Young conference goers from around the nation will have the opportunity to hear a first-hand account of how one former Mob boss walked away from a life of organized crime and lived to tell about.
Michael Franzese, once one of the most powerful mobsters in the country, will share his story at the 2013 Genesis Conference this weekend (Feb. 8-9) at Harvest Time Church in Fort Smith.
Franzese grew up within the Colombo crime family, one of the country's most wealthy and notorious crime families. His father was Colombo underboss John “Sonny” Franzese. Michael worked around legendary mobster John Gotti, and he was a character in the hit movie “Goodfellas.”
To date, he is the highest ranking mobster to – without cover from the witness protection program or some other protective cover – leave a crime family and survive.
After years of masterminding business scams and earning millions doing so, Franzese chose to leave his mafia days behind and pursue a more honorable life. His now wife, Camille , was the inspiration for his decision.
"I met my wife on a movie set in California and was so attracted to her," said Franzese. "Her faith was so strong and I realized that my life was a direct contradiction to what she believed. I knew, if I wanted to be with her, that I would have to make a change."
Having escaped numerous prior convictions, Franzese agreed to plead guilty to racketeering charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. After serving eight years, he was released and set out on a mission to use his experiences to bring hope to others.
Following his release, Franzese was approached by major sports leagues to speak to their players about his former life and to help the organizations address issues such as corruption and gambling. As word of his message spread, he began to book speaking engagements for universities, business conventions, churches and youth rallies all across the country.
Franzese feels very privileged to be able to share about his experiences and about how the Lord has worked in his life. His message is one of hope and forgiveness.
"God has allowed me to have a mission and a ministry," said Franzese. "People are intrigued by the mob story and about my past, so they come to hear me speak. When I go somewhere, I want everyone in the room to be impacted and to know that if God can forgive me, He can forgive them for anything they have done."
Franceze's testimony is part of inspiring and motivating line-up at the sixth annual Genesis youth conference. In addition to Franzese, this year's event will feature comedian/actor/minister John Gray, as well as other nationally recognized pastors and evangelists such as Mark Batterson, Josh Mayo and Dan Macuik. The line-up also includes performance by 321 Improv, Youth America Band and The MAZE.
Organizers are expecting upwards of 2,000 young people to attend this year's conference.
Link here for more info on the conference.