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Updated: Jan 27, 2022

“They wanted me to roll all the time,” Franzese told Newsday in 2019. “I couldn’t do that. Because it’s my principle. I could never give a guy up because I knew what jail was. I wouldn’t put a dog in a jail pod.”

Photo: Nick Sorrentino/NY Daily News Archive/Getty

Live as a legend long enough to see retirement is a feat that many mobsters are not so lucky to have. John “Sonny” Franzese Sr. was born on February 6, 1917, to a family of 4 boys and 45 girls while his parents were visiting Naples, Italy. Quickly after, Franzese’s family brought him back to their home in Brooklyn, New York

In his young adulthood, Franzese quickly grew a small reputation within the Profaci crime family. The World War II draft promptly became a reality for the American youth, and Franzese was drafted. However, he was swiftly discharged after being diagnosed as “psychoneurotic with pronounced homicidal tendencies.” This was only the beginning of Franzese’s long history with homicide and morality.

New York Daily News Archive/Getty

In 1950 Franzese would be declared a ​made man​ and soon would be promoted to caporegime (or captain) by Joseph Profaci within the Colombo Family. As he climbed the rankings, he would invest in business to launder illegal mob revenue. These businesses included nightclubs, restaurants, and two record companies: Buddha and Calla Records.

Through the 1960s, Franzese would be arrested a total of 10 times. The charges ranged from vagrancy to murder. Even after a hitman-turned-informant ratted out Franzese for murdering over 30 people, Franzese was either dismissed or acquitted of every crime.

John “Sonny” Franzese, center, is escorted to the Elizabeth Street police station in New York after his arrest on a 43-count gambling indictment.
(Anthony Camerano/AP)

However, in 1967 Franzese was found guilty and sentenced to 50-years for organizing four bank robberies in 1965. He would spend the next 11 years in prison while his family and close colleges maintained his underground businesses. Unfortunately, Franzese would find himself continuously rejailed due to parole violations.


In 2011 Franzese’s son, John Franzese Jr., would testify twice against his father, ultimately leading to Franzese Sr. being jailed for another eight years. Franzese got out early on June 23, 2017, spending a little over six years imprisoned.

Franzese would later die at age 103 on February 24, 2020, in New York City. The reason for his death has not been made public. To see the climax of the Italian mob to its bitter-sweet end.

John “Sonny” Franzese was a man of history and valor.

©Michael Franzese/ Facebook

Rest in Peace. John “Sonny” Franzese Sr. (1917-2020)

Blog Written by Sean Harless for @ MobCity Productions

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