In 2013, aging gangster John “Sonny’’ Franzese was sentenced to eight years in prison after he was found guilty of racketeering for shaking down two strip clubs and a pizza parlor. At the time, the case was the source of controversy since Franzese’s conviction primarily rested upon the testimony of Franzese’s own son who had a history of substance abuse problems, as well as Franzese’s age. At the age of 93, Franzese became one of the oldest inmates in the federal prison system.
Many believed that Franzese, who became nicknamed “the nod father” after napping during his own trial, would spend his final years in a prison cell, but he managed to beat the odds. At the age of 100, a judge promised that he could walk free, provided he received reports of good behavior behind bars. The judge made good on that promise and Franzese is now a free man.
Franzese’s life of crime began with an assault arrest in 1938. Four years later, Franzese was dismissed from his duty with the Army after his superiors reported that he displayed “homicidal tendencies,” the Daily Mail reports.
Between 1947 and 1966, Franzese would commit his most heinous crimes, including the rape of a waitress and the murder of a rival mobster. Throughout his life, it is believed that Franzese had murdered between 50 and 100 people but none could ever be proven in a court of law. Instead, Franzese would spend a number of years in prison for a 1967 bank robbery and would later be paroled in the late 1970s.
In 2006, the FBI was able to record Franzese describing his methods for disposing a body. Franzese explained to the informant that it would be a mistake to leave a body in the street. Instead, Franzese said it would be better to dismember the body in a kiddie pool, dehydrate the body parts in a microwave and then stuff them into an industrial garbage disposal. Though Franzese’s casual nature about the topic was chilling, there was still no evidence to convict him on any of the murders he has allegedly committed throughout the years.
Instead, other information on these tapes would later be used in the case against Franzese when the FBI arrested him and others in one of the largest mob takedowns in recent times. The FBI was able to net associates of all five major crime families in New York, New Jersey, New England, and even one associate who had been in Italy at the time.
Since Franzese’s release, the title of oldest federal prisoner now goes to 95-year-old Philadelphia mobster Salvatore Sparacio.