In this episode, we are talking with someone who has been called the highest earning mob boss since Al Capone, and who made a fortune as a ‘made’ man in the Colombo Crime Family. Meet Michael Franzese, born in 1951 in the Green Point section of Brooklyn, later moved to Long Island, New York. After finishing high school, Franzese entered a pre-med program at Hofstra University in 1969; his father initially did not want him to be involved in organized crime. However, in 1971, Franzese decided to drop out of college to help his family earn money when his father was sentenced to 50 years in prison for bank robbery in 1967. Michael has been featured in numerous books and shows such as the Netflix series “Fear City” as well as “Inside the American Mob,” a National Geographic documentary.
Michael opens up about the discipline he learned working as a member of a high-class mob family and how the rank structure of such families ingrained values in a person. All this helped him climb up the mob ranks and became a caporegime of a crew of 300.
Michael had learned many valuable lessons throughout his life, which he shares with us today through this podcast. We’re going to dive deep into his personal and professional experience to learn about his lessons in life, his stories, and valuable information that will help you grow and scale your business. We’ll look at how these life lessons in a high crime mafia family lead to success in business. He shares valuable advice for entrepreneurs and business people in his book “I’ll Make You
An Offer You Can’t Refuse: Insider Business Tips From A Former Mob Boss”
Some topics we discussed:
Apart from this, you can get world-class support & advice to grow your business or improve your life on LIVE virtual calls by this link – https://join.michaelfranzese.com/inner-circle
If you already have a business but want to take things to a whole new level, check out this link – https://www.michaelfranzese.com/coaching
Moreover, for booking requests or to join Michael’s crew for free (a private online community), go here – https://www.michaelfranzese.com/2 “
And for *autographed* books/poster personally signed by Michael Franzese, visit – https://store.michaelfranzese.com
Contact David Morrell
Tiktok – https://www.tiktok.com/@morrellionaire
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Our guest today has been called the biggest money earner in the mob since Al Capone. Michael Franceze grew up as the son of the notorious underboss of the feared Colombo crime family. At his most affluent, he generated five to $8 million per week from. Illegal businesses avoiding traditional mob domains, Michael masterminded, brilliant scans on the edge of the legitimate business role from auto dealerships and financial services to the sports and entertainment industries and eventually to a multi-billion dollar tax scam.
He became one of the biggest money makers in mob history. Michael is the only high ranking official of a major crime family to ever walk away without protective custody and survive. We’re looking forward to discussing his fascinating life lessons learned over that time. And the many applications we can take from life in the mob to the world of business sales and entrepreneurship.
Michael, it’s a pleasure. Welcome to the run GPG podcast. And I still have, you know, Mike Michael, you know, we’ve interviewed a lot of interesting high profile guests, influencers, celebrities. However, you’re somebody I really wanted to talk to for a minute now because you have such a unique perspective.
Business. And he, you know, from a perspective that we, a lot of us won’t get to see, you know, under the hood up, right. if we want to call it an industry coming from the world, you have, thankfully we don’t have a close look at it. But according to your bio, you know, in reading your bio, it says you are the only high ranking official of a major crime family to walk away publicly without witness production and actually survive until your story.
Is that, is that accurate? Is that an accurate statement? I mean, as far as. I don’t believe anybody has been able to, you know, walk away, not cooperate with the government, not introduce a witness protection program and live as high profile as I have. So, you know, to my knowledge, there’s nobody else around.
Well, it’s an interesting statistic if it’s true. You know, we mentioned in the intro that you were generating five to $8 million a week from some of your business ventures. However, there was an article in fortune magazine and an infamous article from many years ago. Now that ranked the highest earning mafia bosses in history.
And you were among them. You were among the highest earners. I think you were in the top 20. If I remember it in that article, it said that you were, as I said in the, you know, the intro, you were called the biggest money earner in the mobs since Al Capone, is that accurate? Like how do they know this? First of all, do they look at tax returns?
Like how do they know? No, I guarantee they didn’t, they didn’t check my tax returns. They wouldn’t have found much if they did, but you know, I don’t know how they make that ranking, but you know, quite honestly the biggest tax scam we’ll call it that I was. You know, instrumental in developing was probably one of the biggest money earners that, certainly the Colombo family had.
And I think all of the mob in New York, you know, since the days of prohibition, I mean, it was a huge, huge, huge enterprise that we created and the money was extremely significant, you know, several million dollars a week. And, it lasted for. Yeah, really interesting. I do want to talk to you about that in a little bit more detail in a few minutes, but obviously from those statistics, you know, you are someone who knows a thing or two about making money, or as you say, in your book taking money.
So it will be interesting to get your perspective on the tactics and philosophies used in the mob to apply to legitimate business owners, entrepreneurs, and sales professionals. But first I do want to set the stage and paint the picture for our listeners and give our conversations in context, as I was mentioning by hearing your backstory.
So where are you from and where did you grow up? I grew up in Brooklyn. my dad’s Sony Franceze, you know what? It was one in Naples. My mom was also at the time sensor or tying on both sides. And I grew up in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn and lived there for quite a few years in my young life and moved out to Long Island, New York and spent most of my time out there.
And, you know, my dad was a major figure who was the underboss of the Colombo family, and wanted five New York, cousin or stroke families. And so I grew up under that influence. My dad was extremely high profile, a major target of law enforcement and a major presence in that life. So I grew up around, you know, that atmosphere.
Well, my dad was always under surveillance and always getting arrested and so on and so forth. He didn’t want that life for me. He wanted me to have an education, go to school, actually want to meet, be a doctor. And, so that’s where I was headed, you know, until my dad got in some really serious trouble, a long story short after several trials that he was acquitted on, he was convicted in federal court for masterminding a nationwide string of bank robberies.
Sentenced to 50 years in prison and went off to do his time in 1970. And, at that time I was a pre-med student at Hofstra university. One dad went in, but that’s when things started to make a radical change in my life. Yeah. Really interesting. And we’ll get there now, the history of the Colombo crime family.
