Michael Franzese

January 8, 2014

Iam Michael Franzese, a former made boss in the Columbo Crime family starting in the early 80's. AMA. I'll begin answering questions at 2pm Eastern.

UPDATE: I'm here! Time to answer your questions! Thanks so much for all this, looking forward to it.

UPDATE 2: There is a lot of interest in some of my longer stories that there just isn't time to type out. I have a few books out that I go into great detail: http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Franzese/e/B001KIXYD6

UPDATE 3: My friends, I had a great time. Thanks for the amazing questions. I'm going to answer a couple more then I got to head out. I hope to interact with reddit more in the future!

Hi redditors, I'm Michael Franzese. I'm here to answer your questions. I am the son of one of the most feared Mafia bosses to ever walk the streets of NY. He was an enforcer known to be cold blooded and extremely deadly. I followed in my dad's footsteps and took on the mob life. As a made member I made money for the mob; tons of money.

A quote about me from Life Magazine:

"From the time he took a blood oath that bound him body and soul to New York's Colombo crime family, Franzese became a force to be reckoned with in organized crime. Named one of the biggest moneymakers in the mob since Al Capone by Vanity Fair, he quickly crept into the upper echelon of Mafia authority in this country. At age 35, he was the youngest mobster listed on Fortune Magazine's survey of the 50 most powerful and wealthy Mafia bosses in America. Franzese hit the list at number 18, only five spots behind the infamous John Gotti. At the height of his operation, federal authorities claim Franzese generated close to a billion dollars a year in a gas-tax scheme he masterminded..... Then defying common sense and the covenant that bound him to the Colombo family, Michael did the unthinkable - HE QUIT THE MOB...

There's an old saying that the only way to leave the Mafia is in a coffin. Michael Franzese was willing to take that risk. He will not betray his former crime associates and then disappear into the witness protection program... If he holds to what he has promised it will mark the first time that a high ranking member of the Mafia will publicly walk away from his past - and live!"

That was then -- A young Christian woman I met on the set of a movie changed my life and caused a transformation in me that only God could have engineered. My story is currently featured on three cable networks. Discovery, The History Channel and National Geographic Network and a movie about my life will be released in theaters in the Fall. A Documentary I am featured in titled IMPACT delivers a strong message to at-risk youth and has won Best Documentary Awards in 2013 at 2 major film festivals.

I know the mob life as well or better then most. I am also a person of strong faith. I'm ready to answer ALL your questions. Ask me anything you like. No bounds, no limits. I have been asked everything under the sun. If I choose not to answer I know how to take the fifth. I've done that many times in my former mob life. But I assure you I won't this time. So join me today and fire away!

Proof: https://twitter.com/MichaelFranzese/status/418088239379906560

My Wikipedia page

My Website

Any stories of interaction with other organized crime "families", such as Russian mob, Yakuza, Outlaw bike clubs, mexican prison gangs, etc?

A million. Spent 20 years in the life. Organized the Russian mob from Brighton beach in the gas business. Best partners I ever had. I taught them how to defraud the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money back then. They now are deep into medicare fraud, setting up fraudulent medical clinics all over the country. Would take hours to tell you all the stories. Take care.

What is the process of becoming a "Made Man" like?

Very intense. very solemn, very serious. I took an oath with a picture of a saint burning in my hands. My thumb was cut with a knife and blood dropped on the floor. The oath is never to violate the brotherhood of La Cosa Nostra.

I see this question asked all the time, but never to a legitimate former Mafia boss. How accurate are most mob movies/television shows? If you could recommend one to watch for authenticity, which would it be?

Most authentic - Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco. They mention my name in Good fellas. The bar scene. I knew those guys very well. My era. saved Henry Hill's life 2 x. I knew Paul Vario and Jimmy Burke well, also. And Left Guns Ruggerio was a good friend. Those two are the most accuarate depiction of that part of the life.

Yes! Is Goodfellas actually pretty close or is it just bullshit?

Very close. However, Henry hill never looked so good as he did in that movie. he was a low level guy, an associate. not nearly as close with Paul vario as the movie depicted. other then that, the Lufthansa robbery and all that followed was pretty accurate. "Do I amuse you?" Funny how? He was terrific!

Michael is actually in goodfellas, well someone plays him. In that scene where they are introducing all the guys they introduce him but pronounce it Francese instead of Franzese.

That was supposed to be me, yes!

Goodfellas is one of my favorites, one the few movies I don't mind being on TV constantly. Interesting to hear that it's one of the more accurate representations.

secret! i watch it every time it's on!

