Archive for the ‘tony spilotro’ Category

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.”

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.”

  

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.