The High Life

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

With his hijacking escapades on hold, Frank needed a replacement activity; it didn’t take him long to find one. This time he raised his sights, targeting upscale apartment buildings. Frank was out in a bar on Rush Street one night and got into a conversation with a guy named Barton. He was an accomplished burglar with a good reputation among other thieves.

“What are you up to these days?” Barton asked.

“I’m kind of in between things right now,” Frank said. “I’ve got a truck hijacking beef hanging over my head, so I’m staying clear of that business.”

“I’ve got a pretty good racket going doing high rise apartments. I usually work alone, but you’re welcome if you want to come along.”

“Where are you working at?”

“On Lake Shore Drive, mostly. I’m getting a lot of tips and making some good scores.”  Lake Shore Drive was the “Gold Coast” of Chicago. Anybody with a condo on Lake Shore had to have megabucks. But Frank knew there were drawbacks attacking high rises. Those buildings had tight security, and if you were able to get up to the apartments without being spotted you still had to get back out with the merchandise. There was no other way out, either. If the cops showed up while you were on an upper floor, you were trapped. In spite of the risks, Frank told Barton he’d go along.

Frank always figured that a man’s home was his castle while he was in it, and didn’t particularly like to do home invasions or have to confront tenants. But there were times when there was no alternative. On one occasion the tenant came home while Frank and Barton were in his apartment. They heard him put the key in the lock and were waiting when he opened the door. Frank had a pillow covering his face and was wearing a topcoat and fedora — you couldn’t dress like a bum when you went in those places. He stuck a gun in the man’s face, took him to the floor, and tied him up. The burglars took what they wanted and left. Afterward Frank went to a pay phone and called the cops. He told them that a man was tied up in his condo and gave them the address. 

Frank and Barton made some nice paydays hitting the high rises, but they knew they couldn’t rob them indefinitely without getting caught. When they figured the risks outweighed the rewards they let it go.

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