Go get ya fuckin shine box!

pesci is the best. he lights up the screen. the most authentic mob guy by far.

Getting affirmation that Goodfellas is the truest mob movie from a real-life mob boss? This is now my favorite AMA

thank you. stay in touch!

If you want a good movie about the reality of the mafia (including a critique of the media portrayals of the mafia) - the Camorra in Naples (which has a different structure to other mafias like Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia) - watch Matteo Garrone's Gomorra. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gomorrah_(film) The whole thing is filmed on location in one of Naples' most dangerous neighbourhoods and the actors are non-professional and grew up in the area, experiencing the themes in the film first-hand. In fact, one of the guys who played a clan boss in the film was later arrested because it turned out he was in the Camorra.

One of the central aspects of the movie is the influence media portrayals of the mafia have on actual gangsters, but also on how actual gangsters perpetuate this image in their own actions and create their own identity that is later replicated in film.

My degree is in French and Italian, we did some study of organised crime in Italy and our lecturer was a guy who also grew up in the same Neapolitan neighbourhood.

missed that one, but will watch it now. thanks

Was Tommy DeSimone really that psychotic or was Pesci being over the top?

pesci was a bit over the top, but i loved it. tommy was crazy, but pesci made him bigger then life.

In a Court TV online chat session, Henry [Hill] said the following about the Sopranos, "The Sopranos is the closest thing to the real life that I've ever seen. And if Tony Soprano would move into Bensonhurst or Harlem he would fit in as a Capo. His cookbook sucks, though. It's the only thing phony about the show." You can purchase Henry Hill's acclaimed cookbook at the right.


that's henry. but then again, Goodfellas made him a lot more important then he really was. he was an associate, not a made guy.

What is the scariest situation you have been in?

Walked into a room one night and thought I was going to get killed. I was called in by my boss over money I generated in the gas business. That's how it goes, you walk in and never walk out when you are in real trouble. I was in the right, proved it and her I am. But, brother, my heart was pounding, knees weak... Still don't know why I went. I guess just a product of my life back then.

How nice is your mom's cooking? She make good spaghetti?

my mom and grandmother were the best. grandma's meatballs cannot be duplicated and mom could whip up a delicious meal in minutes. miss them both! but my wife is a great cook. blessed!

Does the mafia still have a big presence in the US? Are they just better at hiding it now?

yes. not nearly as big as when I was active in the 70's - early 90's. but still exists. don't count it out. very resourceful.

How can I tell if the steak house across the street from me is a mob joint? Are there any tell-tale signs? It supposedly was a hot spot in the 80s and is still rumored to be.

easy. who hangs out there? mob guys like to eat where they are comfortable with ownership and the clientele. and of course, the food has to be good.

What is the worst thing you have done/seen when in the Mob?

Thanks for doing this, awesome!

unfortunately, violence is a part of the life. if you are a made guy, you're going to see it. no escape. i have seen my share. it's ugly.

I'm aware that you spent approximately three and a half years in prison. How were you treated by the other inmates that were aware of your past?

i spent almost 8 years in prison. 5 years, then 3 on a parole violation. i had a lot of publicity. i had a pedigree going in. i was treated well, with respect because i treated other inmates well. respect is a big thing in prison. FYI, both john Gotti and Carmine persico (my former boss) were both smacked around in prison. guys doing life without parole don't care who you are if you disrespect them they have nothing to lose. didn't hurt that Fortune Magazine named me as one of the 50 most powerful mob bosses in the US.

What was it like walking away from the mafia, was it accepted or were you threatened or hounded in any way? Also what were the actual logistics of your gas tax scam. how were neither the irs or any federal agency not able to successfully audit you?

I struggled mightily for years after walking away. my father disowned me. the family put a hit on me. the feds tried to make me a witness. lots of pressure. very tough. and very tough for me personally. even though i didn't hurt anyone, i felt like i betrayed my oath and it really troubled me. only God and time were able to fix that. gas tax scheme was complicated, but we were way ahead of the authorities, they could not figure out what we were doing. if my partner didn't turn snitch, they would never figured out the scam.

Any funny mafia stories? What would be the lighter side of organized crime?

A million of them. mob guys can be hilarious. read my book, I'll Make You An Offer You Can't Refuse! Lots of stories in that one, like in all of my books.

I think this is a very interesting and unique topic, so thanks for doing an AMA.

Great questions that require lengthy answers. Again, read my business book. You can see it on Amazon. I answer all of that and more.

