The Chicago Syndicate: Frank Cullotta
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Showing posts with label Frank Cullotta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Frank Cullotta. Show all posts

Thursday, March 07, 2024

The Rise and Fall of a 'Casino' Mobster: The Tony Spilotro Story Through a Hitman's Eyes by Frank Cullotta & Dennis N Griffin

"The Rise and Fall of a 'Casino' Mobster" is a riveting exploration of the tumultuous life of Tony Spilotro, the infamous mobster associated with the Chicago Outfit, told through the eyes of his former hitman, Frank Cullotta. Co-authored by Dennis N. Griffin, this collaboration provides a unique and authentic perspective on the organized crime scene, particularly during the era immortalized in Nicholas Pileggi's "Casino."

The Rise and Fall of a
Casino Mobster
The narrative commences with a vivid depiction of Spilotro's early life, tracing his ascent within the ranks of the Chicago Outfit. From his roots in the Windy City to his eventual dominion over the Las Vegas casino scene, the book unveils the complex layers of Spilotro's character. Frank Cullotta, intimately acquainted with Spilotro's world, shares an insider's view, offering readers an unfiltered glimpse into the dark underbelly of organized crime.

What distinguishes this book is its unapologetic tone. Cullotta, without reservation, lays bare the brutality and treachery inherent in the criminal underworld. The narrative is punctuated with anecdotes, personal reflections, and a palpable sense of remorse, providing readers with a multifaceted understanding of the choices made in the pursuit of power and wealth.

One of the book's notable strengths lies in its unflinching portrayal of the violence and ruthlessness of organized crime. Cullotta doesn't romanticize the mob lifestyle; instead, he underscores its grim reality. The visceral accounts of criminal exploits, orchestrated hits, and power struggles create a gritty and authentic atmosphere, immersing the reader in the high-stakes world of the Chicago Outfit.

The collaboration between Cullotta and Griffin seamlessly weaves together the broader historical context of organized crime in Chicago and Las Vegas with the personal narratives of Spilotro and Cullotta. This dual perspective enriches the narrative, offering a comprehensive understanding of the characters and the sociopolitical landscape that shaped their destinies.

Tony Spilotro emerges as a complex and enigmatic figure in the book. From his early days as a proficient enforcer to his pivotal role in overseeing the mob's operations in Las Vegas, the authors delve into the intricacies of his character. The narrative explores his relationships, alliances, and the factors that ultimately contributed to his downfall. Spilotro is portrayed not just as a ruthless criminal but as a man with strengths, weaknesses, and a magnetic charisma that left an indelible mark on those around him.

Cullotta's storytelling prowess is evident throughout the book. His first-hand accounts of criminal activities and the inner workings of the mob create an aura of authenticity. The narrative strikes a delicate balance, seamlessly alternating between action-packed sequences that propel the plot forward and reflective moments that humanize the characters, allowing readers to connect with their struggles and vulnerabilities.

While the book provides a gripping and immersive narrative, it also prompts ethical contemplation. By presenting the story without explicit moral judgments, the authors allow readers to form their own opinions about the characters and the consequences of their choices. This approach adds layers of complexity to the narrative, challenging readers to grapple with the ethical implications of the criminal lifestyle depicted.

In conclusion, "The Rise and Fall of a 'Casino' Mobster" stands as a compelling and authentic exploration of Tony Spilotro's life and the intricacies of organized crime. Frank Cullotta's insider perspective, combined with Dennis N. Griffin's adept co-authorship, creates a narrative that is both informative and captivating. This book is a must-read for those fascinated by true crime and the historical landscape of organized crime in America, providing a nuanced portrayal of the individuals who shaped an era.

The Rise and Fall of a Casino Mobster: The Tony Spilotro Story through a Hitmans's Eyes.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness

From burglary to armed robbery and murder, infamous bad guy Frank Cullotta not only did it all, in Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness, he admits to it--and in graphic detail.

This no-holds-barred biography chronicles the life of a career criminal who started out as a thug on the streets of Chicago and became a trusted lieutenant in Tony Spilotro's gang of organized lawbreakers in Las Vegas. Cullotta's was a world of high-profile heists, street muscle, and information--lots of it--about many of the FBI's most wanted. In the end, that information was his ticket out of crime, as he turned government witness and became one of a handful of mob insiders to enter the Witness Protection Program.

"Frank Cullotta is the real thing," says Nicholas Pileggi in the book's Foreword, and in these pages, Cullotta sets the record straight on organized crime, witness protection, and life and death in mobbed-up Las Vegas.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Frank Cullotta is At Peace with His Past

Frank Cullotta keeps reaching toward his face, trying to adjust something no longer there. His glasses.

Cullotta just finished a series of Lasik surgeries to right his vision. Gone are his recognizable, oversized frames. He now sees clearly but continues to focus his memory in the long-ago past.

Cullotta was a famous hit man for the Chicago Outfit, a self-described former “gangster, burglar, murderer, extortionist, arsonist” who admitted to the 1979 killing of con man Sherwin “Jerry” Lisner in Las Vegas. As was customary in those days, Cullotta acted on the order of Chicago Outfit overlord Tony Spilotro. The murder scene was depicted in the film “Casino.”

Cullotta was a consultant on the film, as he edged his way back into society while living under an assumed name. He spent two years in the federal witness-protection program after cutting a deal with the federal government in exchange for information about his former associates.

Today, the 76-year-old Cullotta earns a legal living as an expert in the culture that led him underground. He works as a guide for the Mob Museum, leading “Casino” tours of the primary points of interest featured in the 20-year-old mob movie, most of which was set in Las Vegas. The tours begin at the Mob Museum with a private walk-around hosted by mob historian Robert George Allen and include a bus tour of the city’s famous mob locations. The five-hour tours run monthly and cost $180, including a champagne toast and pizza dinner.

