Former mob leader speaks at church in Waukesha

CREATED May 4, 2014

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WAUKESHA - From the New York City mob to ministry, it is an unlikely life. A man who made the rare move to turn away from the top tier of organized family crime spoke at a church in Waukesha this weekend.

Delivering his message during Saturday and Sunday services at RiverGlen Church, Michael Franzese said that very few publicly leave the mob and live to tell about it.

"If you want to hear about the mob, you can see it on television, it just happens to be my life," he told the congregation.

He was once on a list of the top 50 people in organized crime.

"Some 25 years later, out of that list of 50, 44 of those men are dead, three of them are doing life in prison without parole and me, the guy that wasn't supposed to make it, is here giving praise to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

Franzese is the son of a notorious mob boss and himself climbed high in the organized crime ranks. At his peak, he says he earned millions a week from strong arm scams and kickbacks.

What a difference a couple decades makes. Now, Franzese is signing books about his changed life at a church in suburban Wisconsin.

"Everybody has predicted my death, on both sides of the fence,” he told TODAY’S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray.

This former mob leader says he read and researched about many religions in the isolation of a long prison sentence, but ultimately says it was the Bible that changed his heart.

"I had three years to do the work, sitting in a hole 24-7 and this is my conclusion,” Franzese said. “Then, what's happened in my life gives me more of a reason to believe I'm on the right track."

Franzese said a movie about his life is due out late this year.