Posts Tagged ‘frank cullotta’

Mob Talk on September 21

September 19, 2011

I am pleased to announce that Mob Talk will debut on Crime Wire Radio on September 21 at 9 p.m. Eastern. Co-hosts Andrew DiDonato and I will have former FBI undercover agent Jack Garcia as our guest.

Joaquin “Jack” Garcia is considered by many of his peers and leading FBI experts, to have been the most successful undercover agent in the history of the Bureau.
         
In his 26 years of service with the FBI, and as an undercover agent in over 100 major operations, Jack is best known for his role as “Jack Falcone,” a self-described Sicilian jewel thief and drug dealer from Miami, Florida, who infiltrated New York’s Gambino crime family. After nearly three years of investigation, the case resulted in the arrest and conviction of 39 mobsters, including the top members of the Gambinos. Jack played his undercover role so convincingly that he was even proposed for membership into La Cosa Nostra.

Jack’s other successful undercover investigations included corrupt politicians in Atlantic City, New Jersey; and corrupt police officers in the Hollywood, Florida, Broward County, Florida, Boston Police Department, and the San Juan, Puerto Rico Police Department. He also worked undercover in major drug cases, including dealers and leaders of the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels.

Jack speaks Spanish fluently and is a member of the FBI Agents Association, the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the NYPD Honor Legion, and the Society of FBI Alumni. He is a guest speaker and lecturer at the FBI Academy, the FBI National Academy, and the FBI Citizens Academy on Sensitive Operations and Undercover Agent Training. He has been featured on 60 Minutes, the Investigative Discovery Channel, CBS Evening News, and the CBS Early Show, among others.

Jack’s book, Making Jack Falcone, was a New York Times bestseller.

Listeners can interact with the hosts and guest through the show’s chat room or by telephone call in.

Mob Talk is presented 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 http://www.bearmediaconsultants.com

 

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 http://www.lvrj.com/news/39633437.html.

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 http://www.blogtalkradio.com/dennisngriffin. 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 http://www.suntimes.com/news/24-7/1339456,mchenry-cold-case-holly-hager-121808.article or view the video at http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Was_Small_Town_Mob_Murder_Covered_Up__Chicago.html

Cullotta Interview

December 16, 2008

Las Vegas radio station KDWN has posted an interview of Frank Cullotta on its site. Please visit http://www.kdwn.com/index.php?page=0&sid=ibnvdupv2a62r4s4fmgksa2mu3030r00, 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.

Denny

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 http://www.blogtalkradio.com/dennisngriffin.

 

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.   

 

Legendary Las Vegas Casino Figure Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal Dead at Age 79

October 19, 2008

 

From 1967 through 1982, Frank Rosenthal was a main player in the mob-controlled casinos of Las Vegas. He was the real power behind the Chicago Outfit’s front man Allen Glick, calling the shots from the Outfit’s headquarters at the Stardust Hotel & Casino. Rosenthal’s role in Sin City was dramatized in the 1995 movie Casino, in which actor Robert DeNiro played a character based on him. DeNiro’s co-star, Joe Pesci, portrayed Rosenthal’s buddy-turned-enemy, Chicago Outfit enforcer Tony Spilotro.

 

Although Lefty died of natural causes at his Florida home on October 13, his life had nearly been claimed by violence on at least two occasions during his Vegas heyday. He knew about one of those instances for sure, and may or may not have been aware of the other.

 

I’ll talk about those incidents shortly. But I’ll begin with a little background on Mr. Rosenthal.

 

 

This is my first gig with him and I’m anticipating a fun time.

 

Denny

Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal was born in Chicago in 1929, the son of a produce wholesaler. However, his father’s business didn’t appeal to young Frank, who, as he grew up, became more interested in what was going on at racetracks and ballparks than in the price of oranges. His innate talent for sports wagering caught the attention of professionals, and at the age of 19 Frank was offered a job as a clerk with Bill Kaplan of the Angel-Kaplan Sports Service in Chicago.

 

Lefty developed his oddsmaking skills with the help of Kaplan and some illegal bookmakers, and he did so quickly. He was a natural when it came to formulating betting lines on sporting events. As the years passed, Rosenthal gained a reputation as one of the premier handicappers in the country, and a top earner for the Chicago Outfit’s illegal gambling operations. Lefty was on top of his game, but fame and fortune had their price.

