Monday, May 14, 2007

Mob Menu: Donunts Followed by Jail

Friends of ours: John "Sonny" Franzese, Joe Colombo, Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico
Friends of mine: Michael Franzese, Frank Sinatra

At age 89, John "Sonny" Franzese still enjoys sitting for a bite with his friends. The problem, according to federal authorities, is when the octogenarian mobster inevitably puts his criminal interests on the menu.

For the third time since 1996, Franzese was back in federal lockup _ this time after authorities spotted him sharing donuts with associates in the Colombo crime family, violating his parole. In the two earlier arrests, Franzese was nabbed after meeting with alleged mobsters in a coffee shop and a restaurant.

It's enough to give the reputed family underboss indigestion. "It's really sad," said his son, Michael, who followed the elder Franzese into organized crime before leaving the mob and becoming a born-again Christian. "I believe he wasn't very active (with the Colombos) at all, but then again, I'm not with him 24/7. Many of his friends are dead."

No surprise there, since the elderly Franzese's contemporaries included mob veterans like Joe Colombo (RIP, 1978) or Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico (RIP, 1989). But authorities said Franzese was spotted more than once in recent weeks sharing breakfast pastries with 21st century Colombo members.

Franzese was picked up last Wednesday during a scheduled check-in with his parole officer, said FBI spokesman Jim Margolin. He will remain behind bars pending resolution of his case, which could take up to three months, according to Tom Huchison of the U.S. Parole Commission.

If Franzese has a weakness for old friends, he also has an unfortunate predilection for meeting them in public places _ a major problem, since his parole bars him from any contact with organized crime figures.

A November 2000 sitdown for coffee with three Colombo associates at a Long Island Starbucks landed him behind bars for three years. A February 1996 bowl of spinach soup at Pucinella's restaurant in Great Neck led to a two-year term after authorities identified his dining companions as mobsters.

A decade earlier, Franzese was popped after a mobbed-up meal at Laina's Restaurant in Jericho. In all, Franzese has racked up five parole violations _ and gone to jail for each one _ since his November 1978 release on a bank robbery conviction.

By then, Franzese's reputation as a stand-up guy was already well-known among the Colombos.

He was once a frequent patron at the Copacabana nightclub, taking in headliners like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. And he was among the investors in the legendary porn movie "Deep Throat." But the up-and-coming mob star's career was derailed by a 1967 bank robbery conviction and subsequent 50-year jail term, which included parole restrictions that now extend though 2020 _ when Franzese would be 102 years old.

Franzese has not been convicted of any new crimes in the last 40 years.

When Michael and his father speak now, the discussions still focus on family _ Sonny's seven grandchildren (another son, John, went into federal witness protection). Michael says the old man is no longer in the best of health, and sometimes has trouble recognizing his voice.

The arrest, in an odd culinary twist, also denied Franzese one last good meal: A friend says they were due to share dinner in a Long Island restaurant just hours after his arrest.

Thanks to the Niagara Gazette

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