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Lou Ferrante (born May 13, 1969) is a former Gambino family mobster who, after spending eight years in prison, successfully appealed his conviction and became a bestselling true crime and business writer. He hosts his own show airing on Discovery Networks International in 195 countries and was nominated for the Grierson Trust Award which is the highest documentary award in the United Kingdom, known as "the Oscars of the documentary world." He has also appeared on television stations such as MSNBC, Fox News Channel, BBC, PBS, Comedy Central, and The History Channel. On September 15, 2011, Ferrante spoke at The Economist's Ideas Economy: Human Potential Summit in New York City. On October 21, 2014, Ferrante spoke at the CEO Global Leaders Forum in New York City, hosted by billionaire businessman Leonard Lauder.
Ferrante was born and raised in Queens, New York. As a teenager, he made his reputation as a gang leader. Ferrante and his crew hijacked delivery trucks all over New York and he soon gained the attention of the infamous Gambino crime family. By his early twenties, Ferrante headed a crew of older armed robbers within the family. Newspaper articles from the 1990s referred to Ferrante as "Gotti's pal" in reference to Gambino boss John Gotti, Senior. Another article referred to Ferrante as a "crony of John (Junior) Gotti." On one occasion, Ferrante and his crew flew from New York to California to hold up an armored car. His plans were foiled by the FBI, although there was insufficient evidence to charge Ferrante and his crew with a crime. During this time, he was suspected of masterminding some of the largest heists in U.S. history.
The law caught up with Ferrante and he became the target of three separate investigations. He was eventually indicted by the FBI, the United States Secret Service, and the Nassau County Organized Crime Task Force. The main informant against Ferrante was entered into the Witness Protection program. Another informant against Ferrante was William Degel, now the host of Restaurant Stakeout on Food Network. By 1994, and facing a life sentence in prison, Ferrante wrote and distributed a rap song defending infamous Gambino Family Boss John Gotti. He hired controversial civil rights attorney William Kunstler to defend him. In court, Kunstler claimed that Ferrante's song aggravated law enforcement agencies who'd convicted Gotti and that the massive resources used to indict Ferrante multiple times were part of a government vendetta. Ferrante's defense was defeated in court by prosecutors and Ferrante was forced to plead guilty to a thirteen-year sentence. Ferrante refused to cooperate with the government and did not inform on former associates of the Gambino family. He was sent to the maximum security prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania to begin his sentence.
During Ferrante's incarceration, he read his first book. He subsequently immersed himself in the study of history, philosophy, and literature. He also learned the art of writing, and penned a historical novel, Aleesa, set in the antebellum South. At the time, Lewisburg Penitentiary was the scene of an ongoing race war which claimed the lives of several men, brutally murdered inside the prison. Ferrante states in his memoir, Unlocked, that he wrote the novel to shield his mind from the racism around him.
While in prison, Ferrante successfully appealed his own conviction, a case that is cited in courtrooms across the country. He was released in January 2003, after serving eight and a half years. In addition to law, Ferrante (who was raised Catholic) studied many religions and chose to convert to Judaism, becoming an observant Jew.
Books and Other Writings
In the U.S., the hardcover edition of Ferrante's memoir is titled Unlocked: a Journey From Prison to Proust in hardcover; the paperback edition is titled Unlocked: The Life and Crimes of a Mafia Insider. In the United Kingdom, the memoir is titled Tough Guy: The Life and Crimes of a Mafia Insider. The book has also been translated into Dutch.
Ferrante's second book is a non-fiction work, Mob Rules: What the Mafia Can Teach the Legitimate Businessman. The book is a bestseller in a number of countries, including Spain and Portugal, and has been translated into the languages of the following countries: Bulgaria, China, Holland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Russia, Spain, and Portugal.
Ferrante has also contributed essays to Signed, Your Student: Celebrities Praise the Teachers Who Made Them Who They Are Today, and Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book.
Ferrante has been a guest on Tim Shaw's Absolute Radio show, Absolution, several times, including a September 4, 2009 half-hour interview over the phone discussing his life in the Mafia and the criminal lifestyle. The September 4, 2009 interview was part of the UK's knife amnesty, encouraging youths to stay away from knife crime. Louis also appeared on the Tim Shaw & show.
In addition to writing, and his work in the U.K., Ferrante also speaks in the United States to many and varied groups, telling his story of personal transformation to motivate and inspire others that they too, can change their lives.
Ferrante has voluntarily devoted much time and effort to visiting prisons and promoting literacy in the U.K., and his contribution to inspiring others in the pursuit of literacy was recognized at a ceremony at Number 10 Downing Street, where he received the Celebrity Reading Hero Award, given to him by Sarah Brown, wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in 2009.
In 2013, Ferrante made the final shortlist of nominees for the Grierson Trust Documentary Television Awards in the United Kingdom. Ferrante was nominated for Documentary Presenter of the Year for his show, Inside the Gangsters' Code.
Inside the Gangsters' Code Television Series
Ferrante's television series, Inside the Gangsters' Code, premiered on February 27, 2013. Each hour-long episode follows Ferrante as he explores different gang cultures around the world. Inside the Gangsters' Code aired on Discovery Channel in over 195 countries and in multiple languages. Ferrante wrote, hosted, narrated, and co-produced the series.
Ferrante is co-creator and executive producer for the television series, The Diamond Collar, which aired on Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network in early 2014. Ferrante appeared with actors Al Pacino and James Caan, and director Francis Ford Coppola in the anniversary documentary, The Godfather Legacy.
