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CBN.com "I would look in the mirror and say, 'I can't go one more day,' " says Cammy Franzese.
The story of Michael and Cammy Franzese actually begins in the 1980s, before they ever met. Young and smart, Michael Franzese -- the so-called "Yuppie Don" -- had decided to follow in the footsteps of his stepfather Sonny Franzese, known by the mob as the "enforcer" of New York's Colombo crime family syndicate. During this time Michael reportedly set up brilliant financial scams that netted him millions of dollars. At one time he boasted of fixing major league baseball games and boxing matches. But in his biggest scam, Michael teamed up with the president of Vantage Petroleum. Over four years they cheated the government out of $1 billion in gasoline excise taxes. That's when Michael went into the movie business -- and met the woman of his dreams -- 19-year-old Cammy Garcia.
"It was a physical attraction at first," admits Michael. "But I watched the way she carried herself on the film. She was just different. She was kind of aloof. She would separate herself from the rest of the pack. And she had integrity. That's something that you don't see a lot on a movie set. There was an innocence about her that I saw, and that was attractive to me, so I decided to pursue it."
Michael couldn't put his finger on what made this woman so attractive to him.
"She started talking about God. You don't hear that on a movie set. I didn't expect that from her. I wasn't interested in hearing about God. I was interested in the totality of this young girl."
Cammy remembers meeting Michael on the set.
"When I first met him, I thought that he was very nice and charming and I knew there was something different about him. Everybody was drawn to him."
"Except for her," smiles Michael.
Michael pursued Cammy relentlessly. They began to date and eventually fell in love. But it was Cammy's example and the simple message of the gospel that eventually helped Michael realize his need for a Savior. Just before they married in 1985, Michael trusted Jesus as his Savior. But even then, Cammy didn't know the nature of Michael's "business."
"I had no idea," states Cammy. "None. Zero. There were a few innuendoes, but they just went right over my head. As time went on, obviously, it became clear to me that there was something going on. I thought, 'Well, maybe he's colorful,' totally clueless as to what really organized crime meant and of all of the things that were involved with it. I really didn't know that until we were married."
During those early days of their relationship, did she every push Michael to choose between her and the mob?
"Never," she says. "Because I knew that God was changing him, early on. And I knew that there would be a transformation in his life. My mother said, 'Be diligent in prayer.' She said, 'I've been praying for this man from the moment you told me you had dinner with him because I just had a feeling.' "
Michael adds, "Had she said to me, 'It's me or your life,' I probably would have resisted because it would have been a challenge to something that I was committed to. But the way she handled it, it was me that realized that the life I was leading was a direct contradiction to what she believed and if I wanted her in my life, I'd have to make a choice."
"I ultimately took a plea on racketeering charges involving the gas business for a 10-year prison sentence and a big fine, a $15 million fine. She said, 'If that's what it takes to preserve the rest of our life together, then we'll do it.' She was young and pregnant when all of this was going on."
Cammy adds, "It was hard. People thought because I lived on Wilshire Corridor and I had nice cars and I could do and go anywhere I wanted tobut there was really nowhere I wanted to go because I was alone."
Michael served four of his 10-year sentence, got out, and before he knew what happened, he'd violated his parole.
"They picked me up and they said, 'You've violated,' and that's it. I had no clue. Cammy was devastated, just leaving and not come home. It was terrible. So we were really tested in that regard."
The judge sent him back to prison, but this time his prison became his path to real freedom.
"I let my wife down, I let my kids down, and it was just horrible. The mob wanted to kill me, the government wanted to make me a witness, and I was just in the middle of a horrible, horrible nightmare. I'm sitting in that cell and the guard, out of nowhere, says, 'You don't look too good' and he pushed a Bible through the little slot. He gives me the Bible, and I pick it up and I just throw it against the wall. I didn't want to hear it. But then, I got scared -- I don't want God mad at me! So in a minute's time, I picked the Bible back up and opened it. I opened it to Proverbs 16:7 and it read, 'When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, even his enemies are at peace with him.' For me, what had to happen was God had to break me down and put me at my lowest point to make me realize I had given Him my life but I had to give Him control of my life. It's not me anymore. I'm not in control; I never really had been. And that started me on my journey, maturing my walk with Christ. I did three years more, 29 months in the hole. I just ate, drank, and slept the Bible.
And if his second imprisonment was a trial by fire for Michael, it proved even more difficult for Cammy.
"The second time was even more difficult than I could imagine," says Cammy, "because I had him home for a little while and I had two kids at this time." But this time Michael did whatever he could to help - even calling a plumber from his cell.
What would Cammy say to other women who are standing faithfully with their husband who involved in a lifestyle that they can't break free from?
"I really, truly believe that if you are a woman going through something with a loved one, your husband or a husband going through something with his wife, you need to have somebody around you to pray with you, to pray for you, to hold you up. You cannot do it alone."
And what does Michael think about his praying wife?
"There's no question that I'd either be dead or in prison for the rest of my life. And that's not even a guess. That's absolute."
"It's difficult to keep a relationship together just under normal circumstance because we're in this world and there's a lot of things pulling at you all the time. I understand fully that if God weren't the center of our relationship, we definitely wouldn't have made it. God has been our strength and our foundation."
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