Can you give us just a brief history? Cause I believe it, the Colombo crime family started in the forties if I’m not mistaken and it wasn’t originally called the Colombo crime family, like how it got. Yeah, no, it was, well, you gotta understand all of it, the organization of Cosa Nostra in this country really started with weed.
Luckily Luciano, when he divided the families into, you know, various families throughout the United States and he created the mob commission. So it was really in the forties that all of the families were divided up and formed. And the Colombo family was originally the family. Joe professor was the original boss of that family and my dad was under him.
so he came up during that time. Then Joe Colombo took over and my dad became his under boss at one point in time. So that’s how it started. And so they took the name from Joe Colombo. And is it true that Joe Colombia was shot next to you? Like he was. And you were next to him. Is that true? Yeah, he was, there was an assassination attempt.
We had a big rally at the time because the civil rights rally Graley was in Manhattan at Columbus circle. And, I was only a few steps away from him when the shots rang out and he was shit. he didn’t die immediately, but he was in a coma for almost seven years before he died. But yeah, that was a very dramatic day in my life.
It was the first time I witnessed something like this. Not as dramatic as that, I would say no kidding. Okay. So let’s get into the meat of it here. Can you tell us how mafia, families, crime families are actually structured? Cause this is really interesting how they’re actually straight. It’s fairly simple, but they do have a definite structure too.
Yeah. And I always say one of the reasons that, you know, the mob survived and prospered under some very challenging conditions was because of the structure, because of the discipline, because of the respect and the way the families are divided up there. So you have a ball. And under boss, there’s his right-hand man.
You are constantly airy. Who is the advisor to the boss advisor, to the family. Then you have competence James or Tappin’s, they’re appointed by the boss. And then under the competency jeans you’ll have soldiers and soldiers. the lowest rank, but they’re made men, they’ve actually taken the oath.
And then of course you have associates that have not taken the oath and they’re normally, you know, trusted or, you know, as much as you can trust somebody that you bring into your crew, but that’s the structure. There’s no lieutenants or sergeants or anything like that. And, you know, unlike in the godfather, Where Tom Hagan was the console URI to the family.
That’s not true because in order to have that position in order to be a made man and take it all, if your father must be. Your mom can be of a different descent, but your dad must be Italian. So that’s the heritage. And obviously it originated from the mafia. So is it fair to say that you joined that life or the mafia because of a driving force to get your data to prison and vindicate your father?
I read that somewhere, right? The entire reason. I mean, well, my dad went away for 50 years. I lost an interest in school. Joe Colombo had kind of taken me under his wing. So I started to hang out with a lot of my dad’s friends and the early part of my college and lost interest in school and said, you know, I visited my dad.
He was in Leavenworth penitentiary, Kansas. So it was a, you know, a high security institution. And I said, dad, you know, you will frame, I believe until this day, I’ll take it to my deathbed, that my dad was framed on that case. She wasn’t a bank. And, I said, if I don’t help you out, you’re going to die here.
So, you know, I lost interest in school. We needed money for lawyers. We needed to track down the witnesses, get them to recanted testimony. We had to see why the government was complicit in framing my father. So that’s a lot of work. And my dad, during that meeting, you know, he said, okay, but if you’re going to be on the street, I want you on the street, right.
And in his mind, the right way was to become a member of his life. So he proposed to me, formally proposing me for membership at that point in time. And I was 21 years old. That’s how it started for me. So is this everything happening during prison, your conversations with your father were all through prison?
Yeah, I mean, he went into prison in 1970. This conversation took place in 71. So he was in use for about a year. And that’s when Joe Colombo, I don’t know if you’re aware of that. He started that whole Italian American civil rights league when he was, you know, claiming that Italian Americans were being harassed.
They had arrested his son, Joey Jr. On what he felt was a trumped up charge. And we started picketing the FBI. You know, we were out there on a picket line on 69th street and third avenue. And I was the first one, you know, down there. I wanted the first ones because I thought it would be a way to help my father because my father was Frank.
So now I’m starting to meet with all the guys and Joe Colombo is having a strong influence on me. And, you know, I already hated the police, growing up. Well, you know, believing that they were the enemy. Because they were always trying to harass my dad and my family. So, you know, it’s all those things that kind of work together that Romey didn’t decide.
It’s not about school. It’s about getting my dad out of prison. I mean, he was 50 years old when he went in. You had 50 on top of that. I figured that’s a death sentence. He’ll never come out alive. So, I mean, I had two. Well, is there something that your father kept on repeating to you as a mantra or a statement to take with you along your journey in becoming who you became?
Well, yeah. I mean, once I, you know, was part of that life, then my father would tutor me or counsel me and, you know, he was a master of that life. I mean, he knew it, you know, as well, better than anybody. So he. You know, he would tell me basically how to survive, because I will tell you this, if you’re a member of that life and you die of old age and you die free, you’ve really accomplished something because it’s a rough life to navigate.
So my dad would give me pointers. Like he told me, he said, Always be, be slow to speak. He said always be a good listener when people are talking to you, when you’re in a sit-down, when you’re in a business negotiation, make sure you listen carefully to what somebody has to say before you, you know, you speak and respond.
So let them commit themselves first. He told me another thing. He said, you know, you’re going to be in situations where people are going to be in trouble in that life. And they’re going to ask for your opinion. He said always be the last one to condemn. Don’t be the first because that life is like a wheel and one day you’re going to be on the spot and the people remember you being the first one to condemn, whether you’re going to be the first one to be condemned and that’s serious in that life.
So, you know, just those two things, really helped me navigate some treacherous situations. And, you know, he told me to treat them well. Absolutely. I mean, you know, you know, in negotiations when I’m in business, you know, I always look at it this way. Sometimes I can go into a meeting and I know that I’m the smartest person in the room, but I don’t want anybody else to know.
