Michael Franzese: The Transformation of a Mob Boss to Motivational Speaker

Michael Franzese, a name synonymous with the Colombo crime family, rose to prominence in the underworld during the 1980s. Born May 27, 1951, Franzese became a caporegime in the mafia organization, following in the footsteps …

Michael Franzese

Michael Franzese, a name synonymous with the Colombo crime family, rose to prominence in the underworld during the 1980s. Born May 27, 1951, Franzese became a caporegime in the mafia organization, following in the footsteps of his father, Sonny Franzese, who was an underboss in the same family. His life in crime was marked by lucrative schemes, especially in the gasoline tax rackets, which brought him notoriety as well as considerable wealth. Michael’s story took a turn when he decided to leave the life of organized crime, a monumental and life-changing decision that few made and lived to tell the tale.

Michael Franzese’s influence extends into popular culture where his life story has inspired books, documentaries, and has been alluded to in films like “Goodfellas”. His narrative is often highlighted as one of redemption, reinvention, and the strength of the human spirit to change, aligning with his motivational speaking themes. Through his public speaking events and storytelling, he brings a perspective to audiences that few can — one of a past deeply entrenched in crime and a present that stands in stark contrast as an advocate for honesty and positive life changes.

Early Life and Family Ties

Michael Franzese’s early years set the stage for a life that would later unfold in the public eye with marked notoriety and eventual reformation. His background, education, and deep family ties to the Colombo crime family framed his youth and charted a course influenced heavily by his familial connections.


Born on May 27, 1951, in Brooklyn, New York, Michael Franzese was the son of John ‘Sonny’ Franzese, a reputed underboss of the Colombo crime family. His youth was steeped in the culture of organized crime, which was a daily reality in his household. He later married Camille Franzese, who became an integral part of his life journey.


Franzese’s academic journey included a pursuit of higher education at Hofstra University, where he began studying in a pre-med program in 1969. However, his academic career faced a dramatic shift due to family circumstances requiring his attention away from his studies.

Colombo Crime Family Connections

The Franzese family’s reputation within the Mafia was firmly established through Michael’s father, John ‘Sonny’ Franzese. Michael’s inevitable involvement with the Colombo crime family was a consequence of this pervasive underworld influence.

Rise in the Mafia

Michael Franzese’s ascension within the Mafia ranks from a soldier to a commanding position serves as a notable paradigm of the organizational structure and hierarchical mobility in organized crime.

Becoming a Made Man

Michael Franzese was formally initiated into the Colombo Crime Family, one of the infamous Five Families of New York’s Mafia. This solemn ceremony marked his transition to a Made Man, solidifying his loyalty and committing to the omertà—the code of silence.

Advancement to Caporegime

Franzese’s acumen in generating substantial revenue for the family through various enterprises facilitated his advancement to Caporegime. In this role, he oversaw a crew within the Colombo family, directing their criminal activities and ensuring a steady flow of income to the Mafia hierarchy.

Underboss Role

Although Franzese never officially held the title of Underboss, his influence and status were comparable to such a high-ranking position. He was integral to the Colombo Crime Family’s operations, his leadership evoking both respect and authority within the Mafia.

Criminal Enterprises

Michael Franzese gained notoriety for his role in orchestrating intricate criminal operations that inflicted significant economic impact. Central to his illicit activities was a gasoline bootlegging scheme that evaded federal and state gasoline taxes.

Gasoline Bootlegging Scheme

Franzese masterminded a fraudulent gasoline tax operation that exploited the complexities of tax law. Through a network of companies, he was able to sell gas at lower prices by not paying the required taxes, which brought in millions of dollars in revenue. This operation eventually led to significant tax conspiracy charges, as the scale of evasion became apparent to law enforcement agencies.

Other Rackets

Apart from the bootlegging scheme, Franzese was engaged in various other forms of racketeering, including extortion and loan sharking within the framework of organized crime. This involvement in multiple illegal ventures established him as a significant figure within the Colombo crime family and underlined his reputation as a capable and diversified mobster.

Legal Repercussions and Life Changes

Michael Franzese’s criminal activities culminated in legal repercussions which led to significant life changes, impacting his time in prison and his transformation post-release.

Arrests and Trials

Franzese faced multiple arrests, with his most notable trial resulting from racketeering charges in the 1980s, reflecting his role within the Colombo crime family and involvement in a lucrative gasoline tax fraud scheme. This particular case led to a severe sentence being handed down in federal court.

Life in Prison

During his time in federal prison, Franzese encountered the harsh realities of incarceration. It was here that he spent considerable time reflecting on his life and the choices he had made, all while navigating the challenges and limitations imposed by the prison environment.

Conversion and Release

In the midst of his incarceration, Franzese became a born-again Christian, a transformation that was pivotal to his release and subsequent probation. His faith played a significant role in his decision to walk away from organized crime and served as a foundation for his life following parole. After serving his sentence and meeting the conditions of his probation, Franzese was released and began speaking openly about his past, becoming a motivational speaker and author, as detailed in an interview on LinkedIn.

In addition to his spiritual renewal, he also focused on his health, which resulted in his successful weight loss. This physical transformation mirrored the changes he underwent on a personal and spiritual level, further underscoring the positive redirection of his post-mafia life.

Post-Mob Life and Public Image

Following his departure from organized crime, Michael Franzese has reinvented himself as a motivational speaker, author, and entrepreneur, engaging in a variety of legitimate business ventures. His public image underwent a dramatic reversal, transforming from a notorious mob figure to an influential speaker and businessman.

Motivational Speaking

Michael Franzese emerged as a motivational speaker, sharing insights from his former life and how he made a complete turnaround. He frequently speaks about the importance of making right choices and the power of redemption. His speaking engagements often draw from his experiences to help others avoid the pitfalls of crime.

Authorship and Media Appearances

Franzese is the author of several books detailing his life in the mafia and his subsequent change of path. His stories have been featured in various media outlets, including a notable appearance in the Netflix documentary series “Fear City: New York vs The Mafia,” where he provides firsthand accounts of his past life. These appearances contribute to both his public image and spreading his motivational messages.

Legitimate Business Ventures

Since moving on from his past, he has been involved in legitimate businesses, including his own line, Franzese Wines. The wine business and other ventures stand in stark contrast to his former illegal activities and serve to cement his commitment to his new lifestyle.

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