzese claimed that during the 1970's and 1980's he persuaded New York Yankees players who owed money to Colombo loansharks to fix baseball games for betting purposes. The Yankees organization immediately denied Franzese's accusations.
In 2003, Franzese published Blood Covenant, an updated and expanded life story.
In popular culture Edit
Franzese was a contestant in the American version of the television show 1 vs. 100. He was asked which U.S. coins did not have ridges on them. After giving the wrong answer, Franzese remarked, "I only deal with bills."
In Martin Scorsese's 1990 film Goodfellas, Franzese is portrayed as the character "Mikey Franzese" by Joseph Bono.