Let them talk, let them educate, let them think they’re educating me and I’ll actually play well. Yeah. Tell me all about it. Let them just fill the guts. Tell me everything I need to know. And then at the very end, I know exactly what I’m going to do. Exactly what I want. This guy has led me into his life, so to speak.
And then there’s other times when I’m not the smartest person in the room, but I want everybody to think of. So the way I do that is I kinda keep my mouth shut and just say certain things at the appropriate time and people, they don’t know what you’re thinking and they show, wow, this guy may know more than I think he knows.
So, you know, a lot of things like that, it really helped in the legitimate life later on. So that’s in the movies. It’s becoming a made man in the mafia. You became a man at what age? I was 24, 24. And can you tell us about that ceremony? It’s fascinating, actually. What, what was it like? Can you walk us through that?
Yeah, it was, it’s obviously a very secure meeting. You know, I had been a recruit. I’m making my way, trying to get, you know, let people understand that I’m, I’m already to be. And, you know, you don’t know when it’s going to happen because it is a secret ceremony. They don’t tell you. And then one day I’m told, Hey, you know, meet me down at Carol street.
That was the headquarters of the Colombo family at that time a person had taken over. And so I went there on October 31st, like any other day, but I had kind of got the sense that something else was going on. And basically that night, I was brought to a catering hall that was owned by Joe Colombo’s.
Shawn Anthony Colombo called the Casa. Bella was in a secure place. And with five other guys that night at about midnight, we all walked into a room individually. And took an oath. And the way that happens is, you walk into a room that’s dimly lit late at night. They want you to understand the seriousness of what you’re getting involved in.
A boss is sheeted to like a day ahead of a horseshoe configuration on two bulls, constantly every day left and right. And all the captains are allowed to come in on that ceremony. And I walked down to the house in front of the boss, held out my hand. He took a knife and cut my fingers. Some blood dropped on the floor.
This is a blood over. Come to my hands, took a picture of a Saint Catherine Golden cob, put it in my hands and lifted a flame. It didn’t hurt. It burned quickly. It was merely symbolic. And he said tonight, Michael Franceze, you are born again into a new life. And so it goes on Austria, violate, which you know about this life, betray your brothers and you will die and burn in hell.
Like the Saint is burning in your hands. Do you accept it? That’s it. And then you’re made, you’re a made man and the other five guys went in. They also deal with it, and that’s how it started. That’s incredibly dramatic. Michael, when you describe it in just a few minutes, it’s very dramatic now. You’re on the streets, sorry.
You’re on the streets. you’re made man, where did you start to make your money now? Well, you know, I realized even while I was a recruit that I had a little bit of a head to a business, you know, I had gotten involved my dad when I was younger, he had bought into an auto body shop and I started working there and I started, you know, just figuring different things out that I, the ways I can make money and, you know, I had that kind of entrepreneurial spirit early on.
I ended up buying a Mazda agency, when you couldn’t give a Mazda away because their engines were blowing up the ankle engines. And, you know, then I did a couple of things on the street that took time to get into, but I realized that I had a head for business. So, you know, once I became a made guy, you kind of have two levels in that way.
And you, you make your way in either level, meaning that if you’re an earner and you’re bringing in good money to the family and the bosses earning your competition are earning well, they want to keep you in that category. You’re an owner, you know, everybody loves money in that life. And if you’re not in that category, you know, you might be a guy, that’s sure you’re a better worker.
Maybe you can shake down a business, maybe have a gambling problem. Well, you’re in another category and you do most of the. You know, because they want to preserve the guys that are the earners, not to say that you’re not responsible for doing work if you are pulled upon. I think, you know what I mean? When you do a work everybody’s qualified and everybody has to do it when they’re called upon.
But, like I said, if you were an earner, you kind of got to that different level in that life and you were loaning money, correct? Yeah. I mean, I was a Shylock. I mean, everybody in that life, that’s a, that’s got a few bucks. You end up putting money out on the streets. Okay. Now you’re starting to make a name for yourself.
You’re making some money. You’re entrepreneurial. then you come up with the big one that you referenced at the beginning of our discussion. That’s the one that put you on the charts, right? It’s the highest earning one of the highest earning criminals in American history. What was the scheme he came up with?
It was, it had to do with gas. Yeah. You know, and a lot of people think that they have this misinterpretation of this misimpression, that mob guys sit around in their social clubs and they look at the next business that they’re going to do fraud or attack. And that happens on occasion. But most of the time it’s somebody within a business that comes to us.
They got some kind of plan that they want to do and they figure we can help them. We can protect them. We can give them money. We can assist them. We made connections. So with the guests business kind of happened that way. There was a guy out on Long island who had a small gas operation. I had a couple of gas stations and two guys from another family were extorting him.
They were shaking hands. So he comes to me for help and he tells me, you know, with your help, I think I can devise a scheme where we can defer the government out of tax on every gallon of gasoline. Well, I didn’t like the government back then, so that was kind of music to my ears. So I said, okay, we’re going to, we’re going to have a little relationship here.
And I got rid of the guys that were bothering me. I mean, I made them go away. I didn’t technically get rid of them. And, because I was kind of the guy on the long island and we went into business together, formed a company. And I put a guy alongside him that was very close to me. One of my crew guys and he was.
Big guy with a big scar across his head, a foreboding looking guy. Right. And I said, Vinny, this guy’s name was Larry. I said, watch Larry. Let’s see if we really got something here. So about a week and a half later, he comes to my house on a Saturday. He used to come every Saturday and bring me meat. He was my butcher.
So he’s got a box on his shoulder and I opened the door and I said, what do we have in a potty? You bringing me the oldest meat? I don’t know anything about it. He says, no, I didn’t meet the chief. He said, come on in the kitchen. I want to show you something. He puts the box down on a table. He opened it for $320,000.
And he said, this is the first week we’re going to have to take in the gas business. It smelled like gasoline, right? All the money. I didn’t care what it smelled like, but basically he got my attention at that point. And. You know, over the next seven or eight years, we grew from 320,000 to 350 gas stations.
