Archive for the ‘books’ Category

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.”


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.



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.



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.

Frank’s First Recruit

November 29, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgAfter joining Tony Spilotro in Las Vegas, Frank Cullotta began recruiting other criminals for what would later be dubbed the Hole in the Wall Gang.

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

When Frank arrived in Las Vegas in early 1979, one of his first stops was at the Gold Rush, Tony Spilotro’s store and headquarters. After touching base with Tony, Frank rented a condo at a place called the Marie Antoinette, located at 205 East Harmon Avenue.


It was a beautiful place and Frank’s condo was located right by the pool. Everything was furnished except for the television. After getting settled in, Frank met Tony for dinner to discuss what his function was going to be.


“I want you to be my eyes, ears, and muscle,” Tony said.


Frank smiled. “It sounds like I’m going to be pretty busy. Seriously, though, I’ll probably need some help to keep up with things. What do you think?”


“Sure, bring in whoever you want. But they can’t be Outfit guys and I don’t want anybody who’s known to our local cops.”


Frank got to work on lining up his crew. One of the first men to join him was Leo Guardino, a Windy City burglar who was already living in Las Vegas. Guardino was trying to be legit, but was having trouble getting a decent job. When Frank reached out to him he was more than ready to listen to his proposal.


 When they got together Frank made his pitch. “I’m working for Tony Spilotro and I’m putting a crew together. You interested?”


“What’s the setup?”


“We’ll do our own scores and any that Tony tells us about. All we have to do is kick back some of the money from our jobs to Tony and fulfill our other obligations to him.”


“What kind of obligations?”


Frank shrugged. “That depends. He’ll probably want us to muscle people once in a while. Maybe shake down drug dealers and renegade bookies, things like that.”


“I don’t mind a little rough stuff, but I’m not a killer. I don’t want to get into that kind of shit.”


“Don’t worry about it; you won’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I’ll have some other guys around to handle anything like that,” Frank assured him.


That seemed to satisfy Guardino, but he had another question. “Tony’s an Outfit guy. What about them?”


“Tony will determine how much money has to be sent to Chicago. We’re going to make a lot of money for ourselves, too; you can count on it. On top of that we’ll have carte blanche at some of the casinos. Shows, meals and stuff, will all be comped. We’re going to be able to live the good life.”


Guardino liked the deal and went for it.

Invitation to Las Vegas

November 28, 2007

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

When Frank was paroled from prison in 1974 his friends threw a coming out party for him in Chicago. Tony Spilotro came in from Las Vegas to help celebrate his long-time pal’s return to freedom. During the festivities Tony invited Frank to join him in Sin City. Planning on going straight, Frank declined the offer.

However, in 1979, things were much different in Frank’s life. There was a lot of heat on him in Chicago. The cops were always either wanting to arrest him or demanding money. The Outfit had their hand out all the time. Everybody wanted a piece of his action. For Frank it was a choice of paying off, getting arrested, or taking a bullet in the head.

 This time when Tony called Frank was more than receptive. “Frankie, I’ve got a lot going and I need you out here real bad,” Tony said.Frank didn’t hesitate. “I’m on my way,” he told his friend.  

Big Money and Big risks

November 27, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgFrank’s new crew of thieves kept busy. But crooks were supposed to follow the Outfit’s rules, and failure to do so could have deadly results.

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

They also scored a bank vault once. They were able to get into a vacant building next door to the bank. Those old buildings were built right next to each other with no walkway in between them, just a double firewall. The job took a month or a little less to plan. The crooks dug under the vacant building, through the foundation, and right up into the bank under the vault. Drills were used to get through the bank’s concrete floor. Once inside, they went after the safety deposit boxes, drilled out the locks and emptied the contents into bags. The take was over $300 thousand.

The only trouble was that a score that large required a kick back to the Outfit. It happened that one of the crew was an Outfit guy, so there was no way around paying the tribute. By the time everybody got their cut, Frank only ended up with around $30 thousand. Still, that was a lot of money in those days.

   Frank later did a jewelry store heist with a different crew. They kept the job very quiet and didn’t tell anybody about the score. They didn’t pay the Outfit any money either. When the mobsters heard about the robbery and realized they’d been stiffed, they became enraged. They scooped up known thieves, trying to find out who did the job and owed them the kick back. Frank never got bothered, though. They may have figured that being connected to Tony he would know better than to hold out on them. The Outfit ended up torturing and killing three innocent guys who they suspected of having robbed the jewelry store. 

Getting Back in Harness

November 25, 2007

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

Frank was ready to return to stealing for a living. But before resuming burglaries and robberies he wanted to update his procedures. His first priority was to figure a way to facilitate his activities by neutralizing alarm systems.

He got hold of blueprints on alarm system routes from a guy who was in the alarm business. He learned how the alarms were wired into the businesses and police stations. A friend worked with him to develop a way to bypass the alarm wiring while the electricity continued to flow without interruption. Through trial and error, they came up with something that worked. There would be no power outage and the alarm company or police station wouldn’t be warned of the burglary. That would give the burglars all the time they needed to work on the vault or safe.

About six months after Frank sold the lounge he had a crew together and was stealing again. Using the new technology they did a bunch of burglaries, hitting all different kinds of stores. One jewelry store job netted $150 thousand.