Ex-‘Prince of Mafia’ to address gambling dangers tonight

When a Mafia boss talks, people tend to listen. When that Mafia boss warns of the dangers of gambling, people still listen ­-but for a different reason.

Michael Franzese – former mob boss, scam artist and gambling tycoon – will bring his anti-gambling message to the Corral at the Sun Dome tonight at 7 as part of the University Lecture Series (ULS). Admission is free to the public.

The former “Prince of the Mafia” climbed the ranks of Brooklyn’s Colombo crime family, earning millions of dollars skirting the edges of the legitimate business world. His speeches offer a candid look at the inner workings of the mafia and the consequences for those in the mob lifestyle.

Franzese became the only mobster to leave the Mafia without entering a government protection program when he traded his illicit career of racketeering and bootlegging to speak about the dangers of gambling. Franzese has also written two books chronicling his experiences, Quitting the Mob and Blood Covenant.

ULS Director Michael Dolinger said Franzese’s message has relevance for many college students.

“We are coming up on one of the largest gambling times of the year in sports – March Madness – and this is a great time to inform students of gambling issues,” Dolinger said.

Surges in Internet gambling and the exploitation of poker as entertainment give Franzese’s message even more of an edge, Dolinger said.

“Students should understand the negatives and downfalls of gambling and people’s battle with such a detrimental addiction,” Dolinger said.

The Athletic Department, which co-sponsored the event, wanted to bring Franzese to USF because of gambling’s malicious effects on college athletes, Dolinger said.

Franzese will also speak about his many grand jury appearances, three major racketeering indictments, five criminal trials, the seven years he served in prison and the Mafia death threats he has endured.