Guests visit such locations as the Casino House, where Cullotta carried out the Lisner murder; the setting for the Frankie “Blue” death scene in the film; the Las Vegas Country Club clubhouse where Spilotro and Moe Dalitz used to play cards; and the site of the Hole in the Wall Gang’s botched Bertha’s Household Products robbery on July 4, 1981, which led to Cullotta’s arrest. The bus also pulls into Piero’s Italian Cuisine, also used in “Casino.”

You see, too, the spot at Tony Roma’s on Sahara Avenue where in 1982, Lefty Rosenthal was nearly killed in a car-bomb explosion, spared by the hard-metal plate under the driver’s seat of his ’81 Cadillac Eldorado.

“I tell people that Lefty was a creature of habit,” Culotta said. “He always liked to have his ribs at Roma’s, once a week. He was an easy target.”

Cullotta is introduced to those on the tour by “Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas” book author Nicholas Pileggi. “He brags about me, saying there would have been no book or movie ‘Casino’ if it was not for me,” Cullotta said.

Cullotta considers the obvious: He is the rare (hopefully) person taking these tours who actually has committed a murder.

How does it feel to be walking around with that experience, even more than 35 years later?

“Honestly, it never wakes me up,” Cullotta said. “If you do think about it, it’ll put you in the (effing) nuthouse. When I do these tours, then everything pops up into my head; people want to know if it bothers me. Of course. But if I thought about it 24 hours a day, I’d wind up in my car with a gun in my mouth.”

Cullotta says he compares his experience to that of a serviceman carrying out an order for his government.

“It’s like fighting a war,” he said. “I hate to use the military as a comparison, but that’s how it felt; I was carrying out an order.

“People are fascinated by me, and I understand that, but there’s a big difference in me today than there used to be. I mean, I used to be surrounded by celebrities, showgirls, politicians, a lot of money, people wanting to attach themselves to you. But it came at a price.”

Which was?

“I lost my freedom,” Cullotta said. “I had to change my life completely. But I have paid my debt to society. I’m under no pressure. I used to have headaches all the time, from tension, and I don’t have headaches anymore. I’m clean today. I’m very clean.”

Thanks to John Katsilometes.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Revisiting the Mob Career of Tony Spilotro

Tony Spilotro, who would eventually be portrayed by Joe Pesci in the Martin Scorcese film "Casino," was born and raised in “The Patch,” a near west side Chicago neighborhood that was a haven for Italian immigrants in the 1940s and 50sTony Spilotro. Spilotro entered high school at Steinmetz, but when his father had a stroke and died the next year, he dropped out and started a full-time life of crime. All but one of his five brothers, along with a number of neighbors, became members of the Chicago mob, and a few played starring roles.

During the 1970s, Tony Spilotro was fronted in Las Vegas by childhood friend Frank Rosenthal (portrayed by Robert DeNiro in "Casino"), who ran numerous mob-backed gambling operations, to become the enforcer for Chicago. Spilotro was already known for his brutality and quickly established an embezzling scheme that took a cut for mob families in Kansas City, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Los Angeles.

Leo Foreman was the first brutal murder that Spilotro was accused of, supposedly in retribution because the loan shark (Foreman) had disrespected Chicago mob boss Sam DeStefano. Spilotro also is thought to have murdered Tamara Rand, a California real estate broker, in 1975, because she was suing over an unpaid $2 million loan to Spilotro’s Las Vegas associate Allen Glick.

When Tony was blacklisted by the Nevada Gaming Commission in 1979, which barred him from being physically present in a casino, Spilotro’s role of enforcer was curtailed. By that time, he had branched out into other activities like fencing stolen property and conducting a burglary operation with his brother Michael. The first Chicago mob informants flipped by the FBI named Spilotro in the murder of Leo Foreman, and a half dozen other close associates who accused Spilotro of ordering or carrying out mob murders.

By the early 1980s, Spilotro had already broke with Rosenthal after he had an affair with Rosenthal’s wife. When Frank Cullotta, a childhood friend who had remained an insider, began to fear that Spilotro was going to kill him, Cullotta began talking to the FBI.

Spilotro was acquitted in Chicago on a murder charge stemming in part from Cullotta’s testimony, but by 1986 the mobster had been implicated in about 22 murders and had lots of enemies in and out of jail.  Among other high-profile killings, Spilotro was suspected of being involved in the murder of his mentor Sam DeStefano and mob kingpin Sam Giancana.

There are several theories about how Tony and his brother Michael were lured to a summit meeting likely in Bensenville or North Riverside, Ill., and subsequently beaten and killed on June, 14, 1986.

About 10 days after the murders, the partially decomposed bodies of Tony and Michael Spilotro were found buried in a cornfield within the 12,000-acre Willow Slough preserve, in Newton County, Indiana. The farmer who spotted the site of the burial investigated at first because he thought a poacher had buried a deer killed out of season. The coroner noted that the bodies appeared to have been beaten to death by several people, and numerous people were eventually convicted. Of the 7-8 suspects in the Spilotro killings, several were convicted, others flipped and received lighter sentences in later cases, but everyone who was known to be at the meeting where the brothers were murdered, went to jail or died.

Thanks to Pat Collander.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Mobster Confessions

Discovery will premiere MOBSTER CONFESSIONS on Monday, January 9 at 10 PM ET/PT. Andrew DiDonato, John Veasey, Frank Cullotta and Frank Calabrese Jr. are featured in the initial wave of episodes:



New York street thug is seduced by the power and protection of the Gambino crime family. Yet once the family turns on him, he must choose between being hunted by the mob or working with authorities to bring them down.


