Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Yuppie Don, Michael Franzese.........sings

Franzese, ex-mafia boss, found Jeezuss while in prison and now lectures jocks on the evils of gambling and the mafia-connection to pro-sports of all types:

""At the peak of his criminal career during the 1980s, Franzese was rated by Fortune magazine among the top 20 most wealthy and powerful Mafia bosses and ran businesses that were generating a weekly turnover of about $7 million. With 12 bookmakers reporting directly to him, gambling contributed significantly.

So how does it happen? How do athletes become entangled in the web of organised crime? Franzese explains a typical scenario.

"I would get a call, 'Hey Mike, this certain player is in for us, $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, do you want me to stop him?' I would say, 'Of course not. Let him get into you for more, $100,000, $250,000. Let him bet'. We used to purposefully put him in the situation that we wanted.

"Before you know it this guy has nowhere to go. Finally, you say, 'OK this is exactly how we are going to work this out. Tomorrow night, you are favourites to win by 10 points, you make sure you win by six. I don't care how you do it – do whatever you have got to do. If you do this a couple of times, we're even. If you don't do this a couple of times then don't worry, you don't have to call me any more, I'll find you'."

According to Franzese, the competitive nature of sportsmen draws them to betting. Footballers in Britain certainly have a long culture of gambling while, in America, the issue was brought into sharp focus when basketball's Charles Barkley revealed losses of $10 million. The big danger, though, is when the money becomes owed to the wrong people.

"These guys are sophisticated in the sport that they play but, when it comes to their knowledge on the street, believe me they are babes in the woods," Franzese said. "When I speak to these guys, I say, 'I don't want to mess with you on the field, you would eat me up but, I tell you what, you come into my business, the business of gambling and I'll make a sissy out of you.

"We don't play by rules. There's no guy blowing a whistle'."

Franzese first became involved in organised crime at a time when his dad, Sonny, the Colombo family underboss, had been sentenced to 50 years in jail. The memory of taking his oath and becoming a sworn "made man" on Halloween 1975 remains vivid. "Money and power were the driving forces," he says. "I witnessed a lot of things that were unpleasant."

Franzese, though, was successful and being groomed to become the 'boss' of the entire Colombo organisation when, in 1984, he met his present wife, Camille. Eventually he decided to take a plea, do some jail time and left the mob in 1993. "All hell broke loose," he says.

"My dad disowned me, a contract was put out on my life. I should either be dead or in prison for the rest of my life, that's certainly what I earned. For some reason I got a second chance."""



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