Most everyone I ran with is either dead or in prison for the rest of their lives. I outlasted most all of the guys. blessed! Guys on the street will not really associate with me now. Would not look good for them. but I really didn't have many enemies in the life. I made people earn money and that makes lots of friends.

Like everything else, public officials, law enforcement... some of them like money and power. we knew how to use our influence and money to get to those who would play along. at one time, the mob controlled almost every major union in america. we had strength right into the white house back in the kennedy days. believe it. it's the truth.

Any fears about your safety today?

i can't go back to brooklyn to live, or in NY in general. wouldn't last. but i don't live in fear. i am a person of strong faith now. God has had my back. remember, i am the only made man, a caporegime, that i know of who has walked away from the life, publicly, not entered a witness protection program and lived. it's a God thing, my friend. not coincidence.

How does the mob or other organized crime compare today with your day? Is it worse? Better? More or less brutal?

my day was pretty much towards the end of the golden age of the mob that began in the late 40's. different today. i wouldn't want to be a part of it. we had some integrity about us. respect and honor did mean something with the old timers. today??? the Russians have gotten pretty violent at times. but it's all not what it was.

What is the most unrealistic part about the Mafia as portrayed in television and movies?

really depends on the movie you're talking about. Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco - realistic. The Sopranos?? If a mob boss was ever visiting a psychiatrist he would be in the trunk of a car by the end of the week, along with the psychiatrist. But the family interaction was fairly legit.

How old were you when you first realized something was different about your family and what made you realize it?

very young. my dad was super high profile. like the John Gotti of his day. law enforcement always after him and sitting outside my house. many incidents with them. didn't like them very much when i was a kid. got into fights in school when kids made remarks. but i loved my dad. made me tougher.

What timing; I just watched that program about the 10 Commandments of the Mafia, and now here you are.

  1. Where did you get the idea for the gas station scheme? And since it was getting so big, did you have any sort of an exit strategy in case the authorities got too close? Or would you just keep running the scam until you went down with the ship?

  2. Who was the scariest person you ever encountered and what made them particularly frightening?

gas tax scheme was one in a million. so much money. better then drugs and a lot less ugly. a guy in the biz came to me when some other mob guys tried to shake him down and move in on his business. i chased the guys away and the 2 of us devised this scheme to defraud the government out of the tax money on every gallon of gas. at it's height, we sold 500 million gallons of gas a month and kept 20 - 30 cents a gallon of the tax money. do the math. lots of money.

my dad was scary. saw him go off on people. scare because he was no bs. he would do exactly what he said. no fear in him.

We all know movies like The Godfather and shows like Boardwalk Empire are a romanticized version of the golden age of the mafia. The Sopranos, on the other hand, has been praised as being a very authentic mob show.

My question: How accurately did The Sopranos portray the inner workings of the mob?

the best thing about the Sopranos was how he interacted with his family. mob guys also had family issues. the business stuff was not real realistic. made them look incompetent. some guys were, but others were pretty darn smart.

If you had it all to do over again, would you make the same choices? Was the lifestyle worth all the trouble you went through?

life on the street and in the mob is a dead end. prison or death is the way it will end today. i would not go into that life, knowing what i know now. i try my best to drum this into the head of our young people, gangbangers.

not worth it for me or for anyone in the life. trust me.

This is a great question. We always hear how the mobs have money flowing in, but is it worth it having to hide and always in danger?

not worth it. the pressure is always there from the law and your own guys. trust me, not worth it.

Thank you for doing this AMA. As a former member of the Colombo Family, I'd like to know what you think is the future of the family as they are the smallest in New York and constantly being hammered by the government. Do you see any family mergers for example? Also, did you know Greg "The Grim Reaper" Scarpa? Seemed like an interesting character with his civil rights work and sociopathic behavior.

families will not merger. if the governemnt keeps pressure on ALL the families, they will continue to weaken them. Colombos and Bonnanos are the smallest in numbers, but all the families have been hit hard.

What were the most popular methods of intimidation and/or extortion?

Just following through with what you say you are going to do. if you say I'll beat you with a bat if you don't perform/pay, you know they will. It's knowing you back up what you say that scares people.

Where Hoffa at?

they will NEVER find Hoffa's body. trust me on that one.