18 companies licensed to collect tax on a gallon of gasoline. And we would bring in five, eight, $10 million a week, whatever, you know, whatever deals we’re making during that time. So, it became a very lucrative operation. I brought a lot of the Russian mob guys from Brighton beach when my partners.
And when I brought them in, we expanded considerably. They were pretty, pretty sharp guys too. And I ran that for eight years. How many gas stations did he end up with? Well, we had about 350. I either owned or operated, but we were selling gas to, you know, well over a thousand stations because even the branded stations, like in Canada, you know, all the big names, BP mobile, shell oil, we’d go to the station.
And we told them, you know, listen, how many, loads of gas your mind from shell this week? And they said, well, we usually, by six, I said, I’ll tell you what also to you for 10 cents a gallon cheaper than them. I said, buy full from them. Buy two from me. We’ll bring it to you in the middle of the night.
Nobody will know the difference. Well before long, they want to buy all the gas from us because they’re saving 10 cents a gallon. Right. And we give them a receipt, all taxes included. So they had nothing to worry about. but I said, no, you can’t do that. You still have to buy some from Shell. So everybody wants to guess from us.
I mean, it wasn’t like we had to force it on and they wanted it. And then what we were doing, we would drive guests down at the pump. Because we were working on, you know, at that time in the United States, you had 9 cents a gallon, federal tax and 25 to 30 in state and local. So you had almost 40 cents a gallon.
So if we’re not going to have 10 cents, we still have another 30 cents to work with. Because we were keeping the tax money. She would make it a lot. And you say the gas station 10 cents a gallon. That’s a big savings for them. Well, believe me, we were the Robin Hood at that time of, of, the business.
Everybody wants to buy from us. How did you keep track of the books? Peli and I were talking about this, like, how did you keep track of the books? There was no XL spreadsheet at the time, right? So how did you track this stuff? Well, you know, part of it, the other, the scam, the Intercom part of the scam was still holding the government.
from coming down on us because you were responsible to pay the tax quarterly, but we didn’t pay it quarterly. But I had a team of accountants working and we had, I had bought a, a big, terminal from British petroleum where we were able to store 3 million gallons. And then we had gallons stored in different places.
And there’s a way to work this out. So the government doesn’t understand, you know, why they would not pay the tax and you could get away with it for about 10 months, almost a year. And, so every day the register’s ringing through that, you know, 12 months. And then when they finally come down on you, they come to an office, the office is closed down.
The license was destroyed and we moved on to the next license in another part of town. So they couldn’t figure out what we were doing. They had no idea. Yeah. Super interesting stuff. Okay. So that’s how you did it. I like your breakdown of that. Thank you for sharing that. Now, at the same time you were involved in the sports and entertainment business, correct?
And you had a gambling operation with bookmakers. Yeah, well, you know, again, I was the guy on the long island. I had probably 12 or 13 bookmakers that were responsible to me. And the reason for that is very simple, a bookmaker. We wouldn’t allow them to operate unless they were associated with us. They had to be, and number two, you know, a bookmaker takes.
You know, you don’t have to pay him. So you had collection issues. We’re pretty good at collecting money. So they would come to us and we would help them. And then if they needed money, we would provide it to them. So every bookmaker that was able to take any kind of a sizable bet was associated with us.
So I had 12 to 13 of them working with me, and we had a lot of athletes and people around the sports that were gambling with us. And, you know, that was an in for us to get, to get involved in, you know, compromising some kind of sports competition. Yeah, actually, I do want to ask you about that. So you had, you had athletes that were gambling with you and they ended up compromised to a degree, right?
Like how do athletes end up compromised? Well, you get an athlete that’s, you know, with a major sports team or a college team, let’s, let’s take pros because, obviously that’s the biggest stakes involved and, you know, they’re into you. 250, $300,000, right? I mean, a bookmaker would come to me and say, Michael is so-and-so from the Mets or the Jets.
They already taught us for 50 grand. Should I cut them off? And I said, why would you cut them off? I said, all you’re doing is writing an entry on a piece of paper. I let him give it and you let him get into you for half a million bucks, 250 grand, then bring them to. So they’d come to me and say, look, you owe me 200 grand.
How are you going to pay? Because you got a gambling debt you’re going to pay, whether it be legal or illegal, you know, you go to Vegas, you have a debt you’re going to pay. So I said, how are you going to pay me? Well, you know, I should, I’ll tell you why. You’re a great athlete. I love your team. I should, you’re not to pay me all at once you pay me three points.
Five points a week, you know, on the money to be here every Monday. You got a game on Sunday, be here every Monday with the cash I Susan takes. As long as you want to pay me back. Well, they’ll say anything to get out of the room and then, you know, for four or 5, 6, 7, 8 weeks, they’ll be paying you that. Well, what are they doing?
They gamble. Now. They go across town to try to gamble with somebody else to make up the loss that they have. And we know that we have a network. So now all of a sudden they’re in for you for 5, 6, 7, 800,000 to Hollis. So now you bring them back and say, Hey, what’s going on? Let me tell you what you got.
You know, you’re a quarterback, you know, the first three times I know what the spread is for. Cause remember it’s never about winning an illusion. It’s always about the spread. So you’re a quarterback is what I want you to do the first three times you get the bowl, you put it in the hand of the other. You’re running back first one, two times you get the ball, put it on the ground.
I said, I’ll worry about the rest. You do this for me. As long as I tell you we’ll make up the debt. That’s how it goes. They don’t have a choice. They don’t have a choice they’re going to pay well, you know, they know that, listen, they know who they’re talking to and they understand that we’re not going to just let you walk out in the room and say, okay, you know, I’m sorry, I made a mistake.
You don’t pay the debt, there’s consequences. So, you know, they’ll do what they need to do to make sure that that doesn’t happen. Fascinating stuff is really interesting. What about hockey? I mean, we’re in Canada. It’s religion up here. Any hockey players? Absolutely. And you know what hockey it’s, let me tell you something.