A troubled teen turned hitman kills for the Philadelphia mob but is later targeted by his own mafia family. After surviving an attempted hit, he testifies against the men he once swore to protect.



The riches of a glittering life in Las Vegas tempt a man to do anything, even kill, for the Chicago Outfit. His world is turned upside down when an FBI sting brings him in to warn him that he's about to be whacked by his own mafia family.

10:30 PM ET/PT - MOBSTER CONFESSIONS - Frank Calabrese Jr.

A son, desperate to escape the grip of his brutal mafia father, faces a difficult decision: turn on his own dad or be forced to continue a life of crime.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Las Vegas Dinner with Real Mobsters

If you've ever wondered whether retired gangsters such as Henry Hill and Frank Cullotta know which fork to use at dinner, here's a chance to find out at point-blank range.

Next Tuesday, Hill and Cullotta will join their pal Tony Montana for a good old Italian feast at the restaurant inside the Royal Resort on Convention Center Drive. Tickets to what the mob wishes was their last supper are on sale at the hotel.

For Hill, who turned on his former compatriots in the Lucchese crime family in a life story that later became the subject of Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas," the dinner is a chance to get together with friends, entertain some mob aficionados and make a little scratch in the process. No longer in the Witness Protection Program, he lives quietly in Southern California and spends much of his day painting and drawing. And maybe looking over his shoulder once in a while.

The motivation for the dinner is simple. Even a retired wiseguy has to earn a living -- and a legal one, unless he wants to return to prison.

"No. 1, I kind of enjoy it," Hill says. "I like to sit down with some of my fans, tell stories and let them get up close and personal with me. I don't get rich, but it pays my gas money to Vegas and back.

"It's a legitimate hustle."

For years as a loyal member of Lucchese capo Paul Vario's crew, Hill would have sprinted from legitimate work. He was too busy committing a long list of felonies, serving prison time and generally living the life of successful mob associate. Even after he testified against his old friends, he had difficulty staying out of trouble. But he has obviously slowed down as he has gotten older. He is 68 and has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. In the Witness Protection Program, he also had difficulty earning a legal living. Federal authorities weren't keen on him surfacing for book signings and spaghetti dinners with fascinated fans.

"I was forbidden to do it by the Witness Protection people and the FBI," he says. "But I had to earn a living."

And unless you're an undertaker, there aren't a lot of square employment possibilities for guys with expertise in burying bodies.

His celebrity as a former hoodlum not only helps keep a roof over his head, it's taking him to the Sands convention center in October for a signing at the World Gaming Expo. Later this year, he'll meet fans in England.

He also gets to Las Vegas to play the slots. But times have changed for the former big-tipping gangster. He mostly plays quarters and observes wryly that it's a long way between drink comps at some Strip properties that cater to high rollers.

Cullotta, meanwhile, is the former Anthony Spilotro pal and admitted killer who eventually testified against his childhood friend. The fact Spilotro was looking to eliminate him might have been a motivating factor for Cullotta.

Of the three, Montana has remained most under the radar. The former Chicago Outfit and Spilotro associate is also the former proprietor of a dandy Italian restaurant at the Boulder City Hotel. Montana knows his marinara as well as he knows his mobsters.

Hill says of his new running mates in organized-crime marketing, "We're like the Three Amigos."

You know, only with felony records.

Speaking of felonious fellows, I hear former Gambino soldier Andrew DiDonato, also the author of a tell-all biography, will make an appearance at the mobster meatball fest.

While some locals will surely be repulsed by the concept, Hill notes, "A lot of people are fascinated with it. They're fans. To tell you the truth, I enjoy meeting them and seeing them have a good time."

Between his painting and public appearances, Hill sounds like he's finally found his niche outside the underworld.

"What can I say?" he says. "It keeps me out of trouble."

Thanks to John L. Smith

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Museums Worse than the Mob?

Frank Cullotta knows having his character assassinated isn't the worst thing that can happen to a guy with his pedigree.

In his former line of work, names could hurt you, but it's the sticks, stones and bullets that do most of the real damage. Cullotta, the former Chicago Outfit hitman-turned-government witness, just received word he's depicted in less than flattering terms down at the Tropicana's new Mob Experience. Specifically, he says, the exhibit devoted to the life and death of his childhood friend Anthony Spilotro portrayed Cullotta's defection in a negative light.

On Monday, Cullotta tried not to weep openly and only briefly contemplated seeking therapy before thinking better of it. That plot line has already been used in "The Sopranos," and he probably didn't want to scare the psychologist. But that's the way it is these days in Las Vegas, where warring traditional mob factions appear to have been replaced by sparring mob museums. In this corner, wearing the black trunks, Jay Bloom's Mob Experience at the Trop. In that corner, wearing red trunks, the Oscar Goodman-inspired downtown Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, also known as the Mob Museum.

The Mob Experience has been faster on its feet and secured the cooperation and memorabilia of members of a number of mob families along with the faces of a number of gangster-movie stars. The Mob Museum, conversely, is focusing on creating a historically accurate depiction of the battle between organized crime and law enforcement. It also is gathering big-ticket items such as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre wall and Albert Anastasia's last barber chair.

Cullotta, 72, could give a graduate seminar in the Chicago Outfit and its role in Las Vegas during Spilotro's era. He also knows something about making money from mob imagery, participating in Martin Scorsese's "Casino" and co-authoring his autobiography Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness, with Dennis Griffin. (Cullotta, Griffin, Henry Hill, Andrew DiDonato and Vito Colucci will sign books at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Royal Resorts on Convention Center Drive. Bring your own bulletproof vest.)

