The Robber Meets the Cops

cullotta-cover-web.jpgFrank and one of his crew robbed a bank messenger in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. It had been an easy score; too easy as it turned out. In the aftermath, Frank had his first interrogation by the police as an adult. It was an experience he’ll never forget.

Excerpted from CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness 

At the time of the Oak Park incident, the Chicago Police Department’s robbery detail was under the command of Frank Pape. The legendary cop is credited with killing nine alleged criminals in the line of duty, and was responsible for sending 300 more to prison. He survived a 39-year law enforcement career and passed away in March 2000, at the age of 91.

One of Pape’s detectives was Tom Durso, who was also a tough guy. He and an associate named Mike Gargano used to shake down the thieves, demanding a cut of their scores. The word on the street was that if you failed to pay you could end up dead. If you were a crook, these were good men to stay away from. Frank Cullotta had the misfortune of having encounters with all three of them as a result of the Oak Park bank messenger job. It was his first adult interrogation by the Chicago cops, and was not a very pleasant experience.

Things began to unravel for Frank when witnesses passed the license plate number of his friend’s Lincoln to the police. The cops traced the registration to Frank’s partner, who was known to them. Durso and Gargano went on the prowl and picked Frank and his buddy up on the street. They first handcuffed Frank’s pal and gave him a beating. He denied being involved in the Oak Park situation and stuck to his story. Eventually he was released.

Next it was Frank’s turn.  Durso and Gargano put him in their car and then Durso stuck a gun in his face. The cop said, “Where’s the fuckin’ money?” 

Frank acted confused. “What money?”

“Cut the shit. You know goddamn well what I’m talking about. Where is it?”

“I don’t know nothin’ about any money. You must have me mixed up with somebody else.”

“Listen you prick, we could whack you right now and dump you out on the street. Nobody’d know any better; they wouldn’t miss you because you’re just a scumbag crook.”

Frank hung tough. “I tell you I don’t know what the fuck you’re talkin’ about.”

Frank’s denials didn’t set well and a beating ensued. Further demands that he admit to the robbery and divulge the location of the messenger’s money were unsuccessful. Frank was then transported to the station and up to the detective’s office on the eleventh floor. He was handcuffed to the back of a chair. A few minutes later Frank Pape walked in. He said, “How ya doin?”

Assuming the question had been directed at him, Frank answered. “I’m doin’ pretty good.”

Pape had apparently been talking to Durso. He grabbed a phone book from a desk and hit Frank in the head with it. “Who’s talkin’ to you, you no good cocksucker? When I tell you to talk, you talk. Otherwise, shut the fuck up. Understand?”

Frank’s failure to answer resulted in another crack in the head with the phone book. That was followed by a punch in the chest, knocking him and his chair over. Looking up at Pape, Frank said, “I haven’t done anything wrong and don’t even know why I’m here.”

Pape said to Durso, “Get the cattle prods in here. I’m going to make this son of a bitch talk.”

A few minutes later the cattle prods were applied near Frank’s testicles. The same questions were asked over and over: Tell us about the robbery. Who was with you? Where’s the money? Each time, the prisoner answered that he didn’t know what his interrogators were talking about. Every denial was followed by a zap with the cattle prods. Screaming in agony, Frank told the cops what he thought of them, generating additional pain. But through it all he didn’t talk, he didn’t admit to anything.

After a while Pape left the room. On his way out he said to Durso, “Throw this bastard out the window. Say he tried to escape.”

Frank was hung out the window by his ankles, praying he wouldn’t be dropped. There were more questions, but Frank kept his mouth shut. Eventually he was pulled back inside where Frank Pape was waiting. He said, “Was your father Joe Cullotta?”

“Yes,” Frank answered.

“Are you trying to be the man he was? You aren’t going to make it. You’ll never be the man he was.”

A little while later Frank was turned loose. He’d made it through the session, but had definitely gotten the worst of it. He would meet up with Durso and Gargano again, though, and under very different circumstances. 

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