Former mobster to speak at Midwest Theater

February 18, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — Michael Franzese was on top of the world in the 1980s. As “The Yuppie Don,” he personally knew every celebrity in New York and was making in the neighborhood of $8 million a week. But his business was organized crime.

Franzese is coming to Scottsbluff to share his story about being a capo in New York’s Columbo crime family and how he got out and lived to tell about it.

Franzese will speak for about an hour, starting at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Historic Midwest Theater in downtown Scottsbluff. Admission is free.

“Michael is the real deal,” said Kirk Hayes with the Holliday Family of Companies, who’s helping bring the event to the area. “As a New York mob boss, he’s pretty much done it all, although he won’t admit to it all.”

When Franzese decided college wasn’t for him, he called his father, who got him introduced into organized crime and he quickly rose through the ranks to a made man (capo). He was heavily involved in the gasoline tax rackets, sports betting, union kickbacks and a lot more.

He was able to beat an indictment by then federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani, who had promised to put him away for 100 years.

The law eventually caught up with him in 1986 when Franzese pleaded guilty to racketeering. He spent the next 10 years in a federal prison.

That was also the year Vanity Fair magazine named him one of the biggest money earners in organized crime since Al Capone.

“It was in prison where Michael figured out how to change his life,” Hayes said. “That’s what he talks about during his appearances. He was as far into organized crime as you can get. We’re hoping his story will inspire others that may be going through tough times. He’s proof we can all turn our lives around.”

Since his release from prison, Franzese has created a foundation for helping youth. He’s also a motivational speaker and has shared his story with corporate executives, professional and student athletes, at-risk youth, church audiences and anyone else seeking the inspiration to make a dramatic life change.

Franzese also appeared as former mobster Pastor Vinny in the 2017 Kevin Sorbo movie “Let There Be Light.”

Admission to hear Franzese speak is free, provided by Mitchell Berean Church and the Holliday Family of Companies. The Midwest Theater seats just over 700 people, so the public is encouraged to come early.

“Michael usually speaks at much larger events, so it will be a real treat to see him here,” Hayes said. “We hope he can help people reflect on life. Even if they don’t make life changes, it’s still an inspirational story.”