CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - When Michael Franzese was 22 years old he decided to follow in his father's footsteps.
That would have been fine if his father was a banker or a mechanic or a salesman but Michael Franzese's father was an under boss in the Colombo crime family in New York City.
Sonny Franzese didn't expect his son to choose "the life" but when he did, he told Michael he "wanted him to do it right."
From Leavenworth Prison in Kansas, Sonny sent word back to New York and the process began. For about a year, Michael had to do anything the mob asked of him. Only after that period, would he, perhaps, be extended the "privilege" of joining the family.
Michael took a blood oath and pledged his life to the Colombo crime family in the mid 1970's. For the next 17 years he worked his way up , eventually earning the rank of captain. At one time, 300 men were underneath him.
In the late 1980's, Franzese met and fell in love with a Christian woman. He knew he couldn't have her and the mob. Avoiding indictments and convictions for years, Franzese decided to take a plea deal.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison on racketeering charges. He was hoping that the mob would forget about him, even though he knew better. When word was spread that he was quitting the mob, his father disowned him for 10 years.
Michael moved his family to Los Angeles. For years the government tried to get him to turn on his former colleagues and join the witness protection program.
Michael refused and for years was forced to move his family when the threats became too real. He changed his entire lifestyle.
Franzese knew mob tactics well. He knew what they would try so he knew how to protect himself and his family. He didn't return to New York for 12 years and only then with security.
Franzese says he doesn't brag about getting out, he doesn't thumb his nose at the mob and he doesn't underestimate it's capabilities. He wasn't "mad at the mob. I just wanted out of the life," Franzese said.
Michael believes God had a bigger plan for him. The 58 year old is now paid to travel the world to tell his story and about his belief in God. Franzese says he doesn't tell people what to do. He hopes that he "wakes them up and lets God do the rest."
He has authored four books. He also helps train police officers in the ways of the mob. He visits prisons spreading his message that no one, not even a former mob boss, is beyond redemption.
Franzese coaches little league baseball and talks to young teens about staying out of trouble.
Everyone Franzese once ran with is in prison or is dead. Franzese knows that if he hadn't decided to get out of the mob, he'd be either dead or in prison for the rest of his life.
The government, he says, will eventually convict you. While he was in prison back in the 1980's, there was a civil war in the Colombo crime family. 12 men died.
Franzese says he would have been caught up in that and could have been one of those killed. He calls himself the luckiest guy you'll ever see.