Former Colombo “Enforcer” Discusses the Brighton Beach Mob And More

Michael Franzese grew up as the son of the notorious Underboss of New York’s violent and feared Colombo crime family. At his most affluent, he generated an estimated $5 to $8 million per week from legal and illegal businesses. It was a life filled with power, luxury…and deadly violence.
Michael Franzese

Michael Franzese, a former New York mobster who claims to be responsible for organizing the Russian mafia in Brighton Beach in the 1980s, answered questions on the website Reddit.

Franzese, became a “made” Colombo soldier in 1975 and made millions bootlegging gasoline in what has become known as the gas-tax scheme. In 1987 he was indicted. Franzese has since become a born-again Christian and has left the Mafia behind, a luxury few mobsters can get away with in a culture that will often kill before they let a member go solo.

He served three years, and when he was released he wrote several books based on his experience as a Brooklyn mobster. His titles include “The Good, The Bad, and the Forgiven” and “I’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse.”

During his Ask me Anything on Reddit, where online users are given the chance to ask a featured person anything over the site, Franzese discussed his gas-tax scheme and the Brighton Beach Russian mob.Here are some pieces of the conversation. The full AMA can be found on Reddit’s website.Note: Since this was performed over the Internet. Franzese tried to answer as many questions as possible so there are many spelling errors and other problems that come with hurried responses.

Q: Any stories of interaction with other organized crime “families”, such as Russian mob, Yakuza, Outlaw bike clubs, mexican prison gangs, etc?
A: A million. Spent 20 years in the life. Organized the Russian mob from Brighton beach in the gas business. Best partners I ever had. I taught them how to defraud the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money back then. They now are deep into medicare fraud, setting up fraudulent medical clinics all over the country. Would take hours to tell you all the stories. Take care.

During the interview, questioners often asked him what was the most accurate film depiction of the mob world. He said that Goodfellas did the best job of depicting the evil side of the mob. Many parts of the movie were actually filmed in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

More on the gas-tax scheme.

Q:Where did you get the idea for the gas station scheme? And since it was getting so big, did you have any sort of an exit strategy in case the authorities got too close? Or would you just keep running the scam until you went down with the ship?
A: gas tax scheme was one in a million. so much money. better then drugs and a lot less ugly. a guy in the biz came to me when some other mob guys tried to shake him down and move in on his business. i chased the guys away and the 2 of us devised this scheme to defraud the government out of the tax money on every gallon of gas. at it’s height, we sold 500 million gallons of gas a month and kept 20 – 30 cents a gallon of the tax money. do the math. lots of money.
Q: What was it like walking away from the mafia, was it accepted or were you threatened or hounded in any way? Also what were the actual logistics of your gas tax scam. how were neither the irs or any federal agency not able to successfully audit you?
A:I struggled mightily for years after walking away. my father disowned me. the family put a hit on me. the feds tried to make me a witness. lots of pressure. very tough. and very tough for me personally. even though i didn’t hurt anyone, i felt like i betrayed my oath and it really troubled me. only God and time were able to fix that. gas tax scheme was complicated, but we were way ahead of the authorities, they could not figure out what we were doing. if my partner didn’t turn snitch, they would never figured out the scam.

Franzese returns to the Russian mob topic.

Q: How does the mob or other organized crime compare today with your day? Is it worse? Better? More or less brutal?’
A:my day was pretty much towards the end of the golden age of the mob that began in the late 40’s. different today. i wouldn’t want to be a part of it. we had some integrity about us. respect and honor did mean something with the old timers. today??? the Russians have gotten pretty violent at times. but it’s all not what it was.

The former mob enforcer ends the interview by addressing the youth of today that might be attracted to the romanticized world of the mob.

life on the street and in the mob is a dead end. prison or death is the way it will end today. i would not go into that life, knowing what i know now. i try my best to drum this into the head of our young people, gangbangers. not worth it for me or for anyone in the life. trust me.