That's the challenge for reformed wiseguys, killers and other characters who used to carry shovels and rope in the trunks of their Lincolns. How do you go reasonably straight and still earn a living?

By telling and selling your story, of course.

So that's why Cullotta is keeping his sense of humor about getting the cold shoulder from the Spilotro family exhibit. Although, he reminds me, the worst thing Tony would have received from Cullotta's testimony was a prison stretch. It was Tony's supposed friends, headed by Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, who in 1986 murdered him and brother Michael and buried their bodies in an Indiana cornfield. "I didn't give him a death sentence," Cullotta says. "If he would have went to jail, he probably still would still be alive."

In case you're wondering, Cullotta is a cooperating witness for the downtown museum. He was interviewed by museum personnel for about four hours, he says. Although Cullotta figures his books will be on display in the gift shop, "I'm doing it for free. If you think you're going to make a million dollars doing this, you're kidding yourself." But he's not joking about the irony of living long enough to see the way Las Vegas is courting the mob imagery.

"Usually it's the mob making money off legitimate people," he says. "These are legitimate people making money off the mob. They're worse than the Outfit."

A Cullotta pal took one look at the Mob Experience and suggested Frank the former hitman sue for defamation. Cullotta just laughed.

"Sue? With my character and my reputation?" the mob survivor cracks. "Are you out of your mind?"

Thanks to John L. Smith

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Crime and Corruption in Present day Las Vegas: An Interview with Steve Miller

John L. Smith, a columnist at the Las Vegas Review Journal, once described Rick Rizzolo, the former owner of Las Vegas strip club the Crazy Horse Too, as an “affable wiseguy, high-rolling gambler, and former soft touch for politicians.” The one-time strip club owner has been described as a friend of Las Vegas’ current mayor, Oscar Goodman, as well as other authorities in Sin City. Steve Miller, a prolific journalist and well known figure in Las Vegas began investigating Rizzolo in 1999, when the strip club owner managed to obtain approval for the expansion for his business, even when he’d already implemented the changes and opened to the public. Casino Online spoke to the journalist about crime, corruption and celebrity status in Sin City.

Miller first began investigating Rizzolo when the strip club owner opened a new, extended bar “without a building permit; additional parking spaces; traffic plan; or certificate of occupancy from the fire department”. To still be legally allowed to open any sort of public entertainment venue without any of these requirements would usually be impossible and Miller became interested about just how Rizzolo had obtained the permission of officials such as former Las Vegas Councilman Michael McDonald. For the past eleven years, Miller has documented the exploits of Rizzolo and his council cohorts (McDonald wasn’t re-elected in 2003 and it has since been discovered he was receiving kickbacks of $5,000 a month from Rizzolo) and has collected his findings on In 2000, Rizzolo attempted to sue Miller for libel, but undaunted, Miller knew that the truth would prevail. However, as he told us, Rizzolo hasn’t left him alone: Over the past few years, the journalist has “received several written death threats and shared them with the police and FBI”.

Miller soon found that Rizzolo’s influence and danger to Las Vegas citizens extended far beyond his ability to wine and dine councilmen though. In October 2001, Kirk Henry had his neck broken by a bouncer at Rizzolo’s strip club, over an $80 bar tab. Henry, who has been paralysed since the attack, sued Rizzolo for attempted murder. Rizzolo denied that Henry had suffered a beating from one of his employees, suggesting in a letter to the Las Vegas Tribune that Henry merely “tripped”. Five years later, the Las Vegas Attorney’s Office revoked Rizzolo’s liquor license and, as part of a plea deal, Rizzolo and his employees “admitted to tax fraud, conspiracy to participate in racketeering and seeking to extort payment from club patrons”. The Las Vegas City Council also issued Rizzolo with a $2.192 million fine and, as part of his plea agreement, Rizzolo vowed to pay the Henry's $10 million in compensation. In 2007, Rizzolo was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, but since being released, the Henry’s have received just $1 million from Rizzolo's insurance company (not from Rizzolo personally) and are still waiting on the remaining millions owed to them. When asked why Rizzolo has managed to avoid paying the couple what he owes them (some would argue he owes them a lot, lot more) Miller suggested that he has “long believed Rizzolo has bought protection over the years and that Mr. Henry's case is being stalled by those subservient to Rizzolo until Henry either dies or settles for pennies on the dollar”.

Critics have suggested that Rizzolo’s connections have meant that the former club owner has managed to steer clear of major punishment. When you consider that Mayor Oscar Goodman used to be employed as his legal representative, it could be suggested that Rizzolo’s influence is far-reaching. Miller alleges that Goodman still has links to Rizzolo, suggesting that “Goodman, through his son's and business partner's law firms, is still representing mob figures including Rizzolo.” It may seem odd that voters would elect a man who’s been heavily involved with mob figures such as Tony “The Ant” Spilotro and Frank Cullotta, as well as Rick Rizzolo, but Miller believes Las Vegas residents just aren’t taking their politics seriously. Miller proposes that Vegas citizens “often vote for those with the highest name recognition like Goodman”. Miller, clearly jaded by the dirty politics of his city, suggests he has witnessed “time and again the stupidity of the average Las Vegas voter with who they continue to elect to public office, then treat the politician like a rock star afterwards, no matter how crooked the elected official may become.” It should be made clear that while Miller has his doubts about Goodman, the mayor has been credited with regenerating the city and has been described by Ed Koch, a journalist at The Las Vegas Sun, as a “stickler for parliamentary procedure”.

