Frank Calabrese Jr. was no angel, but he was not prepared to commit the ultimate act of violence for the mob.
“Was I gonna be a rat? Or, was I gonna be a cold-blooded killer?”
This, Frank Calabrese Jr. revealed on this episode of the Discovery Channel special series, Mobster Confessions, was the question that he had to make to ultimately set the course of his life.
In a day when the mafia crime family known as The Outfit did not recruit from within, Frank Calabrese disregarded that notion, and brought his son into “the life.”
After 10 years of “training,” Frankie Jr. thinks he is ready to be initiated—to make his first hit. “My feelings at the time were, ‘I’m ready for this, I wanna do this.’ I wanted to hold my own.”
But, Frankie’s uncle Nick stopped it, and did the hit on his own.
Disappointed and angry, he did not realize what a favor his uncle was doing for him.
Four years later, Frankie was married with a daughter—something his father was not pleased about. He had to give all of his money to his controlling father. Frankie Jr. developed a drug problem, rebelling against his domineering father, who would beat him regularly.
“I’m dealing with a crazy man. I’m loyal to this man, and this is what he’s gonna do to me?” he asked, after a particularly bad beating. This was a turning point from Frankie Jr., and he decides he must start a new life—stealing from his father.
He knew where his father stashed a lot of his cash, so he went to one of his hiding places and took it--$750,000. But, it wasn’t enough, and he started dealing drugs, an action completely against mob rules.
It actually took years for his father to realize the money was gone. When he made the discovery, he let his son live, but made his life miserable, forcing him to call him three times a day, and keeping him under close supervision. But, Frankie wasn’t paying him back. And he stopped making the ordered phone calls. Everything continued, until one night, when his dad was being particularly nice. Frankie Jr. was just glad to see this “good” side of his dad, and went with him to a garage, no questions asked.
“As I open the door to the garage … all of a sudden it hit me: ‘Oh, no, he set me up; I’m dead.'”
His father put a gun in his face, and Frankie begged his father for his life, blaming his drug problem for his actions. “Something came over him. I don’t know what it was, but that night, I got out of that garage.”
Frankie's First Contact with FBI
Not long after, Frankie Jr. was approached by the FBI—arrested, in fact, along with his father, uncle, and others. His father asked his son to plead out for him, do his time, and they would call it all even. That’s when he truly realized that his father would always love the mob and money more than his own son—and that he had to get away from the mob.
Frankie Jr. got just under five years in prison; Frank Sr. got 12. Frankie Jr. vowed to his father that he would stop doing drugs; Frank Sr. vowed to his son that he would step back from the mob. Frankie held up his end of the bargain; Frank Sr. did not. That is when the idea came: Work with the FBI in exchange for his father staying behind bars for the rest of his life.
He approached the FBI, and before long, he was working with them to betray his father. But, for Frankie, “Operation Family Secrets” was worth it.
To ensure a solid case, he wore a wire and got his dad to open up, incriminating himself over the next four months. The case went to court, and Frank Sr. was sentenced to life + 25 years on Jan. 28, 2009; he is currently appealing his convictions.
“I’m not lookin’ for people to pat me on the back and say you did the right thing; this was a sick situation in life that had to end.”
For his cooperation, he just received a few months off of his own prison sentence.
He still fears for his life, but he felt he had no other choice.
“What were my choices? Was I gonna be a rat? Or, was I gonna be a cold-blooded killer?”
Mobster Confessions is a special series on the Discovery Channel. The final four Mobster Confessions sessions are not currently scheduled.
Image: Wikimedia Commons