Archive for the ‘tony spilotro’ Category

Mob Talk on November 16

November 12, 2011

The popular 1995 movie Casino was a fictionalized account of the Las Vegas era of Chicago Outfit enforcer Tony Spilotro and Outfit associate Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. One of the scenarios addressed in the film is the skimming of money from the casinos and into the pockets of several Midwest crime bosses. And the skim was real, not a creation of Hollywood.

On tonight’s show co-hosts Andrew DiDonato and Denny Griffin will talk with retired FBI agent Lynn Ferrin. Lynn was the Las Vegas case agent for the skim investigations called Operation Strawman. Lynn will tell us the real story about how the skim was run, by whom, and how the feds brought it down. He’ll also comment on the movie and how law enforcement was portrayed in the film. If you’re a Mob buff, a Las Vegas or Casino fan, you won’t want to miss this show.

Join us at 9 p.m. Eastern for Mob Talk    


Mob Talk – Coming Soon on Blog Talk Radio

July 23, 2011

Mob Talk will debut on Crime Wire Radio in September. The program will be co-hosted by author Denny Griffin and former Gambino crime family associate and author Andrew DiDonato. Their guests will include former mobsters and the lawmen that pursued them.

On some shows listeners will learn about organized crime capers prior to, during, and since the John Gotti era that went unreported or underreported. The stories will be told by those with intimate knowledge of the crimes and investigations.

Other programs will focus on what it is really like to be in “the life,” and Mob protocols and how they have changed over the years, including what lawmen preparing to work undercover learn at “mob school.” There will also be analysis of John Gotti’s true impact on organized crime by men who worked for him and against him. Was he a Mob hero, or did he in large part contribute to its downhill slide?

And from time to time, people who once earned their living as robbers and burglars will offer tips on how to protect yourself and your assets from the thieves of today.

Listeners will be able to interact with the hosts and guests through the show’s chat room.

An announcement for the debut show will be issued in early September.

Mob Talk will be sponsored by BEAR Media Consultants, LLC

You’ll be able to hear the show at Crime Wire Radio



BEAR Media Consultants

June 29, 2011

I’m pleased to announce my new business, BEAR Media Consultants. You can learn more at


BEAR Media Consultants, LLC

If you are an organized crime or true crime film or documentary producer, or a true crime reporter or  author, BEAR Media may be able to put you in touch with the person or persons you need for your project.

BEAR Media is acquainted with many former organized crime figures and retired FBI agents and police detectives—individuals you won’t necessarily find by looking in the phone book. We also have contact with the families of victims of suspicious death, missing person and cold homicide cases. These are all people with tremendous stories to tell.

And the people we know, all know other people. So if you need a technical consultant for your production or story, there’s a good chance we can connect you with someone who can provide what you are looking for. 

In addition to those with crime-related expertise, we also know interesting folks from the writing and entertainment fields who make excellent speakers or presenters. If you’re  in charge of scheduling speakers/entertainment for conventions, conferences or special events, we can put together a unique package for you that will make the program you set up a memorable one for your attendees.

Possible Closure in 1981 Illinois Double Homicide Case

February 15, 2009

Authorities in McHenry County, Illinois, may be closer to solving a pair of 1981 killings thanks to a former mobster’s biography. For details please read

Scharff/Freeman Murders

January 3, 2009

I’m pleased to announce that Paul Scharff and Holly Hager will be my guests on my Blog Talk Radio show at 7 pm Central on January 5th. Paul’s father, tavern owner Ronald Scharff, and his barmaid Patricia Freeman were murdered in McHenry County, Illinois in June 1981.


The killings remained unsolved for over 27 years. And then this past summer Holly Hager, Paul’s one-time baby-sitter, read a former mobster’s biography in which the murders were described and the killer named. Since then McHenry County has renewed their investigation; and the story has received attention from Chicago and McHenry County media.


Paul and Holly will explain the status of efforts to have the alleged killer officially named as the murderer and the cold cases closed out.


You can catch the broadcast live at Listeners can call in with questions or comments at 646 478-0982.



Larry Neumann may officially be credited with two more murders

December 19, 2008

Chicago Channel 5 and the Chicago Sun Times have broken stories that deceased mobster Larry Neumann may have been the killer in a pair of 27-year-old McHenry County, Illinois murders.

You can see the article at,mchenry-cold-case-holly-hager-121808.article or view the video at

Cullotta Interview

December 16, 2008

Las Vegas radio station KDWN has posted an interview of Frank Cullotta on its site. Please visit, scroll down and click on the Cullotta interview.

Spilotro bio airs at 9 pm Eastern on December 5

November 30, 2008

The Biography Channel schedule shows the new Tony Spilotro bio will debut at 9 pm Eastern on December 5th.

Tony Spilotro Biography

November 3, 2008

The Biography Channel plans to air Tony’s bio on their Mobster show on Friday, December 5.