You have no idea. You know, I’ve spoken Russian because I worked a lot with major league baseball, the NBA, and all the pro sports. I have very good friends or not. As a matter of fact at the 12 o’clock appointment I have is with Bruce McNall. I don’t know if you know who he is. He used to own. Wayne Gretzky. The Kings.
Yes, exactly. Let’s bring them on a light bruise. She’s very different. And, another friend who used to own the Panguitch outwardly. So, I mean, I have a you’re right into the hockey world, Michael, this is fascinating. Of course, the Montreal Canadiens clean as a whistle. yeah.
Is this still happening now? Can I tell you this, you know, how many Russian hockey players are there? I have told myself that they’re doing the bidding of some of the Russians, you know, counterparts in Russia, because they’re afraid for their families. You know, they got to do something. They’ll do it. They won’t talk about it.
Yeah, cause they’re concerned. There’s points you haven’t happened to absolutely a hundred percent. I mean that hasn’t gone away. As a matter of fact, you know, I think it’s worse today in many ways, because there’s more access to gambling here in the states. I mean, you can go online now on your telephone and you can, you know, you can gamble.
These guys get in trouble. They get into it. Yeah, I’ve heard rumors about certain Russian players and things like that. it’s funny, you mentioned that it’s particularly the Russian players. Very, I mean, these guys are afraid to talk about it. I mean, it’s, it’s sad. Can you tell me just briefly about the operation involving boxing with Don King?
It’s something to do with Don Kingdon. Yeah. Yeah. You know, to make a very long story short, I had an undercover investigation on me where it was an undercover FBI agent posing as a wealthy Colombian guy who was once in the drug business, but cleaned up his act and wanted to get into the fight game and a big.
And they were trying to infiltrate, organizing Prime’s involvement with the fight. So it was a big target, you know, me and Don king and the investigation. Actually, the feds brought a guy out of prison, who was very close with Muhammad Ali who really knew the fight game. And these two guys come to me and I’m with them for seven or eight months.
And they’re trying to get me to take them to Don King so that they can make some kind of a deal. And meanwhile, they wired, they’re wired and, you know, they had a lot of conversations with me. but I, I wanna, I wanna add something to that. They opened a bank account with $15 million in the bank in the Midwest . It was a phony account, but the FBI shut it up.
And I do make the introduction with Don king after about seven or eight months that, you know, I feel comfortable with them. But I told the king at the meeting, I said, Don, I have only known these guys for eight months. In this first meeting, be legit. Don’t say anything out of the way. Don’t say anything wrong. I said, let’s, let’s take this along a little bit.
King was perfect. You know, the cleanest guy in the world. And, you know, then we find out it’s an undercover operation, but I want to tell you this. They had 83 tape recordings on me, 83, and they couldn’t use one of them for it. I never committed myself on the tape in the wrong way. So, and that’s my dad’s, that’s my dad’s teaching, talking to the investigation fell apart.
They wouldn’t, they couldn’t get anything out of us, but, Wow. Sneaky. Good, smart, good. 83 recordings. And couldn’t use any of it. Yeah. You know who they got on the recordings Al Sharpton the river. Now I don’t know if you know who he is. Because he was my, he was my liaison to get to the king. I used to send Shelton up to talk to the king each night to make a drug deal with them and they got him on tape and on video camera, he was the only.
Oh, interesting. Very interesting. Okay. So, eventually though, the fund came to an end, in the eighties, you ended up indicted, right? And the Rico act that’s the basis of fear in the city, right? The news is a new documentary on Netflix. I watched the first episode. I did see your interview. I saw the first ad and watched the whole thing.
But what happened there? Like we like, can you unpack that just a little bit, what happened in the eighties there and how you ended up actually caught? Well, you know, Rudy Giuliani became the US attorney in Manhattan. And he figured out how to use the racketeering law, which had been on the books for about 10 years.
They just never used it. And, they started to go after people as part of a criminal enterprise. And it’s a very, very tough law to defend. It’s just, it’s complicated in a way. And, I had three Rico indictments, actually, two federal and one state. And Giuliani indicted me in the early eighties.
And I was acquitted in that case. But then in a gasoline case, you know, my partner became an informant and I had seen what was going on in life. I mean, they had convicted so many guys and they were giving him a hundred years on, in 50 years, 70 years. I said, man, I’m the youngest guy on the wall. They’re going to give me 300 years if I get convicted in this case.
So, you know, after I beat the Jew, the Annie case, the government was pretty upset. They thought they had me on that one. So I had some leverage and I negotiated a deal on the whole gasoline racketeering case. 10-year sentence $15 million in restitution. I had a plane and a helicopter and I gave up all that surrendered some assets and, and went off.
Crazy. So you end up with a deal, you get out of prison and you leave life at that point, right? That was it. You were done, right? Y you, you know, no urge to go back, nothing was calling your name to come back to life. Well, Y you know, it was, it was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life. I used to go to sleep, you know, leaving life, waking up, going back in because.
You know, I took an oath. I didn’t want to betray myself. I was so much a part of that life. I mean, that was my whole mentality. My dad was part of it, but what’s happening is I’m seeing the destruction of life. I’m seeing guys going away forever. I see what happened to my father. I saw my family, you know, mother, brothers, and sisters get destroyed and I see.
I’m a major target. You know, that was my seventh night. I said, how many times am I going to beat them? And if I go down, I’m going to get a hundred years. My life is over. I met a young girl. She was, you know, you fell in love. I was going to marry her. I said, I married this girl. Then leave her as, you know, alone.
It doesn’t make sense. So I really saw that life was in trouble, severe trouble. So I saw this as an exit. Now I want to make this clear. I wasn’t mad at anybody. Yeah. I had gone through my stuff and had life. And you always have, you get treachery, but I wasn’t mad at anybody. I didn’t want to put anybody in trouble.
