North Carolina athletes gathered in the Smith Center on Monday night gazed intently at former mob captain Michael Franzese.
“You (athletes) were our targets,” Franzese said. Franzese, who agreed to a 10-year prison sentence for racketeering, has left the mob and counsels athletes on the dangers of gambling.
He has spoken at 350 colleges and to major league baseball, NBA and NFL athletes since his release from prison. Here’s what he said Monday:
- “Michael Vick, take a lesson from this. His cousin, his good friends, the people he financed . . . they turned on him.”
- “Some of them (athletes he targeted) got hurt. Some of them were forced to compromise the integrity of the game.”
- “If I got what I deserved, I’d either be dead or in prison the rest of my life.”
“One of the biggest regrets I have in life is that a lot of my friends did not make it out of the (mob) life,” he said.
He warned them about poker, disputing “marketing” that denies those who participate in the popular card game are gambling. He told them illegal, offshore sports betting web sites steal clients’ identities.
Franzese said a prominent major league baseball player recently told him that two men extorted $50,000 from the player after obtaining his personal information from a sports betting web site.
North Carolina senior associate athletics director Larry Gallo said Franzese eloquently delivered a message that the school and NCAA constantly preach.
“Hearing it from a mob guy made a big impact,” said North Carolina basketball center Tyler Hansbrough. “Definitely seeing it from an inside point of view changed how you look at things.”
Marcus Ginyard, Hansbrough’s teammate, said he hadn’t been aware of how gambling interests penetrated college campuses.
“A lot of people don’t think there’s a problem,” Ginyard said. “For him to be here and tell us the things he’s seen, you’ve got to listen.”
– Ken Tysiac