Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Meeting Frank Cullotta

May 25, 2017

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Jim Cooley describes meeting Frank Cullotta
Meeting Frank
I sat with my head on a pivot and my heart in my chest. It was early for me as I was up late the night before announcing an MMA event in this amazingly over-the-top town, Las Vegas. I was not sure what to expect or how to act. What do I say to him? What will he ask me? My friends had made the usual sarcastic comments upon hearing of who I was meeting. Things like, “Don’t go to his car with him,” and “Don’t make him angry.” I laughed and smiled, but it did get me thinking. Of course they were only joking and he was not going to kill me. Yet, I still had no idea what to expect.
My line of work brings me into contact with some very famous people. I have enjoyed a casual cocktail with people like Mike Tyson and interviewed A-list celebrities including actors, athletes and musicians on numerous occasions. Having traveled all over the United States while announcing in front of huge raucous crowds, I have come into contact with people from every walk of life. It has given me a unique perspective on people and left me almost numb when in the face of fame and celebrity, as a result I rarely get nervous or flustered in any situation. I consider myself cool and collected and a bit of a chameleon. I can attend an event with outlaw bikers at their clubhouse in the afternoon and in the evening go to a black tie affair with someone like Evander Holyfield. From a t-shirt and jeans to a suit and tie, I am thoroughly comfortable around any person from any culture.
I found out very quickly though, that nothing had prepared me for this day. This was not breakfast with a celebrated athlete or a first meeting with a well-known actor. This was a meal with an admitted killer. A sit down, so to speak, with a real-life Mafioso.
I was sitting in a half circle booth waiting for the gangster who once ran Vegas. The man who stood up and did not back down from the very Mob he was part of when his life was on the line. The restaurant was a who’s who of Vegas stereotypes. There were the locals who looked like they could have eaten in this place every day, the ones who smoke cigarette after cigarette and sit in front of a video poker machine with dreams of wealth. There were tourists who were taking in the scenery of this storied restaurant while having their photos taken by the staff. There were the twenty something weekend warriors who had clearly had a bit too much to drink the night before and were hoping to find solace and headache relief in mimosas and scrambled eggs. Perhaps they had received their hangover from the bar in this very building. The one that was recognizable to anyone who has seen the movie Casino. This was the Peppermill in Las Vegas and I was here to meet him.
To say I was nervous would be a serious understatement. Truth be told, I was more nervous than I can ever recall being at any time when meeting another human being. However, that is exactly what I had to remind myself of, this is a human being, a man just like me. His past is just that, his past. The difference was this was a man I had studied; a man I had wanted to meet for some time. This was a man whose books had intrigued me and left me wanting more of the story. As I pondered all of this in my head I happened to look up and I saw a figure making his way toward the booth. He was graying but somehow still seemed young and spry. A shorter than average man who obviously had lived his life to the fullest, yet he was still stout and solid. At 78 years old you would assume he was past his prime, but upon seeing him I was not sure that was true. On any other day I would say this was merely an older gentleman who happened to be a snappy dresser. However, this gentleman was different. Once known for being a feared fighter, a stone killer and a master thief who had connections to the storied Chicago Outfit. Best friend and cohort of famed Mob enforcer Tony “The Ant” Spilotro. I had seen this man’s life play out on the silver screen. I had read of his experiences in books and been amazed at the life he had lived. This however, was no book, nor movie, this was real life.
As he approached the table I stood up to greet him. Keep in mind I am six foot two inches tall and weigh 240 pounds. As an ex bouncer and mixed martial artist I do not rattle easily. But at this moment none of that mattered. I was scared. I was intimidated. This man was probably 7 or 8 inches shorter than me and 32 years my senior. Yet I was close to puking from nerves. Just as I felt I was going to stumble over my words and come off like a blundering idiot fan boy, Frank Cullotta reached out his hand and said “You must be Jim.” His smile and demeanor were very disarming. All of the sudden I was comfortable. I was relaxed as we sat for our meal. I had been worried over nothing. This was not the 70s or the 80s, this was 2016 and Frank Cullotta was a different person. A Las Vegas Mob Tour guide and an author with a family and a contagious smile.
Over the next couple of hours, we shared stories and he told me things I never knew about the Chicago Outfit, his life and the mafia in general. I was enthralled. Not only was I sharing a meal with the former “Boss of Vegas,” but very quickly I realized something. This man was an encyclopedia of organized crime. In addition to living it and being there he also had clearly studied and in the process become one of the most knowledgeable people I had ever come across on his chosen subject. I have heard the so called “Experts” speak and have learned what I could from them. But it is apples and oranges between these guys and Frank.
My belief has always been that reading a book written by an expert on a subject is the quickest way to gain facts. However, reading a book written by someone who lived the material is life- changing and the quickest way to feel the history. In this case, when you read a Frank Cullotta book you have the unusual advantage of being treated to both. A man who lived it and is also an expert on the topic. This is the reason I maintain that reading a Frank Cullotta book is a must for any mafia fan (for lack of a better term), true crime buff or those just intrigued by biographies and history. This man doesn’t just write about history he is a living piece of history and is an expert at sharing it in the most creative and engaging ways. I left that day feeling like I had been one of the luckiest people alive. I had the opportunity to break bread with and learn about one of the most interesting figures alive today.
In the past year I have become friends with Frank and I consider him to be one of the most genuine and honest men I have ever met. He has given me life advice, shared with me things he has not to my knowledge even written in his various books. Hell, the guy even flirted with my mother right in front of me! It was tongue in cheek and I took it as such, but that is Frank You never know what you will get. He is all at once funny, intriguing and real. So if this is not your first Cullotta authored book then you know what to expect, unbelievable stories, amazing insight into the world of organized crime and the history of both Chicago and Las Vegas all rolled into one. Comedy mixed in with heart pounding drama and a historical account of when organized crime ruled the United States.
In his new book, The Rise And Fall Of A ‘Casino’ Mobster, Frank tells his the inside story of Tony Spilotro and the days when they ran Las Vegas. In the process he names the killers in many murders that are currently listed as unsolved. So get the book and sit back and enjoy as you delve into the mind of a gentleman, a family man, a thief, a killer, and a man who today has nothing to hide.
Jim Cooley “The Voice Of Champions”
VOC NETWORK
(925) 389-0138
www,lastroundpod.com

