SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — A former New York mob boss whose life was changed by the power of Jesus Christ is set to be the keynote speaker at this year’s Santa Clarita Valley Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast in California.
Michael Franzese is the son of the underboss of the infamous and violent Columbo crime family, and is considered “one of the biggest money earners the mob had seen since Al Capone,” formerly raking in millions a week from illegal activity.
In the 1980’s, he was indicted on over a dozen criminal counts surrounding racketeering, extortion and tax fraud surrounding his involvement in a gasoline sales scheme, and was sentenced to prison and ordered to pay $14 million in restitution. While in prison, Franzese turned from a life of crime and turned to Jesus Christ.
“I got convicted [in my spirit]. It’s almost as if God was with me in that 6 by 8 cell,” Franzese told evangelist Greg Laurie in an interview last year. “He said, ‘You know, are your ways really pleasing to Me or is this all a facade for you?'”
He said that it all began when a guard gave him a copy of the Bible, which he initially rejected.
“I opened it up to the Book of Proverbs,” Franzese recalled. “I came to a verse that just knocked me out, and I realized that was the first time that God spoke to my heart that I listened, because I was desperate. It said Proverbs 16:7, ‘When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, even his enemies are at peace with him.'”
He said that the Scripture resonated with him as he was facing much opposition in his life, including from his father, who had agreed to his death.
“I had nothing but enemies that night. The government was against me. My father betrayed me. The boss of my [mob] family had a contract [against me]. I’m sitting in that cell and I’m alone,” he continued. “It’s almost as if the Lord said, ‘I know you have enemies, but you come with Me and I can take care of that.'”
“I really needed to hear that,” Franzese said. “It really encouraged me, and it started to put me on the pathway to Jesus, who is my hero … in life now.”
Today, Franzese serves as an author and motivational speaker, writing books such as “The Good, The Bad and The Forgiven,” and is the founder of the Breaking Out Foundation for youth. His story was told during the 2013 National Geographic series “Inside the American Mob,” and the film “God the Father” potrays his personal testimony from working as a mob boss to now serving as an ambassador of the gospel.
“You can’t escape the long arm of the law—and you sure can’t escape the longer arm of the Lord,” Franzese now states.
He is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at this year’s Santa Clarita Valley Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, May 7, an event tied to the annual National Day of Prayer.
“This is somebody who came out of this lifestyle and he’s turned his life around,” Joe Messina, chairman of the prayer breakfast, told the Santa Clarita Valley Signal. “And he’s trying to get other people to do the same.”
Others invited as guests to the event include U.S. Rep. Steve Knight, Calif. Assemblymen Steve Wilk and Cameron Smyth, State Senator Sharon Runner and Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McClean.