Louis Ferrante (born May 13, 1969) is a former Gambino crime family mobster who spent eight years in prison and successfully appealed his conviction and later became a successful crime and business writer. He hosts his own show airing on Discovery Networks International in 217 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.
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. 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 placed in the Witness Protection Program. 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 an 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 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.
The book, Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations, by Jules Evans, contains a chapter about Ferrante titled, "Plutarch and the Art of Heroism."
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. To contact Lou regarding speaking engagements, go to http://www.louisferrante.com/.
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 Reading Hero Award, given to him by Sarah Brown, wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in 2009.
Mob Rules was a 1-800-CEO-READ 2011 Business Book Award nominee, and was one of Forbes magazine columnist Marc Kramer's World's Best Business Books.
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 Television Series, which premiered on February 27, 2013. Each hour-long episode follows Ferrante as he explores different gang cultures around the world. Inside the Gangsters' Code airs on Discovery Channel in over 200 countries and in multiple languages.