 

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Meet Burl Barer and Ken Eurell, co-authors of Betrayal In Blue.

February 21, 2017

Crime Wire on February 22.
BETRAYAL IN BLUE: The Shocking Memoir of the Scandal That Rocked The NYPD is the story of Mike Dowd and Ken Eurell, two cops who ran the most powerful gang in New York’s dangerous 75th Precinct, the crack cocaine capitol of 1980s America. These “Cocaine Cops” formed a lucrative alliance with Adam Diaz, the kingpin of an ever-expanding Dominican drug cartel. Soon Mike and Ken were buying fancy cars no cop could afford, and treating their wives to levels of luxury not associated with a patrol officer’s salary.

They were daring, dangerous and untouchable. Then “the biggest police scandal in New York history” exploded into the headlines with the arrest of Mike, Ken, and their fellow crooked cops. Released on bail, Mike offered Ken a long shot at escape to Central America—a bizarre plan involving robbery, kidnapping, and murder—forcing Ken to choose between two forms of betrayal.

Adapted from Ken Eurell’s shocking personal memoir, plus hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with the major players, including former international drug lord, Adam Diaz, BETRAYAL IN BLUE reveals the truth behind what you didn’t see in the hit documentary THE SEVEN FIVE.

9:00 p.m. Eastern at

 

BETRAYAL IN BLUE: The Shocking Memoir of the Scandal That Rocked The NYPD is the story of Mike Dowd and Ken Eurell, two cops who ran the most powerful gang in New York’s dangerous 75th Precinct, the crack cocaine capitol of 1980s America.

The Rise and Fall of Tony Spilotro

February 6, 2017

The manuscript is at the publisher and is in the second of three phases of editing. When the editing is completed, the cover will be designed and we’ll go on the production schedule. I’m hoping the book will be released by early May.

Our current plan is to do a kickoff book signing at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.

cruise-mobster

Denny Griffin, true crime author

 

The Rise and Fall of Tony Spilotro

January 26, 2017

The manuscript is currently undergoing Phase I editing with the publisher. There will be two more phases of editing followed by formatting and cover design. I’m optimistic we’ll be able to get on the production schedule by spring.

cruise-mobster

Denny Griffin, true crime author

 

 

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.”

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.”

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.