When asked about Mayor Oscar Goodman’s plans to open the “Mob Museum”, a forthcoming attraction in Las Vegas which will document “organized crime and law enforcement as each confronted the other”, it’s obvious that Miller sees the exhibition as merely a vanity project for the mayor. The journalist proposes that he’s ashamed “of having to live in a town (Miller makes it clear that Las Vegas hasn’t matured enough to be called a city) that would take public funds to glamorize the former (and current) clients of a mob lawyer-turned-mayor. The Mob Museum will do nothing to attract new, clean, high tech industry to Las Vegas, and will serve to further embarrass local residents who have long tried to show a better face for our town.”

While those of us outside of Las Vegas may see the mob as part of the city’s dark past, for Miller and others campaigning to clean up corruption, it’s still a daily part of their lives. Perhaps what’s most disturbing is Miller’s admission that casinos in Las Vegas now “mainly serve as drug money laundries for the mob” and “condone the use of massage parlors and escort services because such enterprises discourage gamblers from leaving the tables for more than an hour or so.” While the term, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” may seem to most of us a reference to losses in a casino and perhaps over-indulgence when it comes to alcoholic refreshments, for Miller, the phrase holds much darker connotations.

Courtesy of

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dead Mob Hit Man, Larry Neumann, Declared "Prime Suspect" in Double-Murder at McHenry County Bar

The baby-sitter, it turns out, got it right.

The McHenry County sheriff's office has concluded that a now-dead mob hit man named Larry Neumann, in all likelihood, killed two people in 1981 in the small town of Lakemoor -- a long-cold case that was reopened last summer on the basis of a tip from Holly Hager, who baby-sat for the children of one of the pair back then.

Authorities now say Neumann is the "prime suspect" in the double-murder -- and that no charges will be filed because he's dead.

"I knew from the start that's what it was," Hager, now 42, said of their conclusion.

On June 2, 1981, the bodies of 37-year-old bar owner Ron Scharff and 30-year-old Patricia Freeman were found, shot to death, in the back of Scharff's bar, the PM Pub, named for his sons Paul and Michael.

Hager's father Jim had been Scharff's best friend, and she baby-sat for Scharff's boys.

Last summer, on a car trip to Arkansas, Hager was talking with her father, and he mentioned Neumann, once a feared enforcer for the Chicago Outfit.

When she got back home, Hager searched for Neumann's name on the Internet. It turned up on a serial-killer site. And Neumann, she learned, was from McHenry County. What convinced her this was no coincidence was the 2007 autobiography of Frank Cullotta, "Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster and Government Witness," a mob burglar and hit man-turned-government informant. In it, he wrote about Neumann killing two people in 1981 at a McHenry County bar.

Hager told authorities, and they reopened the case.

Neumann had been a part of Cullotta's Las Vegas burglary crew, working for Outfit boss Tony "The Ant" Spilotro. Cullotta said Neumann was mad that Scharf had kicked his ex-wife out of the bar, drove to McHenry County and shot Scharff. Freeman, a divorced mother of two, died because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was her first night working at the bar to supplement what she made as a school bus driver.

Hager's tip wasn't the first time Neumann was implicated in the killings. Cullotta said he told McHenry County authorities the same story in 1982, when he became one of the government's best witnesses against his old organized-crime brethren.

"I did what I had to do at the beginning," Cullotta said by phone. But the chief investigator for McHenry County at the time, according to the just-concluded sheriff's report, questioned Cullotta's credibility.

"I think the investigation should have taken care of this back in '82, '83, and nothing happened," Paul Scharff, who was 10 when his father was killed, said by phone from Texas, where he lives.

After spending nearly 1,300 hours on the renewed investigation, the investigators now have concluded: "Frank Cullotta provided information that was credible and accurate."

Neumann died in prison in 2007 at 79. He spent the last 23 years of his life locked up for killing a jeweler.

Paul Scharff said he believes charges could have been brought against others who had information at the time about the murders. Still, he's glad to know who the killer was, even if it's too late to make a case in court.

"The families and friends of Ron Scharff and Patricia Freeman didn't forget about them," Scharff said. "We find some peace in that."

Thanks to NewsRadio780

Sunday, July 12, 2009

City of Chicago Squeezes Widow of Man Squeezed by The Chicago Outfit

Whether the name of Richie Urso ever makes it into the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich next June is anybody's guess.

You've probably never heard of Richie Urso. But the FBI sure has heard of him.

His is a classic Chicago story, about a beefy yet charming guy born on Grand Avenue, who got in trouble with the law as a kid, only to make political friends and become extremely wealthy.

He was arrested once for jewelry theft in the '60s by the Outfit's top Chicago police detective, William Hanhardt. Urso's alleged partner in the theft was the mob enforcer Frankie Cullotta, who later became the technical adviser for the movie "Casino." The charges against Urso went away. Like I said, it's a Chicago story.

Richie went from the trucking business into real estate, dropping thousands of dollars in contributions to politicians like Mayor Richard Daley and former Gov. Dead Meat. He hung around with bankers, real estate players, insiders at the Cook County Board of (Tax) Review, at Mart Anthony's Restaurant on Randolph Street.

He was worth millions in real estate. He was also the victim of an Outfit shakedown that figured in the FBI's landmark Family Secrets case against top mob bosses.

Now the FBI is going through his business, interested in his associates, including former Mutual Bank of Harvey boss Amrish Mahajan, who has dropped off the political map. Though not charged, Uncle Amrish is under investigation as a top Blagojevich fundraiser. "My husband was excited because he was supposed to go with Amrish and Daley on a trip to India," said Richie's wife, Joanne Urso, recalling what she told federal investigators. "They were all going to go together. But then he died."

Daley and his wife, Maggie, made the trip with a Chicago business delegation.

Amrish Mahajan was a political connection for Daley, Blagojevich and other politicians to the Indian community. His wife, Anita, said, "He did not go on the trip with the mayor."

