Archive for November, 2007

Frank’s First Recruit

November 29, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgAfter joining Tony Spilotro in Las Vegas, Frank Cullotta began recruiting other criminals for what would later be dubbed the Hole in the Wall Gang.

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

When Frank arrived in Las Vegas in early 1979, one of his first stops was at the Gold Rush, Tony Spilotro’s store and headquarters. After touching base with Tony, Frank rented a condo at a place called the Marie Antoinette, located at 205 East Harmon Avenue.

 

It was a beautiful place and Frank’s condo was located right by the pool. Everything was furnished except for the television. After getting settled in, Frank met Tony for dinner to discuss what his function was going to be.

 

“I want you to be my eyes, ears, and muscle,” Tony said.

 

Frank smiled. “It sounds like I’m going to be pretty busy. Seriously, though, I’ll probably need some help to keep up with things. What do you think?”

 

“Sure, bring in whoever you want. But they can’t be Outfit guys and I don’t want anybody who’s known to our local cops.”

 

Frank got to work on lining up his crew. One of the first men to join him was Leo Guardino, a Windy City burglar who was already living in Las Vegas. Guardino was trying to be legit, but was having trouble getting a decent job. When Frank reached out to him he was more than ready to listen to his proposal.

 

 When they got together Frank made his pitch. “I’m working for Tony Spilotro and I’m putting a crew together. You interested?”

 

“What’s the setup?”

 

“We’ll do our own scores and any that Tony tells us about. All we have to do is kick back some of the money from our jobs to Tony and fulfill our other obligations to him.”

 

“What kind of obligations?”

 

Frank shrugged. “That depends. He’ll probably want us to muscle people once in a while. Maybe shake down drug dealers and renegade bookies, things like that.”

 

“I don’t mind a little rough stuff, but I’m not a killer. I don’t want to get into that kind of shit.”

 

“Don’t worry about it; you won’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I’ll have some other guys around to handle anything like that,” Frank assured him.

 

That seemed to satisfy Guardino, but he had another question. “Tony’s an Outfit guy. What about them?”

 

“Tony will determine how much money has to be sent to Chicago. We’re going to make a lot of money for ourselves, too; you can count on it. On top of that we’ll have carte blanche at some of the casinos. Shows, meals and stuff, will all be comped. We’re going to be able to live the good life.”

 

Guardino liked the deal and went for it.

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Invitation to Las Vegas

November 28, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgExcerpted from CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.  

When Frank was paroled from prison in 1974 his friends threw a coming out party for him in Chicago. Tony Spilotro came in from Las Vegas to help celebrate his long-time pal’s return to freedom. During the festivities Tony invited Frank to join him in Sin City. Planning on going straight, Frank declined the offer.

However, in 1979, things were much different in Frank’s life. There was a lot of heat on him in Chicago. The cops were always either wanting to arrest him or demanding money. The Outfit had their hand out all the time. Everybody wanted a piece of his action. For Frank it was a choice of paying off, getting arrested, or taking a bullet in the head.

 This time when Tony called Frank was more than receptive. “Frankie, I’ve got a lot going and I need you out here real bad,” Tony said.Frank didn’t hesitate. “I’m on my way,” he told his friend.  

Big Money and Big risks

November 27, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgFrank’s new crew of thieves kept busy. But crooks were supposed to follow the Outfit’s rules, and failure to do so could have deadly results.

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

They also scored a bank vault once. They were able to get into a vacant building next door to the bank. Those old buildings were built right next to each other with no walkway in between them, just a double firewall. The job took a month or a little less to plan. The crooks dug under the vacant building, through the foundation, and right up into the bank under the vault. Drills were used to get through the bank’s concrete floor. Once inside, they went after the safety deposit boxes, drilled out the locks and emptied the contents into bags. The take was over $300 thousand.

The only trouble was that a score that large required a kick back to the Outfit. It happened that one of the crew was an Outfit guy, so there was no way around paying the tribute. By the time everybody got their cut, Frank only ended up with around $30 thousand. Still, that was a lot of money in those days.

