Excerpted from CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.
After the deaths of Billy McCarthy and Jimmy Miraglia, Frank continued his life as a thief. He and various accomplices regularly burglarized businesses and robbed stores and salesmen. It was on an occasion in which he was giving someone else a hand that he ran into trouble.
A man named Phil asked Frank to help him out with a burglary in nearby Bensonville. They got into the place and cleaned it out, but when Frank went out to get the car to load up, the police rolled by. They spotted the door cracked open; more cops and their dogs showed up. Frank ran away, leaving the car behind. He figured Phil got busted and contacted a bondsman to get him out. The bondsman told him it was too soon and to wait until the next day. Frank went to a friend’s house in Elmwood Park and left his car on the street out in front. The next thing he knew the Elmwood Park police were there. They said they had a warrant for his arrest for the burglary. He told them they were nuts, it was all bullshit. But they showed him the warrant, arrested him and took him to their station.
Eventually the Bensonville police picked Frank up and transported him to their place. One of the cops tried to get a confession out of him. He said, “If you don’t tell me what I want to know I’m going to send the dog in here. We sent the dog in after your friend Phil and look what happened, he gave you up. That’s why you’re here now.”
“You can stick your dog up your ass. If Phil gave you my name and you think you’ve got something on me, book me. If not, let me go.
”They booked him. Frank and Phil were tried separately and both were found guilty. Phil got sentenced to three years and Frank got eight. Frank’s lawyer filed an appeal and he bonded out pending the results.
Frank fought that conviction for two years and used a total of four lawyers. The first one, the trial lawyer, wasn’t real good on appeals so he hired another one. When the court rejected the appeal the lawyer didn’t even tell him; he heard about it from the bondsman. Next he hired a pair of lawyers and they got a six month stay of his sentence to file another appeal. They said he’d probably have to take the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court and try to get a reversal on a civil rights violation. He had to come up with $1,600 to pay for transcripts and other things to get the process going.
Frank met with the lawyers again two days later. They said things were looking good, but he’d have to pay $14 thousand in “guaranteed” money over the next couple of months. “What the hell is guaranteed money?” he asked.
“That means if we win the appeal the money is ours. If we don’t, you get the money back.”
Frank thought that over for a few seconds. That arrangement seemed to give the lawyers an incentive for doing a good job. But if he got his money back, it meant the appeal was lost and he’d be going to prison. In reality, though, what choice did he have? “I’ll get you the money, you get me a reversal,” he said.
As the appeal process dragged on Frank had to keep his nose clean and couldn’t steal as often as he was accustomed to. With the extra legal expenses going out and less money coming in, he was forced to get back into the loansharking business. He put $18 thousand out on the streets at ten percent interest. This produced enough revenue for him to keep his head above water. In addition, he made a few extra dollars by putting the arm on renegade bookmakers, disrupting their business and forcing them to affiliate themselves with the Outfit.
A couple of years later Frank was in a lounge when an acquaintance gave him some good news. “Congratulations, Frankie, I see you won your appeal.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s in today’s paper. They threw your conviction out.”
Frank called one of his lawyers. “What’s this I hear about my case?”
“Yeah, we’ve been trying to get hold of you,” the lawyer said. “Your conviction has been reversed.”
“You don’t sound surprised.”
“I’m not. We knew you were going to win all the time; that’s why we went for the guaranteed money. We’re in business to make money, not give it back.”
It was now obvious to Frank that there had been more in play than the skill of his lawyers. But he didn’t really care how they had done it or who got paid off. By the time the decision was announced he’d invested almost $40 thousand in the case, about enough money to have bought every item in the place he had been convicted of burglarizing. But it was money well spent.