Archive for December, 2007

Inquiring Mobsters Want to Know

December 26, 2007

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

Every so often Frank went back to Chicago to deliver the money Tony was sending the bosses. On one trip after finding out about Lefty’s wife, he made a delivery to Joe Ferriola, one of the big shots. Ferriola had a question for him. “Frankie, you’ve gotta level with me. Is the little guy fucking the Jew’s wife?”

“No way. I know Tony and Lefty ain’t gettin’ along, but as far as I know Tony’s not fucking Lefty’s old lady,” Frank said quickly and with a straight face.

“‘I believe you, Frankie. You know we’ve got a lot of money riding out there and we can’t have some cunt fucking everything up just because some guy gets a hard-on. If that happens a lot of people will be mad, including me.”

“You’ve got nothing to worry about,” Frank assured him. “Tony’s not doin’ anything wrong.”

That night Frank was in a restaurant with Larry Neumann, who was in Chicago on other business, and Wayne Matecki. Outfit underboss Jackie Cerone happened to be in the same place. He came over to their table to talk. “How’s Tony doing out there?” he asked.

“He’s doing a good job; everything’s fine,” Frank answered.

“I’m glad to hear that. Give him a message from me. Tell him not to fuck up and to keep his nose clean,” Cerone said, then walked away.

Larry Neumann wasn’t impressed with Cerone or his message to Tony. “That bastard,” he fumed. “Do you realize how easy it would be to take him out? We could take out this whole fucking joint.”

“Take it easy, Larry. That’s not going to happen,” Frank said. He made it a point to never talk down to the volatile Neumann. Each recognized the other man’s capacity for violence, and they treated one another with respect.

  

When Frank got back to Vegas he told Tony what Ferriola asked him. Concerned, Tony asked, “What did you tell him?”

Frank teased his friend. “I told him you’ve been banging the broad.”  Both men laughed.

 

Then Frank turned serious. After delivering Cerone’s message he said, “I’ll tell you something. If those guys in Chicago ever find out I lied to them, they’ll dig two graves in the desert, one for you and one for me.”

  

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Book Review

December 20, 2007

my-mob-photo.jpgA new review of The Battle for Las Vegas – The Law vs. the Mob, and CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness, can be seen at:

 http://www.psloveblog.com/2007/12/cullotta-life-of-chicago-criminal-las.html

Casino Clout

December 18, 2007

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

    Two of the Outfit-controlled casinos at that time were the Stardust and Fremont, and Frank’s connection to Tony Spilotro earned him a great deal of clout in both. He could get anything he wanted in either place, but he preferred to hang out at the Stardust. When he married Eileen on January 1, 1980, they had their reception there in one of the ballrooms. Everything was comped. Frank didn’t ask for it; Lou Salerno, the casino manager, did it on his own. 

However, Frank did have one rather awkward moment at the Stardust. The problem arose because of a burglar from Chicago named Joey whom Frank was associating with. Although Joey’s brother was a made man with the Outfit, Tony didn’t care for him, so Frank never brought him around the Upper Crust or My Place. The only thing about Joey that Frank didn’t like was that he sold drugs.

 

In addition to stealing and distributing narcotics, Joey was a gambler. One day he and Frank were shooting craps at the Stardust and lost $26,000. They left there and went to the Thunderbird, where each drew a $5,000 marker and hit the crap tables. Playing the don’t pass line they won $21,000. Then they went next door to the Sahara and won some more. They got all their money back and paid off the markers.

 

The experience prompted the pair to come up with a scheme involving markers that they used in several casinos. The way it worked was that Joey got some of his friends in Chicago to open bank accounts showing balances of $10,000 or $20,000. Using the friends’ names, Frank and Joey got a line of credit at the casinos and drew markers in the amount of the bank accounts in Chicago. As soon as their casino credit was approved, they notified the guys in Chicago, who closed their accounts and took their money out of risk. Working four casinos at a time gave them each at least $40,000 of casino money to play with. If Frank and Joey won, they won big, because they didn’t have a dime invested. If they lost, the casinos got stiffed. It was a good scam, but due to the limited number of casinos, they didn’t dare scam Outfit joints like the Stardust, Fremont, and Hacienda, it had a fairly short life.

 

But then Joey put Frank in an embarrassing situation by cheating at the Stardust. It wasn’t really the fact that he cheated; it was that he got caught by Stardust management. Because it was known that Frank and Joey were pretty close, he was asked to straighten things out. And with the Stardust being Outfit-connected, Frank had no choice but to tell Tony about it. The Ant wanted everyone brought in and questioned. But Joey got scared and ran off to Chicago. Then one of the Stardust pit bosses admitted to Frank that he was in on the cheat with Joey and another guy.