Special Las Vegas and the Mob show

October 31, 2008

On November 5 at 7 pm Central time, I’ll be doing a special edition of my Las Vegas and the Mob show on Blog Talk Radio. The topic will be a double murder that occurred in Lakemoor, Illinois, in 1981. My guests will be Paul Scharff, son of one of the victims, retired FBI agent Dennis Arnoldy, and former Chicago Outfit mobster Frank Cullotta. You can listen to the program live, or play it back later as a podcast, at


Below is some background on the case.


Murder in Lakemoor


On the morning of June 2, 1981, two people were found shot to death in the living room of an apartment at the rear of the P.M. Pub, located at 238 West Rand Road in Lakemoor, Illinois. The victims were the tavern’s owner, 37-year-old Ronald Scharff , and barmaid Patricia Freeman, who had worked her first shift at the bar the previous evening. Lakemoor was a community of around 800 at the time, and is situated about 45 miles northwest of Chicago. These were the first reported homicides there since its incorporation in 1952.


Shortly after the killings, McHenry County Sheriff’s investigators had a couple of suspects in the slayings. Jim Hager — a friend of Ron Scharff — advised them that if they wanted to solve the murders they should look at  either Freeman’s boyfriend or a guy named Larry Neumann The latter was a McHenry County native then living in Las Vegas. Neumann, a burglar, robber, arsonist and all around tough guy, was working for Chicago Outfit enforcer Tony Spilotro in Sin City. Neumann had previously been convicted of a 1956 triple murder in Illinois. And although he received a sentence of 125 years, he had miraculously been paroled after serving only about 16 years. Hager had thrown Neumann’s name into the mix because he had witnessed an altercation between Scharff and Neumann’s ex-wife in which Scharff threw the woman out of his bar. Hager felt that to a guy like Neumann, that incident could be construed to be a personal insult demanding redress.


It is unclear exactly what the police did with that information. But they reportedly put most of their focus on Freeman’s boyfriend, who had allegedly been seen across the street from the lounge on the night of the killings. The man was questioned and submitted to several lie detector tests, the results of which were inconclusive.


At any rate, no charges were filed and the case was still open the following year when what seemed like a major breakthrough with a Las Vegas connection took place. In May 1982, Tony Spilotro’s childhood friend and lieutenant flipped and became a government witness. Frank Cullotta — who had been running Spilotro’s  crew of thieves and killers known as the Hole in the Wall Gang prior to defecting — told the FBI agents and Las Vegas police who were debriefing him, that Neumann had killed two people in a McHenry County tavern the previous June. McHenry County authorities were notified and interviewed Cullotta at the federal lockup in San Diego.


Cullotta confirmed Hager’s suspicion of the motive for the murders. He stated that Neumann had received a call from his ex-wife regarding her altercation with Scharff. The killer had become enraged. He considered the incident to have been a sign of disrespect to him; and felt he had no choice but to return to Illinois and get revenge. Not long afterward Neumann said he was heading for Chicago. Another Cullotta associate named Tommy Amato went with him. Amato went along to share the driving and get out of Vegas for a while. He had no knowledge of Neumann’s plans for retribution. When Neumann returned to Vegas he admitted the murders to Cullotta.


In addition to Cullotta’s statement, a Las Vegas police detective provided details of an interview he did with Tommy Amato regarding the Scharff and Freeman murders. David Groover said Amato told him that he had driven Neumann from Chicago to Lakemoor in Neumann’s Thunderbird. Neumann told Amato to park near the pub and wait in the car for him. A few minutes later Amato heard two gunshots, followed seconds later by two more. Neumann returned to the car, and after driving around for a while threw the murder weapon into a lake. Although Amato later retracted his story, Groover memorialized Amato’s statement in a sworn affidavit.


Further information that seemingly corroborated the accounts of Cullotta and Amato was contained in McHenry County police records. The night after the killings, Tommy Amato was in a car operated by Neumann’s brother-in-law when it was stopped by a police patrol. Amato was detained briefly and then released. 


In spite of all this information, Neumann was not charged and the murders remained unsolved.


In 2008, 27 years after his father’s murder, Paul Scharff received a phone call from Jim Hager. He was told that Holly Hager — Jim’s daughter and Paul’s one-time babysitter — had read a book that she believed included a segment on Ron Scharff’s killing. Although the names of the victims and the specific location of the crimes weren’t included, she felt everything else matched. Jim agreed and reached out to Paul.


The book Holly read was CULLOTTA — The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness. On page 130 of that book she found Cullotta’s account of what turned out to be the Ron Scharff murder. For Paul, who was a young boy in 1981, this was the first time he’d heard the story about Larry Neumann being his father’s killer. After talking with Jim Hager and reading the book himself, Paul is convinced Neumann was the man who took the lives of his father and Pat freeman. That acceptance has brought him a certain amount of closure.


But now he’d like the police to name Neumann —who died in prison in January 2007 — as the perpetrator and close out the cold case. He’d also like an explanation as to why the police seemingly never seriously went after Neumann all those years ago. Frank Cullotta and his former FBI handler Dennis Arnoldy, have agreed to assist Paul in his efforts if needed.


For the sake of Paul and his family, I hope he’s successful.   



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