 

In 1960, Rosenthal’s name appeared on a series of lists of known gamblers produced by the Chicago Crime Commission, and he decided it was time to get out of town. The following year Frank moved to Miami, hoping to keep a lower profile.

 

But his reputation and known affiliation with organized-crime had preceded him to Florida.  It wasn’t long before the numbers guru came to the attention of the Senate’s McClellan Committee on gambling and organized crime.

 

In 1961, Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to look into illegal gambling activities. Lefty was called to testify before Senator McClellan’s committee. During his appearance, the bookmaker was less than candid, invoking the Fifth Amendment 37 times. A few months later, Rosenthal was among a large number of bookies and players arrested as part of an FBI crackdown on illegal gambling. The Miami police then got in on the act and were soon arresting the 32-year-old on a regular basis. The same cops who had initially turned a blind eye to his bookmaking activities were now putting on some big-time heat.

 

Things got worse for Rosenthal in 1962, when he was indicted for attempting to bribe a college basketball player. Although he maintained his innocence, he eventually pled no contest to the charges.

 

Despite his altercations with the law, Lefty persevered, and was still in Miami when his old buddy, Tony Spilotro, arrived in 1964. However, the FBI was keeping an eye on Rosenthal and the presence of Spilotro, a suspect in multiple murders in Chicago, only increased the gambler’s unwanted visibility and made his public life more difficult.

 

By 1966, Lefty had his fill of Miami and decided to move to a location where people in his line of work were treated with a little more respect. He settled on the booming gaming city in the desert, Las Vegas. Not long after his arrival in1967, he bought into the Rose Bowl Sports Book, later relocating on to the Strip and the mob-controlled Stardust. Lefty was moving up fast and his future looked bright. But in 1968, something happened that had a major impact on his life, and eventually the lives of several others. He fell in love.

 

Geri McGee moved from California to Las Vegas in the late 1950s. An attractive woman, she worked as a topless showgirl at the Tropicana and Dunes and as a cocktail waitress and hustler around the casinos. When Lefty met her it was love at first sight, at least on his part. He was in a hurry to tie the knot, but Geri had reservations about settling down. Her concerns faded when Lefty placed a hefty stash of cash and jewelry in a safe deposit box for her to keep if the marriage didn’t work out. The two were wed the following year.

 

Initially, everything went well for the newlyweds. Geri liked to spend money and her husband made plenty of it. But in 1970, Lefty was indicted again for bookmaking. This was the kind of thing that could jeopardize his eligibility to be licensed as a casino manager. His links to organized-crime figures posed a similar threat, since the Nevada Gaming Control Board was likely to deny licensing upon learning of such relationships.

 

Consequently, in 1971, as Lefty ascended to a manager’s position at the Stardust and struggled to keep his nose clean, it came as an unwelcome shock when his lifelong pal, the increasingly notorious Chicago gangster Tony Spilotro, moved into town.

 

Spilotro’s function in Vegas was to serve as Rosenthal’s muscle should anyone threaten the mob’s casino interests, including the lucrative cash-skimming operations that provided millions of dollars to the crime bosses. However, Tony was an ambitious guy and wasn’t satisfied to just hang around until Lefty needed his help. In short order he became involved in street crimes ranging from loansharking, robbery, burglary, and arson for hire, to murder.

 

As Tony’s power grew, he brought in other heavies to give him a hand. One of those was Frank Cullotta, an accomplished thief, arsonist and killer, from Chicago. Cullotta assembled a crew of crooks and murderers that became known as the Hole in the Wall Gang. Tony and his boys ruled the Las Vegas underworld.

 

As Tony’s influence expanded, so did his ego. He wanted even more power and sought Rosenthal’s support; but the bookie refused. That was a sure way to get on Spilotro’s bad side. And a rift developed between the two men. The situation became even more complicated when Tony began having an affair with Lefty’s wife, Geri. As time passed, Tony came to despise Lefty.