Anita -- charged with bilking the state out of millions of dollars in phony drug tests -- said her husband was in India, and unreachable.

After Richie's death in 2003, lenders called in their notes. Lawyers demanded big fees. The will that he told Joanne was stashed in a Mutual Bank safe deposit box was never found. And Daley's City Hall, which had never given Richie much trouble, suddenly slapped Joanne with a series of citations on their properties.

City Hall is also demanding she sell Richie's prized 24-acre site just west of the Cook County Jail for millions less than she says it's worth. Ald. George Cardenas (12th) is demanding the site for a park. "I'm getting ripped off by everybody. By everybody," Joanne Urso said.

She told me Richie died of a heart attack on the kitchen floor of a girlfriend's home, on April 15, 2003. "You should call her," she said.

So we did. The woman is Mary Ann Dinovo, who works in human resources for the county tax review board, which handles tax appeals for every parcel of real estate in the county.

"He said, 'What do you got to eat?' " recalled Dinovo. "I'd just made a big tuna salad. He said, 'Can I have some?' The TV was on in the kitchen. The fork dropped out of his hand. He said he felt sick and went to the bathroom."

Minutes later, Richie Urso, his mouth full of tuna salad, was dead at age 61.

"It was karma that we met," Dinovo said. "We loved to do things together, go to shows, go to Navy Pier. ... He'd always play like he was poor. 'I'm just a poor truck driver,' he'd say. Sometimes we'd drive by a piece of property and he'd ask me who owned it."

Did you help him find out who owned it? "Absolutely not," said Dinovo, who said she has not been contacted by federal authorities. "I never knew what the hell he had. I didn't ask. But how do you think I felt when after he died, his friends told me that he was worth, like, $50 million? I said, 'What?' "

In late November of last year, Blagojevich hadn't yet been arrested. But the noose was tightening.

About a week before the FBI knocked on the governor's door, they knocked on Joanne Urso's door. FBI agents and a lawyer from the U.S. attorney's office wanted to chat.

"They asked about everything that was going on with the banks, the lawyers, our properties," Joanne Urso said. "... They asked about Amrish Mahajan and the governor. Oh, and [state Sen.] Jimmy DeLeo, they asked about him."

Only Blagojevich has been charged with a crime, and it's not illegal to know a guy like Richie Urso.

The FBI didn't have to ask about Richie and the Outfit. Without Richie, there may not have been a Family Secrets case that sent three mob bosses to prison.

That's because in 1986, just three months after gangsters Tony and Michael Spilotro were murdered, Richie Urso was the victim of an Outfit shakedown.

It all came out in testimony by mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese, and chronicled in the book "Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" by my colleague Jeff Coen.

Nick's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., and fellow mobster John Fecarotta were competing to squeeze Urso for payments on a juice loan from the 1960s. It wasn't even Urso who borrowed the money. The father of an Urso partner owed the juice.

Urso was growing wealthy by the 1980s, and the mob wanted a piece. Fecarotta demanded that Urso make Fecarotta's house payments. Frank Calabrese Sr. held a knife to Urso's crotch, also demanding cash, according to trial testimony.

By then, Fecarotta had botched the burial of the Spilotro bodies, leaving them in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield, allowing them to be found. Fecarotta's shakedown of Richie Urso gave Frank Sr. another reason to lobby Outfit bosses for a Fecarotta solution. "And that sort of put the nail in the coffin," Nick Calabrese testified.

Nick and Frank helped kill Fecarotta on Belmont Avenue, but Nick lost a bloody glove at the scene. Years later, the FBI used DNA from that glove to turn Nick Calabrese into a star government witness.

The Outfit usually doesn't shake down legitimate squares, but targets people who can't run to the government.

"My husband helped all of them," Joanne Urso said. "When people borrowed money, he paid for that. He was paying and paying all his life."

At the time of his death Richie Urso controlled a string of properties, including a South Loop building housing the Pink Monkey strip club, a Cicero property housing the adult bookstore Bare Assets and a Chicago Chinatown neighborhood shopping complex. But the crown jewel was the land near the jail complex.

Now City Hall has moved to take the property. According to public records, Joanne Urso owes Mutual Bank more than $9 million on that property and another huge lot at 6501 W. 51st St.

The city has offered her $7.1 million for the Little Village parcel. Her appraisers say it's worth $13 million. It would be worth much more if Cook County expands the jail.

"They [City Hall] thought I would sell it right away," she said. "But I wasn't going to just give it away. Now it feels they've decided to try and just take it."

Joanne Urso is a woman alone. Her clout died six years ago, on another woman's kitchen floor, with tuna salad in his mouth.

Once, Richie Urso was squeezed by the Outfit. Now his widow is getting squeezed by City Hall. It's a classic Chicago story.

The central theme is that there's nothing deader than dead clout. And now Joanne Urso has to pay for it.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mob Informant Supports Las Vegas Mob Museum

Yesterday started and ended with the mob. It’s just like living in a Scorsese movie sometimes.

In the morning, mob-turned-informant Frank Cullotta, focus of crime author Denny Griffin’s gripping biography “Cullotta,” said in a phone interview from an undisclosed location (me, I was in my kitchen) that he thought the proposed Mob Museum in Las Vegas is a “great idea.” The former “Hole In The Wall Gang” member, friend and bodyguard/muscle guy of Tony “The Ant” Spilotro and admitted double-murderer also says he has been approached by someone who is involved in the development of the mob museum to help add some authenticity. Cullotta refuses to say who has contacted him, but that he has been asked to provide some personal items and personal, inside information and anecdotes about his days helping the “Chicago Outfit” skim profits from their Vegas casinos through abject violence, theft and intimidation.

