Michael Franzese Talks About Former Mob Life, Conversion And Ministry (Exclusive Interview)
By Alice Wang, July 25, 2016 12:07 PM
If there is anyone who could positively affect at-risk youth, it must be Michael Franzese. He has powerful anti-crime messages, and a former mob life of decades.
Michael Franzese grew up as the son of the notorious Underboss of New York’s violent and feared Colombo crime family. At his most affluent, he generated an estimated $5 to $8 million per week from legal and illegal businesses. It was a life filled with power, luxury…and deadly violence.
Just a few years ago, mafia boss, Michael Franzese was named one of the biggest money earners the mob had seen since Al Capone, by Vanity Fair. At the age of 35, Fortune Magazine listed him as number 18 on its list of the “Fifty Most Wealthy and Powerful Mafia Bosses”, just 5 behind John Gotti.
In an interview recently with ChinaChristianDaily, Michael Franzese talked about his former mob life, his conversion, and his ministry--to help at-risk youth and those who are involved in gang life.
CCD: Have any people said that you "betrayed" your family (mob family)? What is your response to that allegation?
Michael Franzese: Yes! I have been accused of betraying my oath as a made member of La Cosa Nostra. In reality, I did betray my oath in that I have renounced my membership in that secret life. I have also violated "omerta," my pledge not to talk about the life. And yes, it is hurtful at times to be labeled as such. When I first left the life, it was very troublesome to be known as someone who betrayed my family.
But over time, I myself came to the realization that I am confident I left the life for the right reasons. I did not do it to hurt anyone, as I did not testify against my former mob associates, put anyone in jail and hide in the witness protection program. I did not do it to buy myself out of prison. I did it to preserve my life and that of my family's. I came to the realization that the mob life was wrong.
In fact, I call the mob life, the gang life, an "evil" life. I don't call the members evil, I was once one of them. I just happen to be very blessed to have been able to leave the life as I did and survive. But the life is evil because every family of every member of that life that I know has been totally devastated. The life is destructive to people, to the wives and children of it's members. And any life that is so destructive to people is evil.
Once I, myself, realized that my leaving the life and talking about it has had a positive impact on so many people over the years, I have been able to overcome any talk of my being either a turncoat or someone who has betrayed my life.
CCD: Have you ever imagined what people think of you being the "stepson" of Sonny Franzese, and what if you are really his biological son?
Michael Franzese: My mother made a very surprising revelation at one point, that I was in fact the biological son of my father, Sonny Franzese. I grew up believing I was his "adopted" son, as he did legally adopt me when I was young. My father always called me his son. Would never use the word "stepson." If it mattered that much to me, a simple DNA test would reveal the truth. I honestly don't care about it. He is the only father I knew. I love him the same either way. Blood is not always "thicker then water." Love is what counts. My father loves me and I love him and that's all that matters.
CCD: What led you to the mob life?
Michael Franzese:I chose the mob life for one reason and one reason only - I saw it as a way to help my father overturn his conviction and get out of prison. I never asked to be a part of that life. My father "proposed" me for membership because when he saw I was committed to helping him and would not be continuing college, he thought it the best way for me to both help him and make a life for myself on the street. I believe he knew I was cut out for the life at the time. And for me, whatever my father wanted of me I was willing to do. I had "blind faith" in my father's direction for my life because he had never steered me wrong to that point. I believe even in his proposing me into the life, he believed he had my best interests at heart.
CCD: How do you compare to Michael Corleone in The Godfather?
Michael Franzese: I have been compared to Michael Corleone all my adult life. I jokingly tell people, Michael Corleone should be compared to me because he was fiction, I'm the real thing! But seriously, the similarities are there. Our dad's originally tried to keep us out of the life. They wanted us to be educated, have a legitimate career. Neither one of us initially aspired to be part of the mob life. But circumstances, bad things, happened to our fathers and as a result, we chose to be in the life to help them. Once we got into the life, we excelled - rose to the top. So the similarities are there. In Godfather 3, Michael actually wanted to become legitimate and leave the life, as I did. I made it out, he didn't. That's where the similarities end.
CCD: Has anybody ever said you were a legend? If you can do it all over would you rather be a regular guy or a legend.
Michael Franzese: Many times I have been referred to as "a legend," mainly for 2 reasons. First because it has been said that I made more money for the mob then anyone since Al Capone. And next because I am the only known "made man" who reached such a high level and has been able to "publicly" leave the life and live to talk about it.
As I write this, I honestly have come to the point where I do not have many regrets about my former life. I believe what the enemy had meant for bad, God has been able to use for the greater good over the past 20 years and hopefully that will continue through the end of my life. Yes, there are incidents in my former life that I wish had never occurred and I regret them. But I know I can't change them. We can't go back. We don't get a "do over" for our sinful behavior. We can only confess our sins and "sincerely" ask God for forgiveness. As a christian, we are of the belief that God has forgiven us for our past sinful behavior, that the ground at the foot of the cross is level regardless of the sin we committed and that Jesus died for all of our sins. We then go on and try to do good in our lives as best we can, guided by the Holy Spirit. That's what I have come to understand and it is what I try to get those who are struggling with their own past behavior to understand. Jesus Christ is the one and only answer for all of us, for we all who have sinned.
CCD: What contributed most in leading you to Christ?