 

The players were now all identified. The next question was what Spilotro would do about it. Other people had suffered grievously for lesser offenses. But because of his brother’s status in the Outfit, Joey got a pass; his co-cheat was warned and banned from Outfit properties. Frank arranged for the pit boss to be fired, but got him another job at a nickel-and-dime joint. In the world of Tony Spilotro and the Outfit, where transgressions often proved fatal, this was a mild rebuke. Not everyone who ran afoul of Tony would be so lucky.

Text of Cullotta Interview

December 16, 2007

culllottefrankjpg413219.jpgBelow is the text of an interview of Frank Cullotta conducted by Chicago TV station NBC 5’s reporter Carol Marin.

CHICAGOIn the high profile mob trial that began Tuesday in Chicago, one witness for the government is expected to be Frank Cullotta. For more than 25 years, Cullotta was part of the Chicago mob. Unit 5’s Carol Marin got a rare glimpse into the mind of a mobster. Her report is presented here verbatim:

 The story of Frank Cullotta is a disturbing and twisted tale. The son of a gangster, he became one himself. He befriended many of the Outfit’s top leaders. He stole. He beat people. And he killed twice – all with little thought of the consequences of his actions.

Cullotta: “There were times that I muscled people.”

Frank Cullotta loved the life of the mob. He loved the scores.

Marin: “How many burglaries would you estimate?”

Cullotta: “Minimum 300. Robberies, maybe 200.”

He loved the thrills.

Marin: “Your two killings, how were they done?”

Cullotta: “One was a car explosion, and the other was a guy getting shot in the head.”

Cullotta shot his victim in the side, back and front of the head.

Marin: “So, you shot him three times?”

Cullotta: “About 10 times.”

Cullotta: “I come from a good family, loving mother, loving father. But my father was a shady guy.”

Joe Cullotta was a thief and wheelman for the mob, who died in a high speed chase with police in hot pursuit.

Frank Cullotta: “I just felt like he was the model I wanted to follow after.”

Over the years, Frank Cullotta graduated from small time thug to big time mobster, aided by his friendship with Tony “The Ant” Spilotro.

Cullotta: “We met each other on Grand Avenue in Chicago … we became friends.”

But Cullotta was soon to learn a lesson about friendship and the mob — a lesson that years later helped him make the biggest decision of his life. Jimmy Miraglia and John “Billy” McCarthy were members of Cullotta’s burglary crew. When they carried out an unauthorized hit, they were tortured. The M&M boys fell victim to mob justice. McCarthy was the first to die.

Cullotta: “They stuck his head in a vice and start turning the vice. They didn’t think the eyeball was going to pop out or whatever, and his eyeball popped out. And then he gave up Jimmy’s name. Then they just cut his throat.”

Cullotta lead McCarthy and then Miraglia to their deaths.

Cullotta: “It bothered me for a long time. But you know, you live in that world and you say, ‘You know, if I don’t give ’em up … they are going to whack me.”

When we met Cullotta two weeks ago in Las Vegas, we asked how the mob justifies killing another person. Cullotta: “First of all you are told this guy could hurt you … he’s no good so you kill ’em.”

Marin: “What if you know them or their family?”

Cullotta: “You just justify it, you are doing his family a favor by getting rid of this scumbag.”

Marin: “Do you think about it? Does it stay with you?”

Cullotta: “You just forget about it.”

In 1979, Cullotta moved to Vegas. He and his crew, the Hole in the Wall gang, stole with abandon under the protection of his pal, Tony Spilotro.

Cullotta: “He was a good friend. For many years, he was a good friend.”

But in 1982, Cullotta says, he learned Spilotro was plotting to have him killed. He quit the mob and became a government witness against his former friends.

Today, it’s a pen and not a pistol you will find in Cullotta’s hand. In Las Vegas, he was signing autographs in a new book about his life.

Rick Halprin: “It’s just a cheap, trashy book full of stories, which he knows are not true.”

Rick Halprin is the lawyer for Joey “The Clown” Lombardo.

Cullotta says he will testify in the “Family Secrets” trial that Lombardo has long been a leader in the outfit.

Halprin: “Frank Cullotta is a two-bit burglar who has been telling the same story since 1982.”