I asked if that overture included audio narration for some of the displays, and Cullotta thought for a moment. “That could be. I haven’t thought of that, but I’ve got a distinctive voice,” he said in a thick Italian-type accent. “Maybe I should try to trademark my voice. It’s really recognizable. That’s why I was never good with a wiretap.”

You and me both, brother.

Later in the day, I got word that Cullotta, also famous as a technical advisor and bit actor in the film “Casino” (the Frank Vincent character was based on him) would appear on ABC’s “Nightline,” having been interviewed recently by reporter Neal Karlinsky for the piece. It was the third in a series of reports, the first being about repo men and the second about the chimp in L.A. that got free from a residence and nearly killed a woman. Click here for the report.

Karlinsky’s report treaded familiar territory. He spoke with Cullotta, a product of the Witness Protection Program who still uses a secret name. “I was a gangster, burglar, murderer, extortionist, arsonist,” he said to a dutifully impressed Karlinsky. “I was all the things you don’t want to be. But I'm not like that no more. I’m a different man now.”

Mayor Oscar Goodman was interviewed in his City Hall office, and took Karlinsky on a tour of the old downtown courthouse, which would be home to the $50 million Mob Museum. Goodman estimates 800,000 people a year would visit the attraction, which is equal parts fascinating and controversial.

“This is the quintessential mob museum, there’s nothing quite like it,” Goodman said. When asked if an art museum would be a more appropriate use of the space, Goodman said, “Anyone who says this should be an art museum should go jump in the lake, with concrete shoes on!”

Playing to the cameras was the mayor. He also said he was grateful for being known as a “mob attorney” because it “put me in financial position to run for mayor.”

During our phone conversation, Cullotta said the museum would certainly help preserve Las Vegas’ history – whether we like it or not. “We have too many people who don’t know how Vegas was built,” he said. “I mean, we are losing our history, tearing it down. We have kids who don’t even know who Frank Sinatra was.” As for the argument that the museum, by its very existence, would glorify crime and criminals, Cullotta said, “People want to know about this part of our past. You make a movie about Jack the Ripper, and people flock to see it. It’s the same with this museum.”

In front of the camera, Cullotta said “The Outfit” would help dig Vegas out of the recession if the crew were around today. He is the last survivor of the original Chicago team in Vegas. “Vegas is having a rough time,” he said, “but I guarantee if the Outfit was still around there would be money here, somehow.”

I expect we will hear from Cullotta again, as part of some sort of Vegas history reclamation project.

Thanks to John Katsilometes

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Frank Cullotta Book Solves Two Murders

Dennis Griffin admits he's no Shakespeare, just a retired New York health care fraud investigator who had a story to tell and caught the writing bug when he retired in 1994.

Since then he's churned out 10 books, none of which will make you forget Hemingway or compare him to Steinbeck. But Griffin has done something none of those other mopes ever accomplished: He wrote a book, "Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness," that's helping to solve a real-life murder mystery.

Published in 2007 by Huntington PressCullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness, the work serves as the biography of Frank Cullotta, the childhood friend of Chicago Outfit enforcer Anthony Spilotro. Cullotta was an undistinguished street criminal who in the early 1980s joined Spilotro's violent Las Vegas street crew. He committed crimes ranging from robbery to murder, then became a key government witness in its investigation of the mob's influence in Las Vegas.

Fast-forward to 2008. An Illinois woman named Holly Hager picked up a copy of "Cullotta," and nearly screamed when she reached page 130, which gave details of the June 1981 murders of bar owner Ronald Scharff and waitress Patricia Freeman at the P.M. Pub in Lakemoor, Ill. Scharff was the best friend of Hager's father, Jim Hager. The murders had gone unsolved, and McHenry County detectives claimed to be stumped about the killer's identity.

In the book, Cullotta named Spilotro intimidator Larry Neumann as the murderer of Scharff and Freeman. And Cullotta would know. After serving time in prison with Neumann, Cullotta introduced him to Spilotro's gang. As Cullotta recalled during his law enforcement debriefing, Neumann admitted committing the murders because Scharff had thrown his ex-wife out of the tavern.

David Groover, then a Metro detective investigating Spilotro's crew, wrote five succinct paragraphs about the murders during Cullotta's debriefing. The alleged killer, a possible accomplice, and a motivation for the crime were given. Scharff had been killed for the perceived slight. Freeman was murdered because she was a witness.

Cullotta's Metro and FBI handlers didn't sit on the information. They quickly informed McHenry County authorities, who could not have been surprised to hear Neumann's name. After all, he already had been identified as a possible suspect by Scharff's best friend, Jim Hager.

Not only did the McHenry County detectives fail to act, they appeared to go out of their way to attempt to damage Cullotta's credibility.

These days Scharff's son, Paul Scharff, is aggressively seeking to have McHenry County officials finally name Neumann as the killer. It's not for justice, but for a sense of closure.

Neumann died in prison in January 2007 after a lengthy criminal career that included at least six murders, including a 1956 triple homicide from which he managed to gain release. The sheriff and detectives from McHenry County who criticized Cullotta back in the early 1980s are gone, too. But Paul Scharff, who was just a boy at the time of his father's murder, has lived with the dark memory every day since then.

In an review of "Cullotta," he wrote, "I have never written a review for a book before, but I never had a book IMPACT my life like this one. From the book 'Cullotta,' I discovered who killed my father and his barmaid 27 years ago."

That beats a New York Times review any day.

"It's actually very uplifting, particularly so since I've actually gotten to know Paul Scharff," Griffin says. "He's just a real super guy. That makes me feel all the better that perhaps the book will help him and his family."