Michael Franzese: Without a doubt, it was my love for my wife, Camille. She was 19 when I met her, a strong young woman of faith, as was her mother. I fell very much in love with her. I wanted her in my life but I knew she would never accept me as a mobster. Because I loved her, I was willing to listen to both her and her mom when they talked to me about Jesus. Gradually, over a period of time, I accepted Christ into my heart. It was a process for me, but most definitely due to my love for Camille.
CCD: What are the differences between what the mob believes and what the Christian believes?
Michael Fransese: There really are no valid comparisons. The mob life is "allegedly" built on honor and respect among it's members. But in reality, it is built on "fear." That's the truth. The christian life is built on "love." True love of God and your fellow man. I can expand upon this for hours, but when you break it down, that's the truth.
CCD: Have you ever met anyone that doubt you conversion to Christ?
Michael Franzese: Of course. There are always doubters in the audience when I speak. I can certainly understand that. If I were in the audience listening to someone like me, I would have my doubts. I NEVER get offended by those who doubt my conversion. Those are the people I want to be listening to me. I'm all about outreach. My mission is to share with people not that I have converted myself, but that Jesus Christ has the power to transform ANYONE'S life. I was/am a sinner. I believe I am a lot better today then I was in my past, but that's because Jesus is in my heart. It's not because of anything I myself did other then to try to be obedient to Him, to His word. Fortunately, I have been very blessed to have a strong message and I have become effective in delivering that message through the power of the Holy Spirit. Bottom line, I am a "messenger," delivering a message of encouragement and hope in Jesus Christ.
CCD: What do you now think of your past? Does that bother you?
Michael Franzese: What I think about my past in question? An evil life! And yes, I still carry some of that baggage from the past. My wife says she believes I relive some of my past in the "nightmares" she witnesses me have at times while asleep. I believe she is correct. And yes, it is troublesome at times. But I have placed my hope and trust in Jesus Christ and the power of the cross. I believe in Him and so I move forward.
CCD: How would you define loyalty?
Michael Franzese: For me, loyalty is an unwavering commitment to stand by someone you love or have pledged your allegiance to. That was allegedly what the mob life was built on. But again, not so. Loyalty built on fear will collapse, as it has in the mob life. So many of my former mob associates have turned on one another. Loyalty built on love will endure. That's the loyalty I choose. To my wife, my children, my friends and first and foremost to my God!
CCD: How do you feel about the "Blood Covenant" we have with Christ?
Michael Franzese: Christ gave His life for all of us. He shed His blood for the forgiveness of all sins and in the process He gave us all the chance to have eternal life with Him in heaven. There is no greater covenant then that, sealed with the blood of our Savior. The mob's blood covenant in NO WAY compares to our Savior's.
CCD: What's your favorite scripture in the bible? Why?
Michael Franzese：Michael Franzese: Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Why? Because the Holy Spirit led me to that verse when I was at the weakest point in my life. I was broken, hopeless and beaten down. That verse caused me to challenge God and to begin a search of the bible to see if I could truly trust in Him. The results are who I am today. He has truly placed me on the right path, the path to eternal life with Him in heaven.
CCD: What is the most you have ever said to God in prayer?
Michael Franzese: I have fervently asked God NEVER to take a child of mine from me in death. I have asked him never to have one of my children suffer because of anything I have done. I have asked that He not allow the sins of my past to reflect poorly on any one of my children. I pray fervently to God for all of this. But even if that were to happen, I can never turn away from God because I believe to strongly in His existence. The evidence that God is who He is - God, and that Jesus is my Savior is just to overwhelming.
CCD: What do you want people to know the most about your ministry?
Michael Franzese: My ministry is one of evangelism. I want people to know that I am not out to "impose" my christian beliefs on anyone. My ministry is to "share" what I fervently believe God has done in my life. I want to deliver a message of hope and encouragement in Jesus Christ. I want people to know that Jesus transformed my life and that if He did that for me, He will do it for anyone and everyone that believes in Him. That's it, plain and simple.
CCD: Then what are you doing now?
Michael Franzese: In my ministry, I travel the world delivering a message of hope and encouragement in Jesus Christ as I have stated in 14 above. I write books about it, appear in media about it. I devote a considerable amount of time in ministry reaching out to at-risk youth and those involved in the gang life, doing my best to discourage them from that life and leading them to Jesus. Because of my past and who I once was, that outreach is VERY effective.
Michael Franzese: I have spoken at over 1000 churches and ministry organizations over the past 15 years and it continues today. I have been to several countries sharing the transforming message of hope and encouragement in Jesus Christ and I will continue to do so as long as the Lord allows me that privilege.
CCD: What do you think of those frequent Shootings in the US?
Michael Franzese: Unfortunately, we have seen more terrorist attacks and more lives taken since the tragedy in Orlando. I do not wish to get political in this exchange, as I don't feel it appropriate now. But I will say that these terrorist attacks are fueled by hate. A hatred of a way of life, of a belief system that is opposed to that of the terrorists. It is very serious and very sad and it must be stopped or many more innocent lives will be taken. As a christian, I can only pray that God will somehow intervene and lead those lost people to the one true God and not to some distorted "figure" of a God who advocates murdering those who do not bend a knee to his distorted ideology. This is my prayer!
To Know More about Michael Franzese HERE
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