Ferrante's television appearances include:
- Fox & Friends. Fox News Channel, 1/21/11.
- HARDtalk with Sarah Montague. BBC, 9/3/2008.
- Jansing & Co. MSNBC, 1/21/11.
- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central.
- Make It Rain - Bank of America, Episode 15.26, 2/23/2010.
- He's Come Ungunned, Episode 15.52, 4/15/2010.
- Free Market Threat, Episode 17.47, 1/19/2012.
- Bad Habit, Episode 17.130, 7/26/2012.
- The Godfather Legacy. The History Channel, 7/24/2012.
- Lou Ferrante's Mob Rules. Discovery Networks International, 2011.
- One-on-One with Steve Adubato. PBS, 11/19/2009.
- Skavlan. 2/22/2013.
- Ferrante, Louis (2011). Mob Rules: What the Mafia Can Teach the Legitimate Businessman. ISBN 978-1-59184-398-6.
- Ferrante, Louis (2009). Unlocked: The Life and Crimes of a Mafia Insider. ISBN 978-0-06-113386-2.
- Holbert, Holly M., editor. (2010). Signed, Your Student: Celebrities Praise the Teachers Who Made Them Who They Are Today. ISBN 978-1-60714-121-1.
- Langum, David J. (1999). William M. Kunstler: The Most Hated Lawyer in America. ISBN 0-8147-5150-4.
- Manning, Sean, editor (2010). Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book. ISBN 978-0-306-81921-6.
- The Bob Edwards Show (23 February 2009)
- The Leonard Lopate Show: "Mafia Soldier Converts to Orthodox Judaism" (26 March 2008)
- Jacobs, E. (15 June 2011). "Lessons from the lawbreakers". Financial Times.
- "Radio Times sponsors reader's choice awards". The Grierson Trust.
- "'The Economist': Ideas Economy: Human Potential: The Next Level of Competition". The Times Center, New York City. 14–15 September 2001.
- Gluckstadt, M. (21 May 2008). "La Kosher Nostra". Gelf Magazine.
- Dominguez, R. (2 June 2011). "Wiseguy's wisdom: Ex-mobster offers tips to legit businessmen". New York Daily News.
- Jones, N. (3 March 2009). "How books saved Mafioso". London Telegraph.
- Rashbaum, W. K. et al. (4 June 1996). "Record of run-ins, busts for cop's partying pal". New York Daily News.
- Ferrante, L. (2009). Unlocked: the Life and Crimes of a Mafia Insider. HarperCollins. pp. 41–57.
- FOIA Documents Request No.1040554-000, Received June 21, 2008.
- Price, M. (27 April 2008). "Louis Ferrante speaks freely about 'Unlocked'". Newsday.
- Rashbaum, W. K. et al. (4 June 1996). "Record of run-ins, busts for cop's partying pal". New York Daily News.
- Langum, D.J. (1999). William M. Kunstler: the Most Hated Lawyer in America. New York University Press. p. 275.
- Good Day New York, WNYW TV transcript, June 8, 1994.
- Brawarsky, S. (28 April 2008). "A wiseguy's new racket". The Jewish Week.
- Loizos, C. (14 July 2011). "What the Mob can teach the startup industry". peHUB.
- Goffard, C. (16 September 2006). "Aryan Brotherhood leaders get life terms". Los Angeles Times.
- Ferrante, L. (2009). Unlocked. HarperCollins. p. 241.
- United States v. Livorsi, 180 F.3d 76,82 (2d Cir. 1999)
- Flamm, M. (15 May 2011). "Ex-mobster writes business advice book". Crain's New York.
- Dominguez, R. (3 June 2011). "Wiseguy's wisdom". New York Daily News.
- Burstein, N. (15 February 2012). "From organized crime to organized religion. Ex-mobster: first reformed, now modern Orthodox". The Times of Israel.
- Brawarsky, S. (22 April 2008). "A wiseguy's new racket". The Jewish Week.
- "Louis Ferrante: From Mobster to Mensch". Jewish Literary Review. May 2008.
- Sandall, S. (February 2012). "Louis Ferrante". Readersvoice.com.
- Ferrante, L. (1 June 2011). "10 legitimate business tips from an ex-Mafia man". Huffington Post.
- Ferrante, L. (6 June 2011). "Former Mafia associate gives lessons for success in legitimate business". Huffington Post.
- "Philosophy for Life". Retrieved 18 November 2013.
- Evans, Jules (2012). Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations. New World Press. pp. 187–191. ISBN 978-1-60868-229-4.
- Tim Shaw & the New York Mobster episode, Current TV, 10/1/2010. http://current.com/groups/videos/92692372_tim-shaw-the-new-york-mobster.htm.
- Nixon, G. (19 June 2011). "Reformed gangster offers wisdom in 'Mob Rules'". CTV.ca News.
- "Meet the Reading Heroes: ordinary people who have helped transform lives". The Sun. 18 December 2008.
- "Introducing the candidates: General Business". 1-800-CEO-READ. 23 December 2011.
- "World's Best Business Books Homepage". Kramer Communications.
- Kramer, M. (2 January 2012). "'Mob Rules: What the Mafia can Teach Legitimate Businessmen'". Kramer Communications.
- "The Grierson Trust: the British Documentary Awards". Retrieved 18 November 2013.
- "Press Release: Oprah Winfrey Network 12/18/2013". Corus Entertainment.
- "The Godfather Legacy 2012".
- Exclusive! Interview with Ex.Mafia Gangster – Louis Ferrante.
- Louis Ferrante Official Website
- Discovery Channel: Inside the Gangsters' Code