 

And Rosenthal was having other problems as well. He was locked in a battle with the Nevada Gaming Control Board over obtaining a gaming license. The Board was aware of his associations with organized crime figures—including Spilotro—and didn’t want to grant him a license. Lefty tried to bypass the licensing requirements by using various job titles, such as the Director of Food & Beverage and Entertainment Director. Those moves bought him some time, but would eventually be unsuccessful and end his career as one of the most powerful casino men in Las Vegas.

 

While this was going on, the relationship between Tony and Lefty deteriorated to a critical point. Tony told Cullotta that if not for Rosenthal’s standing with the mob bosses he’d “whack the Jew bastard.” However, as Lefty’s problems with the gaming regulators increased, his value to the Outfit decreased. Tony became more serious about getting rid of Lefty and began preparations.

 

Frank Cullotta recalls the conversation in which Tony informed him that he might want Rosenthal hit:

“I’ve got a job I might need to have done,” Tony said. “I want you to prepare for it. Make sure Larry [gang member Larry Neumann] is ready to go and get one other guy. Who else can you get?”

“What’s the job?”

“I might want to get rid of the Jew [Rosenthal].”

“For something like that, I can have Wayne [gang associate and killer Wayne Matecki] come in from Chicago.”

 

“I’m not sure right now I want to do this, so don’t do anything until I tell you. I’m going to bring in a couple of other guys, one from California and the other from Arizona. They’re going to dig a big hole in the desert. They’ll cover it with plywood and dirt. You’ll know where the hole is, because I’ll take you there and show you. When I’m ready to get rid of the Jew, I’ll tell you. Then you scoop him up from the street. Don’t kill him on the street, Frankie. Kill him when you get to the grave we’re going to dig. Then dump him in and cover him up. That will be the end of that.”

 

For reasons unknown to Cullotta, Tony never gave the final order. Lefty knew Spilotro detested him and was capable of killing him. But it is doubtful that he knew his erstwhile friend had actually set a plan in motion.

 

However, Lefty had a near death experience that he was painfully aware of on October 4, 1982, when he left Tony Roma’s restaurant on East Sahara. He got into his Cadillac and turned the key in the ignition. In the past, this action had always resulted in the Caddy’s engine coming to life and settling into a smooth purr. Things were a bit different this time, though. A charge of C-4 explosive had been placed under the trunk next to the gas tank and wired to the ignition. When Lefty turned the key the bomb ignited. Had he been in any other car, the gambler would no doubt have been killed instantly. But the Caddy was built with a steel plate under the driver’s seat as standard equipment. The steel barrier diverted the blast toward the passenger side of the vehicle and gave Lefty a chance to jump out of the car before the interior became fully engulfed. The gas tank exploded seconds later, sending the car’s roof 60 feet into the air. The lucky Lefty escaped the inferno with only some singed clothes and minor injuries. He was alive, but someone had sent a strong message.

 

Who was responsible for the attempt on Lefty’s life? The theories vary. Those who believe Tony Spilotro was behind the incident admit that the Tony wasn’t known for using explosives. But they argue that he had motive and could have brought in an outside expert to handle the bombing. Others think the Chicago bosses, with pressure from their Kansas City colleagues, ordered the hit because they felt Lefty might turn on them and begin cooperating with the authorities. Those who support this idea point out that car bombings were common in assassinations by mob families throughout the Midwest. 

 

Others attribute the bombing to Geri Rosenthal’s biker-gang and drug friends in California. Their rationale is that Geri—who had fled to California after cleaning out the safety deposit boxes loaded with cash and jewelry—was rapidly going through the loot she’d left Las Vegas with. Her new associates no doubt believed she stood to gain a windfall from Lefty’s estate should he suffer a premature demise. In that case, the free-spending Geri would be able to support their bad habits for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it made sense that these unsavory characters would attempt to knock Lefty off.

 

Not long after the bombing, the gambler departed Las Vegas for California, and eventually Florida. Like so many of the killings and attempted killings in the realm of the mobsters, no one was ever charged in the attack.

 

The late Lefty Rosenthal has been described by many who dealt with him as having been extremely egotistical with an abrasive personality. He was not a very nice guy, according to them. With his passing, another chapter of Vegas history comes to a close.

 

 


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