Cullotta: “I’m old now.”  A grandfather, today he is cashing in on his notoriety. He’s served as a technical advisor to the mob movie “Casino,” and hopes the book will spawn a movie deal.

Marin: “But you are a killer, a burglar, a thug — I mean you robbed big people and little people, didn’t you?”  

Cullotta: “I was, I was … I probably couldn’t kill a fly now, really. I’ve changed … They tried to kill me … I wasn’t going to become part of the list of guys that were all murdered by their friends. I was a little smarter than them.”

Union Contacts

December 13, 2007

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

One night a man came into the restaurant and asked for Frank by name. Eileen sized him up. She found Frank in a back room and told him the man didn’t look like a cop or an Outfit guy either; he looked like a businessman. Frank came out and talked to him. The man introduced himself as Allen Dorfman; he asked to see the “Little Man.” Frank knew he was talking about Tony; Tony’s nicknames included little man and “the Ant.” Frank went to the Gold Rush, picked Tony up, and brought him to the restaurant.

 

The three men then went next door to the My Place and sat in a private booth in the rear. A little while later Steve Bluestein came in. Bluestein was an organizer with the local Culinary Union. When the talk turned to Teamster stuff Frank left. That kind of thing wasn’t any of his business and he didn’t want to hear any of it. Tony had three or four similar meetings with Dorfman.

 

The Upper Crust was a great place for the gangsters until the police found out about it. After that, both the locals and feds targeted the restaurant for physical surveillance and electronic bugging.

  

The Upper Crust

December 11, 2007

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

Shortly after Frank recruited Leo Guardino, the two did three residential burglaries. Using $65,000 of the proceeds from those thefts, they opened up an Italian restaurant called the Upper Crust at 4110 South Maryland Parkway. Adjoining the restaurant was the My Place Lounge. Both businesses became hangouts for Tony Spilotro’s gang and other Las Vegas wiseguys.

 

When Frank first opened the Upper Crust he met a man named Nick Rossi (not his real last name). He was a long-time Las Vegan who knew a lot of people and had lots of contacts. A short time later Nick stopped in the restaurant and mentioned to Frank that he had a daughter, Eileen. She was 34-years-old and had two children — Kimberly and Kent — from a previous marriage. He said she was an honest and loyal girl, who would make a good employee.

 

Frank subsequently spoke with Eileen. After a couple of meetings, he was satisfied that she was trustworthy and wouldn’t steal from him. He put her to work in the restaurant, then married her the following year. She proved to be a loyal employee, wife, and confidant. His money and his secrets were safe with her. But Eileen was also very jealous of him, and with good reason. After they were married, she watched him like a hawk.  

Organized Crime Documentary

December 7, 2007

culllottefrankjpg413219.jpgAn organized crime documentary is currently in production for the National Geographic Channel. Frank Cullotta will be one of the featured interviews in the program. 

The Vegas Mafia

December 5, 2007

my-mob-photo.jpgThe National Geographic Channel will air The Vegas Mafia on December 11 at 10 pm (Pacific). It will also air on December 15 and 18.

This is the program based in large part on my book The Battle for Las Vegas – The Law vs. the Mob.

 

Research

December 2, 2007

my-mob-photo.jpgOver my years in the writing business, I’ve read many posts on numerous MBs and spoken to people in person who went through what I did as a newbie. Because I failed to learn about what I was getting into early on, I had to find out on the fly. That cost me time, money, and a lot of stress.

I’ve come to believe that marketing and promo are as important as the actual writing. If a new author isn’t aware of that going in, he or she can be in for a rude awakening down the line.

A while ago I wrote an article about research and posted it on my site. That piece is pasted below. You’ll note that near the end I vent a little about a “true crime” book I read. I considered deleting that part, but decided to leave it in because I believe it illustrates my point.

Denny

Research

When I think of research in conjunction with writing, two things come to mind. There is, of course, the research you have to do for your story, especially if you’re writing non-fiction or historical fiction. But before you get to that, if you’re a new author working on your first manuscript, you’d be very wise to research the business of writing. Before you invest your time, hopes, and dreams in your book, have some idea of what you’re going to do with the manuscript when it’s completed.

First, you need to identify your motivation and what you want from your book. If you’re writing a family history, for example, you probably aren’t expecting huge financial rewards or national recognition. But if your goals are loftier, you should have some knowledge at the start about what lies ahead of you. When your work is finished, you should already know who is going to edit it and what your publishing options are. Have you thought about what you’ll do if a traditional publisher doesn’t want your book? Are you prepared to self-publish? Have you identified your target audience? As an unknown author, do you know what the chances are of getting your book on the bookstore shelves if you use a self-publishing and/or POD service? Do you have a marketing plan?

