Archive for January, 2008

The Sting – Part Three

January 28, 2008

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

Frank got back to Lisner and told him he was in. He then explained the money situation. Lisner put up an argument initially, but backed off. He said the target, also named Jerry, planned to come to town in a couple of days and would be staying at Caesars Palace. “Why don’t we meet in his room and work out the details?” Lisner suggested.

“I’m going to pass on that. You never know when a room might be bugged.”

“Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that. How about the Jubilation?”

“That sounds better. We’ll meet there.”

Florida Jerry was a New York–Florida guy, the kind that talked out of the side of his mouth. He asked Frank where the $400,000 he wanted to exchange came from. “I can’t tell you,” Frank said. “But it hasn’t been reported as missing yet, so I want to move it as soon as I can. If you want to make the deal, fine. If not, we’ll find somebody else.”

“I’ll have to talk this over with my father and get back to you,” Florida Jerry said. “I’ll let Lisner know what we decide.”

“Do what you gotta do. But I want to get this done within a week,” Frank said.

Florida Jerry agreed to the proposal and the next week Lisner and Frank were in D. C. They stayed at a big hotel for almost $300 a night waiting for Florida Jerry to arrive. On the second day there, Lisner called Florida to find out what was going on. Florida Jerry was apparently having second thoughts. He gave Lisner the run-around, wanting to put up less money. Lisner went back and forth with him. Frank finally told Lisner, “Tell him we’ll do it the way he wants. We’re not going to give him any money anyway, so what difference does it make?”

Even after they agreed to his terms, Florida Jerry still wouldn’t go for the deal. Frank got him on the phone and told him to go fuck himself, then he and Lisner flew back to Vegas.

Frank wasn’t happy and Lisner must have sensed it. While they were on the plane Lisner cried on his shoulder. “I’m real sorry about this thing blowing up on us. I thought for sure we had him.”

Frank masked his anger. “Time is money and we blew a lot of both. But shit happens, so forget about it.”

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve got a Quaalude deal in the works. I can cut you in on that and you’ll at least get your money back.”

 “I don’t handle drugs,” Frank said.

Lisner persisted, “There are a lot of outs for them and you won’t have to touch them yourself. I’ll get you five thousand Quaaludes for five grand. You’ll be able to sell them for ten, doubling your money.”

That sounded good to Frank, so he said okay. The next day he had the Quaaludes and told Tony about them. “Get rid of them fuckin’ things quick. I don’t want any drugs around,” Tony said.

 

Frank sold the Quaaludes to a local kid for $10,000, gave Tony half, and kept the other half for himself. Because Frank had no use for Lisner and didn’t consider him to be a business partner, he decided to stiff him. He told Lisner he had to dump the drugs because the cops were on him. Lisner probably didn’t believe him, and resented not getting paid. But there wasn’t much he could do about it, at least not then.

The Sting – Part Two

January 18, 2008

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

Frank liked Lisner’s idea to prepare a case of flash money to deceive the victim. He doubted Lisner had $400,000 to put up for show; he certainly didn’t. Setting up the dummy case was the only way to go. And even if he’d had that kind of cash, he wouldn’t have put it at risk. Frank knew from experience that things didn’t always go as planned. If an honest cop, or a crooked cop not in on the deal, somehow ended up in possession of the bait case, all the money in it would be lost. In a situation like this, if the target insisted on counting the money before switching cases, the best thing would be to simply rob him. But questions remained. “I still don’t see what you need me for. Why not just do it yourself?”

“This guy in Florida is slightly connected and I know you’re with Tony Spilotro. Having you involved will give me some credibility and make it more likely he’ll go for the deal.”

“What makes you think I’m tied in with Tony?”

 “That’s what I hear.”

Frank decided to stall. “Let me think it over and I’ll get back to you.”

 

Frank went to Tony and told him Lisner’s pitch. “Sounds a little corny, doesn’t it?” Tony said. “On the other hand, some people are so greedy they’d go for a deal like that. But us? As much as I love money, we’re a little sharper than them guys. We wouldn’t go for a deal like that. We’d know right away this guy was trying to fuck us. Here’s what I want you to do. Go back and tell him you thought it over and it sounds like a good idea. Whatever you do, don’t tell him you talked with me about it. Tell him you want seventy-five thousand dollars, because you have to take care of your people. He can have the hundred and take care of his people. If he don’t want to go for that, tell him to go fuck himself.”

The Sting – Part One

January 11, 2008

cullotta-cover-web.jpgThe Plan 

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

Frank was in the Jubilation lounge one night when he was introduced to Sherwin “Jerry” Lisner, known in the Las Vegas underworld as a scam artist. He disliked Lisner from the start. In his opinion, Lisner was a flamboyant braggart, and a scheming little weasel. To Frank, Lisner wasn’t a real crook, only a wannabe. Personal feelings aside, he kept an open mind regarding possible future business deals.

