Michael Franzese, a former Colombo family mobster, will speak at a large church in New Jersey this month, sharing why he walked away from organized crime after generating more money than anyone since Chicago Outfit boss Al Capone and decided to follow Jesus.
Franzese, previously highlighted as number 18 on Fortune magazine's list of "The Fifty Biggest Mafia Bosses," will share his dramatic testimony with nearly 2,500 people at Liquid Church in Morristown, N.J., on Oct. 21.
"Michael's story is a powerful one putting on display what happens when you go from a 'Goodfella' to a 'God-fella' -- that's the message we're illustrating this Sunday," Tim Lucas, lead pastor of Liquid Church, says in a statement.
Franzese will speak as part of a three-week series called "Gangsta," based on the life of the apostle Paul – a murderer who called himself the "chief of sinners"... but whom God ended up using to write much of the New Testament, the church says on its website.
As the former "Prince of the Mafia," Franzese faced dozens of grand jury appearances, three major racketeering indictments, five criminal trials, seven years in prison and a Mafia death sentence. However, in 1987, while in prison, he made a decision to walk away from the Colombo family and organized crime.
"It's rare to meet someone who leaves the Mob and lives to tell about it. But Michael's story is living proof that no one is beyond hope. God specializes in using people with dark pasts to bring light to the world," says Lucas.
Franzese was dubbed "The Born Again Don" in a January 1991 feature article in Vanity Fair Magazine. After converting to Christianity, the former Mob Captain of the Colombo crime faction of La Cosa Nostra is living a free and productive life which includes activities with a youth outreach program. He is the founder of a youth counseling group called the Breaking Out Foundation.
Franzese first became involved in organized crime at a time when his stepfather, Sonny Franzese, the Colombo family underboss, had been sentenced to 50 years in jail. But he began to change after he went into the movie business, and met 19-year-old Cammy Garcia, who would later become his wife.
Franzese says he wouldn't have been alive had it not been for his wife's prayers. "There's no question that I'd either be dead or in prison for the rest of my life. And that's not even a guess. That's absolute," he earlier told Christian Broadcasting Network.