Former mobster brings message of faith to PSU Berks

 

Anticipation was high at Penn State Berks for a powerful presentation from a man some call one of the most influential mobsters in history.

"I think this is going to be one of the most anticipated things at Berks this whole semester," said Madison Sanders, a senior at PSU Berks and also the head of the Criminal Justice Club.

"I actually used to live in the neighborhood not too far from where a lot of this stuff went down," said PSU-Berks student Angel Suarez.

A key turning point in Michael Franzese's life came, fittingly enough, on a college campus.

"Pre-med student at Hofstra University when my dad got in some pretty serious trouble, indicted several times," said Franzese, a former made man turned motivational speaker.

With his father facing decades behind bars and legal debt, Franzese entered the family business.

"It was at that point in time that he proposed me for membership in the life," Franzese explained.

The life as a made man in the mafia reads like a Hollywood script, because it is, having been portrayed in Martin Scorsese's classic "Goodfellas."

"When I created this scheme to defraud the government out of tax on every gallon of gasoline, I brought the Russian mob guys into it," Franzese explained. "I had a jet plane at that point. I had a Learjet. I had a Bell helicopter. I had houses in three different states."

The downfall fit the narrative, too. The five other made men that he knew?

"Every one of them were murdered," said Franzese. "Everybody I knew is either dead or in prison for the rest of their lives, so you wonder, why was this meant for me?"

Franzese has spoken to college students at countless colleges across the country, and he hopes that his message about change and transition can help them as well.

"I've been a strong person of faith now for the past 25 years," said Franzese. "I believe I'm alive because God has a different purpose for me."

Now, Franzese wants to bring that message, paired with his mobster past, to TV with a show on A&E that will begin filming next month.

But make no mistake, despite his newfound faith, Franzese still has his edge.

"Hopefully, no hopefully, I will make them stick to the promises they made for me to do this the right way," Franzese explained.

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