I didn’t want to take revenge. I just want that out of my life. And so it was a real, you know, I mean, we’d be on for the next three hours. It was very excruciating and a real tight rope that I had a wall. Between the government and the guys on the street and my father trying to make the exit. And, you know, there’s no blueprint for walking away from that life.
So I didn’t know if I was going to succeed or not, but fortunately here I am. You know, the question everybody wonders is like, do you watch your back to this day? Or are you comfortable where you are? You know, you know, look, I noticed, so my former associates shore. But everybody that I ran with is either dead or in prison for the rest of their life.
Most of them did. I mean, they got, you know, this life was devastated. I mean, out of that fortune magazine list, you know, at least 48 of them are dead. So I mean, and that’s the only one since 1986, so that’s a short time for 48 people to be gone. And, I think the one or two that are left are in the nineties, you know, besides me.
So they’re gone and it really, so not many guys survive, but life is still there. I can’t go back to Brooklyn and say, Hey guys, I’m moving back into the neighborhood. I mean, I wouldn’t last 48 hours. I mean, that’d be thumbing my nose in their face, but you know, I mean, look, I’ll be honest with you just two days ago, I got a message.
Hey guys, Mike is rumbling in the street. People are mad at you. They’re seeing you all over the place, but I’ve been hearing that for 30 years. It’s nothing new. So my name is out there. So it’s not like I let people forget about it. But I’m not going after the mop. You know what I mean? I’m doing my thing.
I’m living my life the way I feel I need to live my life. So, you know, what can I tell you? Look, I’m 69 years old. I made it this far. What am I going to stop doing now? I mean, you know, hopefully and what it is, and I’m not trying to hurt anybody. And that’s why the Netflix series changes the perspectives of people’s minds.
You know, it was very sick. I mean, it was the number one trending show for, you know, a funny thing when I saw the promo for the show. I should, man, how do I use my image in this? You know, so I called on my assistant. I said, Hey, what’s going on with this Netflix deal? They got my image there. And she said, Michael, you interviewed for Netflix a year ago.
It was a year ago that I had done it. I forgot about it because I do so many of these things. And, so I, I forgot I did it, but it was the number one trending show. And then it lasted for several weeks. So I got a lot of feedback from it. You know, I, I don’t know if it changed people’s minds. I mean, I thought it was done well, you know, they did a good job on it.
Some things I thought were a little bit inaccurate, but, you know, look, I have a television series right now that shouldn’t have heavy development on my life with a major production company. I’m writing another book. It’s actually a political book called Mafia democracy. And it’s really showing how our government, the United States has taken on this Mick Machiavellian ideology in many ways, the same ideology that the mob had on the street.
It’s all about control. And, you know, I’m doing that and you know, I’m all over YouTube, but again, I’m just doing my thing my way. I’m not trying to hurt anybody and I’m not trying to bring bad stuff on anybody. I’m just doing my thing. So was there officially a hit on you or a contract out on your life officially?
Yeah, there was, I mean, a common person who was my boss. He took it very personally when I walked away. I mean, he was really upset. You know, he and I were close at one point and, you know, he was, he was a pretty treacherous guy. I gotta say he was old. So, yeah, I mean, it was now he had to put the hit on from prison.
He had already been convicted on a mock commission case by Giuliani. So he was inside and there was a lot of stuff going on on the street. My father, you know, was upset with me, honestly, that feds told me he went along with the contract. So, I mean, I had, I had, you know, I had some trouble. You know, they locked me down in prison because the word was out that I was going to get killed.
You know, I spent a lot of months in solitary, a lot of years in solitary. And so I had, I had my share of challenges as a result, but I just outlasted everybody. I mean, you know what else to tell you, you know? Yeah. You’re a survivor. Okay, so let’s move on to what you’re doing now. You’ve written three books, I believe.
Write three books. the most recent was I’ll make you an offer. You can’t refuse insider business tips from a former mob boss with some applications to legitimate business building and entrepreneurship. So I want to, I want to talk about that for a little bit. As most of our listeners are business builders, sales professionals who negotiate for a living.
So what’s the main idea of the book? You know, I took it, where my publisher asked me to write the book. I should. There are a lot of guys out there that are very successful business people and probably can write a better book in that regard about the intricacies of business, better than I can, because you know, you guys have said to me, people say, Michael, you are a brilliant businessman.
And my response is no, I wasn’t. I wasn’t a brilliant businessman because there were a lot of things within business that I didn’t like to do. And I knew I wouldn’t do well, but I think I had two talents. Number one, I could recognize a good one. ’cause I had deals coming to me all the time. I recognize a good deal.
I was good at seeing trends and so on and so forth. And from that point, my philosophy was Michael, do what you do best delegate the rest. So I was very good at choosing the right people to do the right job. And then motivating them to get the most out of them. That was my talent. You know, like when I had a Chevrolet agency and I had a Mazda agency, I had a leasing company.
I didn’t sit at the desk and run. When I had the right people in place, they were responsible to me. I motivated them to do a good job. And we were very successful in that regard, you know, advising them if they had a question. You know, especially in a negotiation. So, you know, so I decided to write the book.
I said, look, there’s two ideologies. In my view, the first one was Machiavellian. And we get that from the book, the prince that Machiavelli wrote. And I think everybody knows who he was, the 15th, 16th century in our philosophy, who in the print, in the book that prince. I advise the prince how to maintain control of his kingdom.
And that was kind of the philosophy that we worked under in the mob. When I became a person of faith, I was extremely attracted to the book of Proverbs and Solomon king Solomon. I thought he was the wisest man that ever lived. And when I started to read, it doesn’t matter what faith you are. He was just a brilliant guy and his wisdom was amazing.
So. I kind of, I kind of, transferred from the Machiavellian philosophy to the Solomon philosophy. And I say, you can operate business both ways. You can be successful both ways, but Machiavelli is going to lead to ruin and Solomon can lead to longevity. And I wrote the book in that way and I described the two philosophies all the way down a line and it caught on.