   Frank later did a jewelry store heist with a different crew. They kept the job very quiet and didn’t tell anybody about the score. They didn’t pay the Outfit any money either. When the mobsters heard about the robbery and realized they’d been stiffed, they became enraged. They scooped up known thieves, trying to find out who did the job and owed them the kick back. Frank never got bothered, though. They may have figured that being connected to Tony he would know better than to hold out on them. The Outfit ended up torturing and killing three innocent guys who they suspected of having robbed the jewelry store. 

Getting Back in Harness

November 25, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgExcerpted from CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.

Frank was ready to return to stealing for a living. But before resuming burglaries and robberies he wanted to update his procedures. His first priority was to figure a way to facilitate his activities by neutralizing alarm systems.

He got hold of blueprints on alarm system routes from a guy who was in the alarm business. He learned how the alarms were wired into the businesses and police stations. A friend worked with him to develop a way to bypass the alarm wiring while the electricity continued to flow without interruption. Through trial and error, they came up with something that worked. There would be no power outage and the alarm company or police station wouldn’t be warned of the burglary. That would give the burglars all the time they needed to work on the vault or safe.

About six months after Frank sold the lounge he had a crew together and was stealing again. Using the new technology they did a bunch of burglaries, hitting all different kinds of stores. One jewelry store job netted $150 thousand. 

Eliminating the Competition

November 24, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgExcerpted from CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.  

Being harassed by the law and then becoming the victim in an unwarranted Outfit altercation was causing Frank to develop a bad attitude. Still, he tried to stay on the straight and narrow. And then a situation developed that drove him over the edge and back to his criminal ways.

.

He found out that a contractor was building another disco just two blocks from his place. Had he been thinking clearly he may have realized that the competition could have been a good thing. Instead, he looked at it as something that would bring his whole world crashing down. He couldn’t let the new joint open.

When the building was nearly completed Frank went into action. He made up a five gallon combination of gas and diesel fuel and put it in a plastic container. He got a canister of dynamite, a cap, wick and timer, and headed for the new lounge. Placing everything in the center of the building, he set the timer and left. Half an hour later the potential competition was flattened to the ground.

It didn’t help, though. Frank’s business continued to fall off and he sold the place for what he’d paid for it. He decided that the legit route wasn’t for him. It was time to get back to doing something he was good at. 

Frankly Speaking – A TV Interview With Frank Cullotta

November 23, 2007

culllottefrankjpg413219.jpgFrank (shown here in a 1981 photo) was interviewed earlier this year by a Chicago TV station. You can see the video clip at:

http://video.nbc5.com/player/?id=169679

Frank Takes a Beating

November 22, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgExcerpted from CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.

Frank figured Louie would take his complaint straight to Aiuppa, so the next day he called Tony Spilotro in Las Vegas for advice. “Contact Joey Lombardo and tell him what happened. I’ll call him myself, too,” Tony said.

Frank went over to Lombardo’s brother’s restaurant, Rocky’s Steakhouse on North Avenue. He asked Rocky to contact Joe and tell him he needed to speak with him. As the two men were talking the door opened and Louie the Mooch walked in. Frank figured he was also there to reach out to Joey Lombardo.

When Louie spotted Frank he threw a punch. Frank blocked it, grabbed Louie’s arm and neck and rammed him into the wall. “You’re a dead man,” Louie hollered.At that point Rocky Lombardo yelled that he didn’t allow fighting in his place. He reminded the adversaries that his partner was underboss Jackie Cerone, and that Jackie wouldn’t like them causing trouble. Frank knew he’d better leave before he ended up with even more problems. He told Rocky he’d go to his brother’s barber shop and wait for Joe Lombardo’s call.

Lombardo called two hours later and invited Frank to meet him at a tavern. Frank took his brother along with him. When they got to the bar there were a bunch of guys outside having a cookout; one of them was Louie the Mooch. Lombardo called Frank aside and questioned him about the incident with Louie’s stepson. He asked Frank if he’d hit the kid and Frank said no.

Just then Louie walked over. “You’re a goddamn liar,” he hollered and took a swing. Frank.ducked the punch and smacked Louie in the head. Before he could do any more Lombardo grabbed his arm. “Don’t fucking hit him,” Lombardo ordered.

Frank couldn’t believe it. Everything inside him said to give Louie a good beating and Lombardo tells him not to retaliate. Louie came at him again. He threw Louie on the ground and sat on him. Lombardo kicked a brick over to Louie. He grabbed it and hit Frank in the head three or four times. While Frank was getting his head bashed in a bunch of other guys held his brother to keep him out of the fight.