Haha, let's test your pledge to answer all and any question:

  1. How much are you worth and have you really quit the mob or is this just deep cover?

  2. How many lives have you personally ended and how many have you been responsible for ending.

  3. Who was the most feared mobster of your era? And why?

  4. How do you perceive films like the godfather, casino, goodfellas etc? Realistic to what percentage?10%, 90%?

  5. Any opinion on the news that Pacino and de Niro are going to film 'the Irishman' (about. Frank Sheeran and Jimmy Hoffa) this year? Any fact that you know that could change the entire story or anything you think must be included, event, personality trait etc? Did you know either man?

Thanks for doing this AMA, if you have any of those mobster dollars hidden away I could do with a 100k loan;)

1.) I'm out. 15 years straight proves it. at one time, I was bringing $8-$10 million a week into my operation. had a jet, a helicopter - all the toys. today, i work for a living. for myself but i work. movie on my life out this year. 2) tough question. know this. you are part of the life, you are part of the violence. 3) there was no most feared. you feared your boss if you made a mistake or violated the rules. tough guys who have no respect for other guys in the life always end up dead! the life is the real tough guy. 4) answered this above a few times. 5) haven't heard about the film going forward. pacino and de niro are great. but pesci is the best mobster. you would not want a loan at my former rates! LOL!

How do/would crime families view the more modern organized street gangs? A means to an end as partners or just petty criminals not to be trusted.

petty criminals. no respect for human life. we chased them from our neighborhoods if they would even dare to enter.

It seems that a lot of families have been destroyed by all of the bloodshed and corruption that mafia groups like the Colombo family have perpetrated over the years, yet mobsters are generally romanticized in film and on TV. Do you agree that this is how these groups are generally portrayed? Do you think that this is harmful? What is your take on this with your new outlook on life?

The Godfather did more to raise the profile of the mob then any other movie. yes it's harmful. the life should not be glamorized. why? it's an evil life. not saying the men are evil. i was one of them that happened to be blessed. the life is evil because people die, families get destroyed because of a lifestyle i lived it. i know.

Do you ever see anyone from your old Mafia days?

every once in a while. i speak all over the country to thousands of people a month. i have had a few encounters.

How full of bodies is the meadowlands marshes in NJ? I just can't help but think it's loaded.

not loaded. that's a myth.

Can you describe the most brutal/violent thing you ever witnessed while in the mob? The most brutal act you heard committed?

the demeo crew. chopped up bodies and buried the parts in cement drums. Witnessed death. it's not pretty. Let's leave it at that.

I've known people who worked with mob members in NY prisons and the stories about those locked up always lean towards how kind mafia inmates were compared to others in that environment. Names are dangerous but some of the scarier mafia names were mentioned. What part of the mafia lifestyle instills such respect and humility?

we held ourselves well in prison. the best inmates for the most part. dumb not to be. nothing to gain by being a jerk. the respect is gained by reputation to. humility is a personal thing. John Gotti was anything but humble. Other guys were, but NEVER mistake their humility for weakness. big mistake.

What's your very best life advice?

for me, it's a faith advise. make Jesus, the only man's man to ever walk the earth, your hero. emulate Him as best as you can and you will benefit as I have.

How often have you encountered "corrupt" cops/government officials? Has any nationally known incident ever been influenced by this?

quite often. they are people to. everyone is capable of being corrupted, regardless of your career. but i have met many real good honest ones also.

Really appreciate this AMA.Congratulations on getting out of the mafia and making a positive effect on youth.

  1. What do you see as the future of organizard crime in America?
  2. What are some of the biggest challenges or boons to organized crime in the future?
  3. How did faith play into your life while you were in the mafia?

Bonus Question: What are you thoughts on the painting from Tommy's mother in Goodfellas?


1) there will always be crime. always. but the mob is not what it used to be and will never have that power again, until and unless our government becomes too restrictive on our freedoms. and i do see that day coming. 2) too many snitches. law has too many weapons to make guys turn. 3) i left the life because i fell in love with a christian girl we are now married 28 years. God used her to get to me. saved my life, preserved my freedom. very blessed. i love the Lord for what he has done for me.

Thank you for coming and doing an AMA on this unique topic from such a unique viewpoint.

walking into a room when i thought i would get killed. called for by my boss at the time. very scary. actually enhanced my ability. i was always a good networker. developed that skill while in the life.

Thanks for doing this ama. I have one question based on a factoid I recall reading about a while ago. Did the movie "The Godfather" made an impact on how you and your fellow mafiosi perceived yourselves?

absolutely. it elevated the status of the mafia to the general public and even to one another.

How do you feel about your past? Does it haunt your? Are you proud? Any regrets?

i am not proud of my past. my wife will tell you that i do have rough nights sleeping at times. regrets? i would have preferred not to have gone through it, but i just move on and try to use my experiences to benefit others.