And the wealthiest man who ever lived as well. And Jane Solomon absolutely. So I must’ve been doing something. Right. Right. Well, how are you, how are you able to motivate your crew? You know, I, I think one of the things, you know, leadership, you know, we use the term leader. There’s a difference between a leader and a boss.
boss, you have to listen to, because he’s your superior. You don’t have a choice, a leader you want to listen to because you’ve given him your, you bought into his philosophy all the way, you know, that whatever he asked you to do, he’s capable of doing, he’s never going to put you out front and something that he couldn’t do himself.
And you know, you’re a leader when people want to follow. And so, you know, I used to get that way with my crew. I used to make them feel, you know, that they were important. I didn’t degrade them. And I used to tell them that whatever I’m asking you to do, I’m ready to do also. And I can do as well, better I’m going to motivate you to be better than me and people like to hear.
You know, they’re not in competition with you, they’re learning from you, they’re following you. And, I guess, you know, it’s, I think it’s an innate quality that you have, and then you develop more as you get to know the personality of people and how to motivate. Yeah, that’s a good point. Now, when you were describing the structure of mob families, you talked about the concealed conciliary right.
Can you explain the significance of how that might relate to entrepreneurship? Would you call that a mentor? Oh, absolutely. I mean, look, it’s always great to have somebody to run things off. You know, and not a yes, man, this has gotta be somebody that is willing to tell you, Hey, you’re wrong? Okay. And here’s why now you may not follow him, but at least you’re going to hear what he has to say.
And maybe it will play into the final decision that you make. But it’s always good to have somebody to bounce things off of. And that’s, that’s Solomon’s philosophy also, you know, I can name problems where he tells you that. You know, in war, it’s better to have an advisor than to go through it alone. So it’s very important to have somebody that you can want off this.
Look, you don’t know everything in life. I mean, there’s people that I sit down with and I’ll listen to and I’ll absorb everything they have to say until this moment. And I made it through my own vision, but. You know, you know, what’s interesting is I think king Solomon knew that too, right? That’s why he prayed for wisdom.
He knew he didn’t have all the answers. He was actually, he humbled himself before God, you know, to ask for wisdom. And because he was found favorable by God for asking for wisdom and not rich as he gave him riches as well. Very interesting, like, You know what I mean? Like very interesting figures in history.
You know, the interesting thing too is I had a, you know, I do a lot of coaching, life coaching and business coaching, and I tell people all the time, you know, you’re going to run your business pretty much the same way you run your life. If you are organized and you run your life in a successful way. Your business will reflect that many times.
And, you know, one young man that I was coaching the other day, I told him, he said, you know, he’s a very successful young guy, 22 years old, his business is already doing 20 and 20 grand to 250 a month. And he started this when he was 19, you know, online obviously, but very, very, and he said, Michael, you know, I’m getting a lot of craze.
How do you keep this from going to your head? And, you know, having any. I said, I want to just tell you something. I said, unity in life is a lot more attractive than egotism. I said, you’re going to be humble because you got to remember in this life, everything can vanish in a second. Maybe sickness, maybe an accident, maybe something happens, you know, a tidal wave, everything could be gone.
I said, it’s a lot more attractive to be humble. I said, but don’t mistake humility for a lack of confidence, you can show confidence. Without having an ego. And if you’re smart, your confidence should, should always glare. It should always be out front. People should see, this is a confident guy. I want to follow him.
And I think that’s a real quality of leadership to show people that you’re confident in what you’re doing, man. I couldn’t agree more. It’s a really profound comment. you all stuck about learning from your failures because failures can teach you lessons. You won’t learn from any other source. Can you comment?
Absolutely. And look, and I had failed in business, you know, I’ve made mistakes. but I always learned from them, you know, my wife, you know, she says to me all the time, you know, you’re the most optimistic guy that I’ve ever met because if something goes wrong, I just it’s done. You know, I don’t do what I can, it’s done.
And I move on. I’ve learned from it. And I go on, I don’t look at failures as disasters. Because, I hate when I make a mistake, don’t get me wrong, but I know I’m capable of making a mistake. So what am I going to do? I mean, a lot less now, because if I’m still making them at this age, something’s really wrong.
But, yeah. I mean, I tell people all the time, you know, you learn from your failures, and I think you have to fail sometimes because if you, if you never fail, what are you going to learn? I mean, that’s how I look. And I do a whole chapter in a book. I get a lot more into that because I think it’s important for people not to get down when they fail.
I see guys failing. It’s the end of the world. I should. Well, you know, I, I don’t see why we’re not at your funeral. This is not a cemetery, you know, so let’s pack up and let’s move on, you know, and that’s how we do it. So tying into that, what is, what is the biggest, it’s a double question. What, what is the biggest problem new entrepreneurs are going through right now, that you see and what is one of the solutions?
If you could give. You know, it’s crazy that I get so many comments, the biggest, this is, I didn’t even expect this, but the biggest comment I’m getting from younger people today, young entrepreneurs is I can’t self-motivate, I can’t get myself motivated. I can’t get off the carpet. And it’s, it’s so prevalent recently.
And I’m saying, but why is that? You know, is it? Is it because of the internet that people don’t get out and do things anymore. They sit in their house. I mean, I haven’t figured it out yet. Don’t get me wrong, but it’s one of the biggest issues that I’m seeing with young entrepreneurs. Motivating themselves to do better.
Like I’m stuck in a rut. I’ve got to this point, but I can’t go any further. I just can’t motivate myself. I’ve heard that so often. And, you know, obviously I talked to him about motivation, but I’m wondering, you know, myself, why I’m hearing that so much. And I think it has to have some way something to do with online as to what social media and all that it has to do.
I mean, people don’t get out and do things anymore, sit at their desks and they’re looking at the computer all the time or their phone, right? Yeah. It’s made, you know, I’ve got, I’m not saying my, my daughters fall into this category, but I’m just saying, you know, they’ve made it easy. Like they haven’t faced the same difficulties, like my generation, your generation faced, et cetera.
