Who is Michael Franzese?
American motivational speaker, author and former convict Michael Franzese, was born in New York City USA, on 27 May 1951, making Gemini his zodiac sign. He’s probably known best for having served time for implementing a scheme to defraud the federal government of oil taxes in the first half of the ‘80s; since his release from prison in 1994, Michael’s been travelling around the US giving motivational speeches, and has also published seven books.
Education and early life
Michael was raised in New York City by his father John ‘Sonny’ Franzese who was an underboss of the Colombo crime family, and mother Cristina Capobianco-Franzese who was only 16 when she gave birth to Michael; he spent most of his early life believing that Frank Grillo was his father, and went by the name ‘Michael Grillo’. Cristina married Frank because it would’ve been a scandal if she gave birth out of wedlock, but after Sonny was allowed by the mafia to divorce his then-wife, he married Cristina and Frank disappeared.
Michael wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a mobster, but Sonny didn’t want that kind of life for him; Sonny was sentenced to spend 50 years behind bars for robbing a bank in 1967, and Michael dropped out of college in 1971 to provide for himself, his brother and their mother.
Life of crime
Michael met his father’s friends after he was incarcerated, including the boss of the Colombo crime family Joseph Anthony Colombo Sr, and became a made man (fully initiated mafia member) in 1975, under acting boss Thomas ‘Tom’ Dibella; Michael took the blood oath together with other recently initiated members John Minerva, Vito Guzzo Sr, Salvatore Miciotta, Joseph Peraino Jr. and Jimmy Angelino, all of whom but Salvatore died violent deaths in the following two decades.
He was mentored by Joseph ‘Joe-Joe’ Vitacco at the beginning of his ‘career’ in the mafia, and in 1980 became the capo in charge of more than 300 men.
Mafia member Lawrence Salvatore Iorizzo contacted Michael in 1981, claiming that he had a plan for defrauding the government out of gasoline taxes; Lawrence had problems in California, and offered Michael a percentage in the scheme if he was to help with his problems. The two men started 18 stock-bearer companies in Panama, and Michael then partnered up with New York City’s Russian mafia; officials later stated that Michael was making $1.25 million a month through the scheme, while his associate claimed that he was making $1 million a week. At the peak of his ‘career’, Michael was making $8 million a week, while the scheme defrauded the federal government of $250 million a year.
“Fortune Magazine” ranked Michael #18 on their 1986 list ’50 Wealthiest and Most Powerful Mafia Bosses”, while the magazine “Vanity Fair” referred to Michael as the second biggest mafia money earner, right behind Al Capone.
Michael was the owner of a number of legal businesses in the ‘70s and ‘80s, such as movie production companies, nightclubs, restaurants, car repair shops and dealerships; his film production company Miami Gold produced the popular 1986 action adventure movie “Knights of the City”.
Arrest and incarceration
Michael was arrested on various charges in 1985, but was acquitted of racketeering in April; he was indicted on 14 charges in New York City in 1986, and on 177 counts in Florida in the same year.
Iorizzo turned against Michael and other mafia members in March 1985, when put in the witness protection program. Michael pleaded guilty to two counts of tax and racketeering conspiracy on 21 March 1986, and was sentenced to pay $15 million and spend 10 years behind bars; he eventually entered a plea agreement, and his sentence was lowered to nine years, of which he served three years and seven months prior to being released on parole, but violated the parole and on 27 December 1991 was sentenced to spend four more years in prison.
During his time in jail, Michael was given a Bible by a guard and became a born-again Christian; he co-authored his autobiography “Quitting the Mob” in 1992.
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Life after prison
Michael was released on 7 November 1994, and retired from the mob in the following year, and moved with his family from New York City to California, after receiving several death threats.
He’s since given motivational speeches all around the US, including in prisons and schools, while he also occasionally speaks at Christian churches and conferences.
Michael narrated the 2013 documentary movie “The Definitive Guide To The Mob”, and played a supporting character in the 2017 American Christian movie “Let There Be Light”.
He’s published six books since his 1992 autobiography, including the 2009 “The Good, the Bad and the Forgiven”, the 2014 “From the Godfather to God the Father”, and the 2022 “Mafia Democracy”.
Love life and marriages
Michael’s married twice, but not many details have been disclosed about his first wife Maria Franzese, while it’s known that they don’t have children together.
He married his second wife, American devout Christian Camille Garcia in 1985, a year after they met while shooting for the movie “Knights of the City”; they have seven children together. Michael’s revealed that it was Camille who convinced him to leave the mafia.
He hasn’t mentioned other women whom he’s perhaps dated, Michael’s married to his second wife Camille Garcia as of April 2023, and they have seven children together.
MY BEAUTIFUL WIFE! – The Love of my life! 21 when we married. Supported me thru federal trial, 8 years in prison, 2 years parole and so many other challenges. 35 years later still supporting me. She’s one in a million I LOVE YOU with all my heart. HAPPY VALENTINES DAY! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/JznAq5E7mL
— Michael Franzese (@MichaelFranzese) February 14, 2020
Interesting facts and hobbies
American actor Joseph Bono portrayed Michael in the critically acclaimed 1990 biographical crime movie “Goodfellas”, which won 44 of its 82 award nominations, including an Oscar win for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Joe Pesci).
Michael’s brother John Franzese Jr. testified against their father, and Sonny was sentenced to eight years in prison; John was wired during his and his father’s conversations – Michael’s described John as ‘a nobody in the mob life’.
His favorite actor is Brad Pitt, and some of his favorite movies include “Snatch”, “Ocean’s Eleven” and “World War Z”.
Height, eyes and wealth
Michael’s age is 71. He has brown eyes and short black hair, is 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall and weighs around 160lbs (73kgs).
Michael’s net worth’s been estimated at over $1 million, as of April 2023.