Frank had taken all he was going to, Lombardo or no Lombardo. The mob big shot must have sensed that Frank was ready to blow and called for a halt in the action. “Are you satisfied, Louie?” Lombardo asked.

“Yeah, I’m done with him,” the brick-wielder said.

After Louie took off Frank was given a towel to wipe the blood from his face. He asked Lombardo, “Why the fuck did I have to take a beating from a prick like Louie?”

“I had to do it this way,” Lombardo said. “Louie came to me and said he wanted to use a ball bat on you; I wouldn’t let him. He said he’d wait until Joe [Aiuppa] got back from vacation and get the okay from him. I didn’t want that to happen, so I made this compromise to get it over with now. Louie has no more beef; it’s over. Put it on the shelf today. You might be able to take it back off later.”

Although he wasn’t happy about what had happened, Frank accepted the fact that Lombardo’s decision had probably been the right one under the circumstances. In the world of organized crime, that was the kind of logic used to settle grievances. Had Aiuppa been in town Louie might have been given more leeway in how he got his revenge.  

Trouble at Spanky’s

November 21, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgFrank’s second attempt at running a legitimate lounge also ran into trouble. This time it wasn’t from the law, but from one of his former associates.

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

Frank’s brother Joey was working for him part-time as a doorman. One night when Frank came in he learned there had been a problem. “I had a little trouble with some kids earlier,” Joey said. “I ran them out, but one of their fathers is connected.”

“Was anybody hurt?”

“No, nothing like that. I just made them leave.”

It didn’t sound serious and Frank forgot about it. But half an hour later an Outfit guy named Louie the Mooch came in the bar; Mooch worked for Outfit boss Joe Aiuppa. He said, “Frankie, what the fuck did you hit my son for?”

“What the hell are you talking about? I haven’t hit anybody and I didn’t even know you had a son.”

“I’m talking about my stepson. He said you roughed him up and threw him out.”

“He’s mistaken, Louie. I just got here a little while ago and I haven’t had a beef with anybody.”

Louie called his stepson in. He looked at Frank and said, “Yeah, he’s the guy.”

“You’re full of shit. I’ve never seen you before,” Frank said.

The Mooch had come into the bar with an attitude and now he was even madder. “Nobody smacks my kid around. You’re gonna pay for that.”

“I told you I never saw the kid before. Now get the fuck out of my place, both of you.”

“We’ll leave,” Mooch said, “but this isn’t the end of it. I’m gonna get you whacked, you cocksucker!” 

Book Review

November 20, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpg

A review of CULLOTTA was posted on J. Kaye’s Book Blog today. You can view it at:

http://www.j-kaye-book-blog.blogspot.com/

 

Back on the Streets

November 20, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgFrank was released from prison on parole in 1974. His intent at the time was to give up crime and lead a straight life. But that was easier said than done.

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

Things had changed while Frank was in prison. Mainly, his buddy Tony Spilotro had moved to Las Vegas to keep an eye on the Outfit’s casino interests. When Frank was released on parole, he fully intended to give up his life of crime and become a productive member of society. In spite of his good intentions, however, he soon found out that going straight wasn’t going to be as easy as he had thought.

In order to get parole an inmate had to have a job lined up. Frank’s was working in a dental lab making partial plates. He wasn’t very good at it; he knew it and his boss knew it. It got so bad that Frank didn’t have to come in to work anymore. He picked up his check once a week and kicked some of it back to the lab owner. Other than that his time was his own.

An acquaintance of Frank’s owned some property near Wrigley Field and wanted him to go partners in a restaurant. They built a nice place right across from the ballpark. It was totally legit and Frank worked in the place day and night.  But when the cops found out he was one of the owners they started hanging around the place and harassing him. Almost every night some windows would be broken out. It got to be very depressing for Frank. He had thought his hatred of the system and the desire to be like his father were gone, but they started coming back.

Things got progressively worse at the restaurant, so Frank sold his share. He made enough money to buy a lounge out in Schiller Park and kept one of the former owners on because the guy’s name was on the liquor license. He did some remodeling and changed the name of the place to Spanky’s. Even though he was down on the system, he planned to run the place legit. Then the cops found him again and the harassment resumed.