Michael Franzese used to fix NBA and NFL games.
He also made millions of dollars skimming tax money from gasoline while working with the New York Mafiaâ€™s Colombo family, being named No. 18 on Fortune magazineâ€™s list of â€œFifty Most Wealthy and Powerful Mafia Bossesâ€ in 1985.
But in December 1987, Franzese decided to leave the Colombo organized crime family while serving a 10-year prison sentence on racketeering charges. The change came, Franzese has said, when he met a girl Ââ€“â€“ now his wife â€“â€“ while in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. who persuaded him to become a Christian and plead guilty to his charges.
Since that time, Franzese has spoken at more than 250 universities about the dangers of gambling and racketeering.
Franzese will talk about his experiences in the Mafia and his conversion to Christianity at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Center. Several Christian groups on campus including the Campus Crusade for Christ, The Rock and Navigators are putting on the event free of charge.
Members of these groups were invited to bring one friend with them, but 1,200 tickets will be available at the door.
Jim Rinella, the Navigatorsâ€™ Rocky Mountain region director, said that he expected the turnout to be half students from Christian groups and half students who are not members.
â€œEverybody wants to hear his stories from his life in the Mafia,â€ Rinella said. â€œHow did a tough guy in the Mafia become a Christian?â€
It cost the Navigators $3,500 to get Franzese to visit, but the entire cost was covered by an anonymous donation, Rinella said.
Staff writer David Martinez can be reached at email@example.com.
What: Michael Franzese, ex-Mafia member to share stories about experience with New York
Mafiaâ€™s Colombo family and his conversion to Christianity
Where: The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, located at 417 W. Magnolia St.
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Tickets: Tickets are free and will be available at the door