Like we actually had. Defend ourselves to a degree. You know, we, we didn’t, you know, we, we didn’t have to, now you can turtle. You’re so protected. You could just not go to school, not talk to a teacher, not the, you know, all of these things. So you don’t have adversity. And the other thing is too, I feel like, you know, the youth of today, they don’t, they don’t know why they’re doing something.
Like they don’t have their why in front of them or. You know, in terms of motivation, you always have that, you know, that vision in front of you where this is leading to. And I think sometimes that’s missing in the younger generation personally. Yeah. And so many of them, you know, they don’t, they don’t know how to really converse anymore.
I mean, I had, I had a reprimand, my daughter, you know, she’s downstairs, 20 feet away from me and she’s texting. I said, excuse me. I said, raise your voice and I’ll hear you. I’m only upstairs. Why are you texting me? You know? Cause I, as soon as she said, daddy not answering me, I sweetie, I got my phone in my hand looking at you downstairs, you know, but that’s a that’s I hear that all the time too.
They don’t like my son, Michael. He’s 31 years old. Now he doesn’t like to get out. Tax tax, tax, tax tax. Well, you know, there’s a, there’s a certain distance that you create between yourself and people. When it’s text, you don’t know how to converse. And I even tell them that, how are you going to negotiate with somebody?
If you never talk to anybody about something important where it’s always in a text. And I think that’s a real issue with, with our younger generation. I feel that there’s also something that has to do with them, feeling that everything has to be perfect all the time. Everything that comes out of their mouth has to be perfect.
If they try out for whatever activity or business venture, they’re scared of failure, they don’t want to put this in perspective that it’s actually, you have to go through it. You have to say the wrong thing sometimes at the wrong time. And sometimes you have to fail to get where you need to.
Yeah. Well, you know, my son once said to me with dad, you didn’t fail on that much. I said, I didn’t fail. I said, I went to prison for 10 years. You don’t call that a failure. I gave up my claim. I hell it kicked out. I went to jail. I was in the hole. I say, you don’t consider that a failure. That’s a major failure.
You’d lose your freedom because of things that you did in your life. That’s a big failure. I should have failed plenty of times. Yeah. They look at you now as well. That’s because I work to get it back. I said this didn’t just, I didn’t just sit here and everything came falling in my lap. I said you got to work.
Yeah. What’s your, what’s your son’s name? My name is Mike Michael. Oh yeah. Yeah. You try it, Michael. Jr. You try it anyway. Okay. So what does success mean to Michael? Well, success today is certainly different than it was, you know, when I was in the mob and I, you know, everything was, it wasn’t so much the money because the money was always a by-product of everything that I did, but yeah, I wanted it to simulate money.
I wanted to be wealthy, you know, today it’s all about being comfortable, having nobody, you know, on my back, looking to send me to prison or looking to hurt me in any way, enjoying my family. And I think, you know, just being comfortable, I want to go on vacation. I can. you know, I want to buy a new car.
I can buy a new car, you know, this is what’s comfortable to me and that’s what is successful to me. I have a family around me and it means. That’s awesome. And if you had the chance to do it over again, would you go to the mob? You know, I get asked that and it’s such a tough question because I, I mean, I don’t, I regret some of the things that I did in that life, obviously, you know, when you’re a criminal and you’re committing crimes and sometimes serious things, I regret them, but you know, that life helped formed who I am.
Had I not been a part of that everybody saw you would have been a success in whatever you did. I don’t know that because I don’t have a crystal ball and I’m not vain enough to say, well, I would have been good and no matter what I did, I don’t know, you know, and, and that direction. So, I mean, I regret some of the things that I did in adult life, but I think if this exact same circumstance came up, I would probably do it again.
I may get it, take some flack for that, but, Yeah. Interesting. What do you do for fun, Michael? I love golfing. Okay. tomorrow going up to Napa Valley with my wife and two of my kids, and we’re going to do some wine tasting and eat. Great. We love to go out to dinner. We love to vacation. I mean, that’s a, and we love just having a family around, you know, we, we make Sundays and holidays for sure.
A family day. I play racquetball. That’s how I stay somewhat in shape. So these are the things I enjoy. Hey, listen, we’ve got some world-class golf courses in Montreal here. World-class when you come up here, we’ll take you to a, we’ll take them to a country club Montreal. So in a country called Mancini.
That’s good golf. Now real quick, you do watch mob movies. I know this, you had honorable mention in Goodfellas, one of the most iconic gangster movies of all time. How realistic are those movies? I like goodfellas. the three most realistic movies. When I say realistic, the authenticity of the movie, the portrayal of life, the dialogue, the characters, the way they carried it off, and somewhat the stories were fairly accurate.
There’s always dramatic Liberty that’s taken, but fairly accurate and all, and don’t forget, you’re always looking at this story through the eyes of the person that’s writing it. So like with Goodfellows Henry Hill, Not a lot of things you said, you know, you can rely on some and not all, but it’s very authentic in the portrayal.
And a lot of things that happened. Yes, it was, it was probably one of the most authentic films. Donnie Brasco same thing. Patina was amazing in that movie. He was terrific. You know, I knew all those guys. I knew both guys. And then, and then the last one that I, that nobody really knows about, but I bring it out all the time.
It’s the Gotti movie that HBO produced in 1991 with Oman and Anthony Quinn, brilliant movie, extremely accurate. Most of that movie was taken right off of the surveillance tapes that were on Gadi and Angela material at the time. And I was, I was pretty closely involved in and hearing the, some of, some of those states know the whole story, but brilliantly done.
If you haven’t watched that movie, go on YouTube and pick it up. HBO’s Gotti, Armando, something was done in 1991. You’ll love it. Now I want to tell you this. You are the very first interview that my wife ever recommended me to do. Let me have some odd years. I don’t know why. But one of the top entrepreneur podcasts on the planet apparently.
And, and secondly, Camille, thank you very much, Michael. Thank you very much, Michael. Really appreciate your time. I really do, man. You guys were great and thank you, Michael.