THE RISE AND FALL
Robert grew up in a small Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn. His mother, the backbone of the family, made sure Robert and his four other siblings were well fed and clothed. At an early age, Robert was intrigued by mobsters and by the time he was 14, Robert was running errands for the Gambino family, one of five families who dominated organized crime in New York. His reputation as a fierce fighter grew and he was always in trouble with the law. By the time he was 20, Robert was paraded around New York City as an up-and-coming star in the mob. He was making a lot of money and things were going well for him.
Robert began using cocaine recreationally but showed no signs of addiction. Use of drugs in the world of organized crime was strictly banned and considered a threat to the inner workings of the mafia. His occasional use of cocaine became a habit. Robert’s habit led to his eventual fall from the ranks of the mob. By 1986, drugs began to consume a large portion of his funds. After spending time in jail and getting clean, Robert started working as a union laborer in construction. Work was sporadic and from the time he got out of prison until 1993, Robert worked from one contract to another. It was in these in-between times that he opened the door to his old lifestyle, including drugs. Robert was buying things on stolen credit cards and then selling the goods. He continued making money through various illegal schemes, including robberies.
Robert started dating Lauren who got pregnant and delivered their daughter, Briana, in 1993. Robert’s drug addiction escalated and soon he was arrested for possession of crack. He was in and out of court and instead of facing arrest, Robert jumped from crack house to crack house to avoid his mounting problems. Eventually when the law caught up with him, he was arrested and spent time in Rikers Island, a jail on an island in New York. While he was incarcerated, Robert enjoyed phone conversations with his daughter. One day during one of their phone calls, Briana began to cry and asked her dad why he never came to see her. He realized how selfish he had been and that night Robert knelt next to his bed. His prayer was simple but powerful: “God, if you’re real, then change me.” Robert began reading the Bible in his cell every day and was baptized in 1997.
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