I raise these questions not to discourage you, but to encourage you to become aware of the realities of the business you’re considering getting into. Many basements, garages, file cabinets, closets, and desk drawers are filled with manuscripts that were written by authors who thought they could simply put their story on paper and their job was over. Editors, publishers, agents, and publicists would handle everything else. They could sit back in their easy chairs waiting for the call telling them where their next signing would be or when their book tour would start.

In fact, that was pretty much my attitude when I started working on my first book, The Morgue. I can tell you that I’ve learned in the 11 years and eight books since, that ain’t the way it works. So please, do yourself a favor and start your writing career with your eyes wide open and as much knowledge about the business as you can get.

Now, I’ll move on to researching for your story. Why is good research important when writing your non-fiction or historical fiction manuscript? In addition to potential legal issues, you owe it your readers to present the most accurate account of the subject you’re writing about as possible. I have a rather basic philosophy about research: Do it and document it. Seek information on your topic from all sources available to you. The Internet, newspaper archives, magazines, other books, documentary films, public records, and the actual people who participated in or witnessed specific events, are all resources you can utilize in your quest for accuracy.

Most major incidents are reported in a variety of places, are well documented and fairly easy to verify. When the information is sketchier, compare whatever accounts you’re able to find for consistencies and discrepancies. There may be times when you find multiple versions of the same event and can’t determine which is correct. In those instances you may want to exclude that particular incident or the unresolved portion of it from the story.

If your source is from the Internet, print it out and keep it in your files. If the information is from a newspaper, get a copy of the paper or at least the relevant article; ditto with a magazine. If you’re using another book, make sure you identify the title, author, and publisher.

Today, virtually every documentary shown on TV channels such as Discovery, A&E, National Geographic, and The History Channel offer tapes/CDs of their programs for sale. If it’s important, buy a copy. Yes, it’s an expense. But it may be a small price to pay should your version of events be challenged. And if you’re interviewing a person, record the interview or take detailed notes. Remember, human beings can have faulty memories, or even lie. If possible, get documentary evidence to corroborate witness statements.

Remember to include attributes and acknowledgements, and obtain permissions as necessary.

Let me close by mentioning my current area of focus: organized crime in Las Vegas, the Tony Spilotro era in particular. There is a self-published book out that is listed as “True Crime” and contains a section on Tony Spilotro. I read that portion of the book and came away appalled at the number of mistakes and inaccuracies I found. Some of them could possibly be explained away as typos. I know that almost every book contains a typo or two, no matter how good the author, editor or publisher. But using different dates of death two pages apart, citing a trial as occurring in Chicago when it took place in Las Vegas, and reporting a mistrial as an acquittal go way beyond typos. To me, those things demonstrate poor or no editing, grossly inadequate research, and a lack of respect for the readers by passing the book off as “True Crime.”

Credibility, or a lack thereof, can make or break a non-fiction author. Readers may overlook typos and minor inconsistencies in unimportant matters. But if the author plays fast and loose with the facts and gets caught, he might very well have to kiss his literary career goodbye.

Do your research and document it. Learn to make it an enjoyable part of your writing project and rest easy in the knowledge that you’ve produced the most accurate book possible.

The HITWG Adds Another Killer

December 1, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgAfter recruiting Leo Guardino to the Hole in the Wall Gang, Frank added another thief named Ernie Davino. But these two guys weren’t known for using violence, leaving Frank as the only gang member with murder experience.

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

Next, Frank’s thoughts turned to his former co-worker from Stateville’s psych ward, Larry Neumann. After serving only 11 years, the murderer had somehow managed to get out on parole while Frank was still in Chicago. Even though Neumann’s father had died and left him a lot of money in a trust fund, he preferred the criminal life. He and Frank partnered on a couple of jobs before Frank left town and they remained in contact after Frank moved to Vegas. Because Neumann wasn’t known as a thief, only a killer, Frank figured maybe he could use him in Sin City someday.

 

With Frank gone, Neumann was doing jobs in Chicago with a man named Wayne Matecki; they were both the kind that had to stay active.  During one of their phone calls, Neumann asked Frank if he knew of any good scores in Chicago that he and Matecki could handle, then bring the merchandise to Frank in Vegas. As it happened, Frank was aware of a robbery that had a lot of potential and told Neumann about it. He didn’t realize at the time that he was condemning the victim to death.