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From Mafia Playboy to Ministry

Jim’s father worked for the mob, and Jim grew up following that same crooked lifestyle. With a knack for business and links to the Chicago Mafia, he was eventually jailed, but found his place in ministry. Read Transcript


My early childhood was happy.

Everything was like the American dream.

NARRATOR: All of that changed when Jim was seven years old,

and he discovered the true identity of his father.

I saw all these police cars, and everything,

around my house.

So I find out that the police were there--

the FBI were there-- looking for an escaped prisoner, somebody

who had escaped from a Missouri state prison a number of years

before.

And I found out it was my dad.

NARRATOR: A pastry chef by day, a mobster by night.

But now he was a fugitive.

He came back home a few weeks later only to leave again,

but this time, he took the whole family with him.

JIM: Once he came back, well, it was being on the run.

We would go and move a lot, change identities.

I had all sorts of names.

NARRATOR: Nearly seven years on the run,

Jim learned a lifestyle of deceit and robbery

from his father.

I always remember my-- my fondest Christmas

memory of being with my dad was when we would go out and steal

a Christmas tree every year.

So I was learning not only to steal and lie,

but I was also learning that the only way I could be accepted

was by doing things.

If I did things, I'd be accepted.

NARRATOR: Living that life finally caught up with his dad.

He had a racket giving safe combinations

to the legendary gangster, John Dillinger.

Eventually, the FBI figured it out.

Dillinger got away, but Jim's father was busted and sentenced

to 25 years.

As Jim got older, he tried to live on the up and up,

even trying Catholic school.

But like his father, Jim started working with the mob.

He was soon making millions, but he

felt restless and discontent.

I was void of everything, so you're trying to fill up.

And you think the lifestyle, the money, the success,

that's going to fill it up.

NARRATOR: Then he met Judy.

They got married in 1982.

Judy had three daughters from a previous marriage, so at home,

he was a family man.

And away from the family, the mob business

was getting dangerous.

I get a phone call from my Baltimore office, saying,

the FBI had just raided us.

NARRATOR: Jim's attorney explained the situation to him.

There's going to be an indictment going down.

It was going to be for racketeering.

And racketeering is very serious.

It had minimum sentences that were very high.

Also, it takes all your money-- everything-- away.

So I'm going, I don't think I like this.

But I wasn't about to give up.

So they offered me an opportunity

to turn-- like a state witness.

NARRATOR: Jim refused at first.

But when he learned his business partner planned

on killing the judge, he knew it was time to get out.

He took a deal, pled guilty to fraud,

and got three and a half years.

One night in his cell, he picked up

a copy of the only book allowed at Eglin Federal Prison

Camp, a Bible.

Here I am, laying in the bed-- on top of my bed--

reading a Bible for the first time in my life.

And the words came alive.

And just as the lights go like this, just at that moment,

I read "and I set the prisoners free."

And I realized that I had been in prison all my life.

I just didn't know it.

And I hugged that Bible and I wept.

And then I heard-- to me it was audible.

It was as audible as speaking to anybody right now.

I heard, Jim, I am your Father.

And I love you so much, I gave you my Son.

It was amazing.

He said, all you have to do is come to me, and I came.

NARRATOR: While Jim was in prison,

Judy had recommitted her life to Christ.

She began attending church, and the entire congregation

started praying for Jim.

He was released from prison in 1983.

There was a church waiting for me, ready for me,

and wanted me to be involved in it.

NARRATOR: Jim got involved immediately,

and he and Judy were baptized together that same year.

Jim worked 15 years with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries.

And today, he's a business consultant and offers

hope to others by sharing his dramatic story.

If you've got an emptiness inside,

that's because God put it there.

And that emptiness is the desire for Him.

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