A Mob Boss Got Jailed At 93, And Released At 100
Let’s say investigators pursue a case against a 93-year-old man. You’d imagine the charges had better be pretty serious for this to even be worth the bother. A court will prosecute a fugitive Nazi war criminal at any age, sure, or even a garden variety murderer, but someone that old might avoid prison for a more minor crime, since they aren’t long for this world anyway.
In 2011, a court sentenced 93-year-old Sonny Franzese to prison for eight years. His crimes? Shaking down two strip clubs and one pizzeria for cash. Sounds bizarre that they’d hit him with this punishment, Except, Franzese had been a boss of the Colombo crime family, and while these were all the charges they could assemble at the moment, he’d been jailed many times before, and had admitted to escaping punishment for various worse crimes.
Franzese joined the mob in the ’30s. He was arrested for murder in 1966, accused of killing dozens of people, but was acquitted. The very next year, he was convicted of multiple robberies and received a 50-year sentence. The case may well have been a setup designed to get him to rat out others in the mafia. He did not rat out anyone, and they released him after 12 years. He later returned to prison seven different times for parole violations.
Not once was he convicted of murder, or even charged with murder after that initial arrest. He did claim to have committed other murders, though. In 2006, an FBI informant wearing a wire captured him claiming to have killed 10 people. He liked to stuff body parts in garbage disposals, he said, saying that dismembering victims and getting rid of the body parts had been his secret to avoiding arrests over the years for the various unsolved disappearances linked to his crime family.
For that final 2011 arrest, the FBI used an informant again—Franzese’s own son. During his trial, Franzese Sr. briefly fell asleep.
When they sentenced him to 12 years, it must have seemed like a life sentence. But they released him slightly early, when he was 100. He then lived a few years more and died at 103.
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Top image: FBI