Hollywood has popularized the mafia, showing how these criminal organizations built their empires. One individual who lived the life instead of portraying it for the screen was Michael Franzese. Franzese was a capo for the Colombo crime family. In Buzz Feed’s new video, “How I Stole $8 Million A Week As A Mafia Boss,” Franzese recalls his life as a member of the mafia.
Franzese was in medical school when his father was sent to prison for his involvement with the mafia. Franzese’s father proposed that he join the organization, after which he worked to prove himself worthy of being a member of the family. Eventually, Franzese was brought in with a ceremony and an oath. Franzese worked to get his father out of prison, and to make money. He devised a scheme to defraud the government by stealing tax from every gallon of gas sold. At one point, Franzese was bringing in $8 to $10 million a week. Franzese was living the life—with multiple houses, a personal jet and helicopter, and 300 men under his command.
Franzese was also making movies, and that’s where he met the woman of his dreams. He wanted to walk away from the life, but you don’t get off that easy when leaving the mob. He ended up striking a deal that lead to a 10 year sentence. After five years, he was out on parole with people seeking to take his life. Franzese ended up violating his parole, and wound up back in prison. There he found his faith. Since then, he has worked as a public speaker and an author.
“I just really want to encourage people that you can come back from a bad situation,” says Franzese. “Look, everybody predicted my death when I walked out of prison. Everybody—from law enforcement to everybody on the street. The important thing is you got to be held accountable. You got to surround yourself with the right people because in this life you are who you hang out with. I have a wife who holds me accountable. I have children that hold me accountable. I have a church that holds me accountable. And this is the way that I stay on the right track. You can come back from a bad situation. You can defeat the odds. And I just want to encourage people to never give up hope in that regard.”