Archive for the ‘tony spilotro’ Category
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.
CHICAGO — In 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.”
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.
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.
After 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.
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.
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.