Is it generally harder for someone outside of the family to become a made man? Or if I wanted to join are my chances ok? Thanks for answering these questions.

it is harder. you must be "proposed" by another made man. he vouches for you. my father did for me. the mob wants to know your background, where you came from. then you go through a pledge period where you must prove yourself.

Are you worried about the feds reading this?

no. my life is pretty much an open book. wrote 4 books, tv shows... speaking. not really concerned.

Why is it that so many OG's kept their mouths shut and did their time, but today people all rat each other out? I know prison sucks, but what makes it ok to rat on your friends and family?

I know you did your time, so this isn't directed at you Mr. Franzese. Thanks for doing this AMA

government has many more weapons today against oc then it did back in the golden age. under the rico act, they put you away for life now. no parole, no bail. take all your assets. guys just don't stand up like they used to under that pressure.

What is the percentage of mafia members survive until old age? The % that survived without any work-related injuries?

if you are a made man, you die of old age and die a free man you really accomplished something. i have seen many more guys die in jail or from a bullet then i have seen survive. the % are bad.

What was the main appeal of joining the mob for you? Money? Power? Following your dad's footsteps?

i joined to help my day get out of prison. plain and simple. the money and power came for me later on. once i got in, i wanted both.

When you walked, did you have to leave everything behind?

everything, just about.

Are there mob groupies like rock stars have?

and how. you would not believe the attraction to that life from men and women alike.

What do you miss most (if anything at all) about being in that lifestyle? And conversely, what did you hate or you miss least about it? And finally, what do you enjoy most about life now that you are out of all that?

i do miss the camaraderie i had with my guys. it was powerful. i loved the brotherhood among the men. and there were some good times. yes, i do miss them at times. i hate the treachery, greed and the dishonesty. it destroyed the life. NOW, I enjoy freedom, my family, being an encouragement to others and serving God.

How often did you partake in the traditional mafia activities of "eating gabagool" and "talking about gabagool"?

i am italian in every sense. love the food. all of it.

Hi Michael. What is your relationship with your father like these days? I know Inside The American Mob you spoke about it but is there anything else you would like to add. Also what was your single best day (money wise) whilst in the mafia? And finally! Will we ever see the sort of organised crime capabilities that Cosa Nostra had ever again?

Thank you.

i still love my dad. he's in prison until 2017 when he will be 100, God willing. i feel a bit guilty i haven't visited him as often as i should. just so burnt out on prison. all my life... since mom died last year, things have changed a bit between us.

One day, i made over $3 million. it was a rush! No, the Mob in my opinion will never see it's glory days again, at least not in my lifetime.

  1. Did you (or other made members) get an actual salary, or did you just have access to any money you needed?

  2. If you did get salary, was it based on what you brought in and how much was your salary?

  3. Do you have a relationship with your father?

  4. How thin can you cut your garlic?

ha. no salary you earn for yourself unless you were the boss. most gusy were not good earners. trust me. yes. he's 96 years old and still in prison. very thin. we mob guys are experts at cutting garlic.

Thanks for coming on. I'm very interested in your faith conversion and how it changed your world view and actions.

One of the disconnects shown in movies are Mafia people committing terrible crimes during the week and then going to Catholic church on Sunday, as if the tenants of Jesus as recounted in the synoptic gospels of the New Testament don't count the rest of the week.

Did your faith conversion bring with it a stronger sense of how you treat others?

I'm especially interested in how, since you are Christian now, you have been following Jesus' message of love and forgiveness.

*As a Mafia leader who had great wealth, has your understanding and attitude toward the poor changed with your conversion? *

Do you have anything to say to Christians who are still living a life where they actively lie, cheat, steal and violently hurt others in order to accumulate money?

the mob life is a direct contradiction to christianity in many ways. of course, as a christian we want to treat everyone with respect. we don't judge people, even though we might not agree with their behavior. love the sinner, hate the sin... if you are truly a christian, sin cannot remain a pattern in your life. that means sin of any kind. i have found that the closer your relationship is with Jesus, the less you will continue to sine. NEVER perfect, always subject to fall. But convicted and bothered when you do and pray not to fll again. And really mean it.

My friend, Jesus saved my life. No doubt about it. He's made me better. he is my hero as a man and as my savior. If he can do that for me, a former mobster. A bad guy living a bad life.... He can do it for anyone. Blessings! -

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Michael Franzese conducted on Reddit on 2014-01-08. The Reddit AMA can be found here.