Lisner contacted Frank later and asked him to come in on a scam he wanted to work on a man in Florida.  “This guy’s got a lot of money,” Lisner said. “I’m sure we can take him in a money- laundering deal.”

Frank was curious. “What kind of money are we talking?”

“I think we can get a hundred and seventy-five thousand out of him.”

“How? How are you going to do it?”

“Here’s the setup. I’ll tell him I’ve got some money, about four hundred thousand, that I want to wash because the serial numbers are in sequence. I’ll say I’m willing to swap my cash for a hundred and seventy-five thousand in clean money. Once the guy bites, we’ll pull the scam. I know how to do it, and I’ve got a brother-in-law that’s a cop in Washington, D.C. who’ll work with us.”

Frank digested the information for a few moments. “How do I fit in?”

 

“You’d help me set it up and then come with me to D. C. to exchange the money. We’ll fix up an attaché case with a row of hundred dollar bills on top of stacks of singles. You give the guy a quick peek in the case and it will look like it holds a lot more money than it does. You’ll swap cases and we’ll leave with the hundred and seventy-five grand. As the other guy is walking away with the case he got from us, my brother-in-law will arrest him. He’ll confiscate the money and then turn him loose. The victim will be thankful he didn’t go to jail. We end up with both cases and the sucker will never even realize what happened. We’ll all be clean.”   

New Internet Radio Show

January 9, 2008

authorphototux.jpgMy new Internet radio program, Las Vegas and the Mob, will debut on January 15th at 8:30 pm (Pacific). You can hear the show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/dennisngriffin. You can also get the live video feed at http://www.liveatthestudio.tv/. My co-host will be well-known Las Vegas radio personality Tru Hawkins.

I’m a little nervous about this because I have a radio face. But what the heck, I’ll give it a shot.

Denny

Tony & Geri

January 1, 2008

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

Although the Stardust was one of Frank’s favorite hangouts, he got to Las Vegas too late to experience Lefty Rosenthal’s management style. Lefty had lost his lengthy battle with the Nevada gaming regulators and been replaced as casino boss by Al Sachs of Detroit. But Rosenthal was still in town and maintained some clout with the Chicago bosses and Frank learned quickly that the relationship between Lefty and Tony had deteriorated to a dangerous point.

When Frank arrived in Las Vegas, Tony told him to keep away from Rosenthal, but Lefty used to hang out at some of the same spots the gangsters did, so they were often in the same place at the same time. In Frank’s eyes, Lefty was even more arrogant than when he’d first met him in Chicago. The oddsmaker acted like he thought he was God. He had an entourage of guys and women following him around like he was an emperor. The attention Rosenthal received got under Tony’s skin big time.

One night Tony and Frank were in the Jubilation, a lounge located at Harmon Avenue and Koval Lane, having a few drinks. Who walked in but Lefty, with six showgirls and a couple of his male stooges. Lefty looked in their direction, but didn’t acknowledge them. Tony said, “Look at that Jew cocksucker. You’d think he’d at least wave at me, or wink, or something. But no, he don’t do shit. Look at him; who the fuck does he think he is, this guy? Believe me, Frankie, he’s got me so fucking mad that if he didn’t have the juice he’s got, I’d have corked him a long time ago.”

Frank never fully understood the rift between Tony and Lefty until he found out Tony had been having an affair with Geri Rosenthal. It was a fact that seemed to be known by everyone but him. Even the local cops and the FBI were aware of it. But Frank didn’t find out until the day Geri stopped at the Upper Crust looking for Tony.

 She seemed upset and said, “Where’s Tony? I’ve got to talk to him right away.”

Frank told her a semi-lie. “He’s not here right now. I can try to find him for you if you’d like.”

“Please. It’s very important.”

Frank went next door to the My Place, where Tony was hanging out. “Geri Rosenthal’s in the restaurant looking for you.”

“What the fuck does she want?”

“I don’t know. She only said it’s real important that she talk with you.”

Ernie Davino was also in the bar. Tony told him to move Geri’s car behind the restaurant. Tony then went to get Geri and brought her back to the lounge. Half an hour later she left.

Afterward Tony came into the Upper Crust shaking his head. He said to Frank, “Boy, have I fucked up. I’ve been banging this broad and I shouldn’t have. You know how it is; the dick gets hard and the mind goes soft. I have no respect for that Jew and that made it a little easier. But now they’re arguing and she admitted she already told him about us. If this ever gets back to Chicago I’ll have nothing but headaches.”

 

As Frank listened to Tony’s admission he smelled trouble. He wasn’t surprised about the affair; he knew that Tony lacked control when it came to women. But he was concerned about how the Outfit would react if they heard about it. Frank told Tony, “Those people have got millions of dollars invested in these casinos. They aren’t going to be very happy if they think you’ve done anything to screw it up. We might end up with a war on our hands, and we could lose.”