Collecting Coins

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

Phil, one of Frank’s associates, had a list of all the coin collectors throughout the city and the suburbs. He knew their addresses, phone numbers and even the values of their collections. Phil and Frank lined up a buyer for the coins, and then began to steal them.


There were always three men on these jobs. Unlike the usual burglaries and robberies, the work car was left parked on the street unmanned. All three burglars went into the house and the driver stayed by a front window and served as a lookout.


The burglary of one second floor apartment was particularly difficult. It was necessary to be extra quiet so as not to awaken the old couple that lived downstairs. Frank and his men got into the apartment and found the safe. The three of them picked it up, got it to a side window overlooking the lawn and threw it out. It didn’t make much noise when it landed, but it sank into the lawn about two feet. It took a Herculean effort to get it out of the ground and into the work car. It was well worth it, though. The safe was loaded with rare coins that were worth a lot of money.


Around this same time another crew of thieves from the Grand and Ogden area was pretty active, too. Phil knew them very well, and they had helped him out once when he was down and out. The other gang knew about Phil’s coin dealer list and wanted some of the action. He asked Frank what he thought he should do.


“If you feel obligated to those guys you should take them on a score. It’s your list and you’ve gotta do what you think is right,” Frank said.


“Would you come along with us?”


Frank didn’t like a couple of that other crew and wasn’t interested in working with them. “No, there will be enough of you. If you decide to take them on a job, I’ll sit that one out.”


Phil elected to do a job with the other gang. They chose a place in Northbrook, a very exclusive neighborhood. Phil told Frank he had bad vibes about that location, but went along with the plan anyway. They walked into a trap.


Frank heard later what went down. Phil was the first one in the door with another guy right behind him. The third one wasn’t even inside yet when the cops started yelling. Phil turned around and ran and the cops opened fire. A shot hit Phil in the back, passed through his lung, and hit one of the other burglars in the forehead. Phil got outside the house and made it about fifty feet before he fell over dead.


Frank never found out who tipped the cops, but he believes that if Phil had listened to his instincts he might still be alive today.


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