It would be an ending most authors would reject as too implausible to be believed. For Griffin, it's just another twist in a very real story.

"Paul Scharff is convinced they (McHenry County detectives) are actually seriously looking into the events surrounding the killings," Griffin says. "We think it's more than just paying lip service. We think they're actually fully engaged with it."

By phone from an undisclosed location, Cullotta says it's about damned time. "It's taken them so long it's ridiculous," the 70-year-old reformed hoodlum says in his biting Chicago accent. "The kid wants closure, and can you blame him?"

For author Dennis Griffin, it would be an ending the literary greats would envy.

Thanks to John L. Smith

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Babysitter May Have Solved Murder by Chicago Mob Enforcer Committed in 1981

More than 27 years after a mob-related double murder in McHenry County, a little bit of digging by a 42-year old former baby-sitter has led authorities to reopen what was a very cold case.

The information supplied by Holly Hager, who is now a mural painter, has led McHenry County sheriff’s detectives to take a fresh look at the long-unsolved killings.

The 1981 murders of 37-year old Ron Scharff and 30-year-old Patricia Freemen were the first on record in the then-tiny town of Lakemoor.

“I know who did it,” Hager, who used to baby-sit Scharff’s young sons, said in an exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5.

The killer, she says, was Larry Neumann, a feared enforcer for the Chicago Outfit. The motive: revenge.

“I just thought my baby-sitter is one hell of a Nancy Drew,” Paul Scharff said on learning about Hager’s digging. “My father was killed on June 2, 1981. I would like [an] explanation of why this couldn’t have happened 25 years ago.”

In 1981, Ron Scharff was the owner of the PM Pub, named for his sons Paul and Michael. Freeman was a divorced mother of two and a school bus driver who was on her first night of work at the bar to earn extra money. Both died from gunshot wounds.

On a car trip to Arkansas this summer, Hager said she and her father, Jim, began talking about the killing of Ron Scharff, his best friend. Holly Hager said that’s when she first heard the name Larry Neumann.

Back home in McHenry County, she went searching for Neumann’s name on the Internet. “His name came up on a serial-killer site, and I thought that’s weird,” she said. “I was like, oh, my gosh, he’s from McHenry.”

The next discovery sealed things for Hager. It was the 2007 autobiography of Frank Cullotta, a mob burglar and hit man-turned-federal witness, in which he recounted how Neumann killed two people in 1981 at a McHenry County bar.

“I called my dad and said, ‘Dad, I know who murdered Ron,’ ” Hager said.

Born on the West Side of Chicago, Frank Cullotta became one of the mob’s best burglars. After doing time with Neumann in prison, they both landed in Las Vegas working for Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, who watched over the Chicago Outfit’s interests there. In 1982, Cullotta entered the witness-protection program and began telling the mob’s secrets — including the one about the McHenry County murders. Cullotta said that in the summer of 1981, he witnessed Neumann take a long-distance call from his ex-wife, back in McHenry County.

Last month, from an undisclosed location, Cullotta recounted for the Sun-Times and NBC5 what Neumann told him: “He said this guy that owns this pub threw my ex-wife out of there. He grabbed her by the throat and removed her from the place.”

Neumann, he said, felt disrespected and wanted revenge. Cullotta said he tried to talk Neumann out of returning to Illinois. “I believed, in my heart, after talking to him, he was not going to go back there to kill this guy. I was wrong.”

Upon returning to Las Vegas, Cullotta said Neumann told him, “I went in there to talk to the guy. . . . He says I got mad. I pulled the gun out. I shot the guy in the head. He said the girl looked at me. I immediately turn to her, shot her in the head. He said the guy gurgled, I shot him in the head again, he says, then I shot the girl, again.”

Cullotta said he told McHenry County authorities in 1982 what happened, but “it was like they didn’t want to hear what I was saying.”

Cullotta wasn’t the only one to tell McHenry County authorities about Larry Neumann. Jim Hager said he told sheriff’s investigators about the incident at the bar involving Scharff and Neumann’s ex-wife and that Neumann should be considered a suspect.

“Only thing I seen was arguing,” said Jim Hager, claiming Scharff never touched her. “Ron told her, ‘Get the hell out, and don’t come back.’ ”

As her father did 27 years ago, Holly Hager took the information to the McHenry County sheriff’s office, which reopened the case.

Gene Lowery, the current undersheriff in McHenry County, said that for the most part, no one from the original investigation remains with the sheriff’s department. But he acknowledged more should have been done decades ago.

“There was an inadequate response from our office,” Lowery said. “We can’t make things better. But we can try to make it right. . . . I want to make sure the survivors know we are in their corner.”

Neumann died in January 2007 at the age of 79. He had been in prison since 1983 for the murder of a jeweler. He was convicted, in part, on the testimony of Frank Cullotta.

Lowery said the sheriff’s office is working with the FBI and other agencies on the case, and “there is a fairly high probability of closing the case . . . with an arrest.”

With Neumann dead, it’s unclear who is left to arrest, and authorities did not elaborate.

For Paul Scharff, his focus is on Neumann.

“My hope is to get Larry Neumann named as the murderer of my father and Patricia Freeman,” said Paul Scharff. “And then I would like an explanation of why this couldn’t have happened 25 years ago.”

“To me, there is no question,” said the baby-sitter turned snoop. “Whether McHenry County closes the case or not doesn’t matter. It’s closed, in my mind; I know who did it.”

Thanks to Carol Marin and Don Moseley

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Inside the Mind of Mobster Frank Cullotta

Friends of ours: Frank Cullotta, Joe Cullotta, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo
Friends of mine: Jimmy Miraglia, John "Billy" McCarthy

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:

Inside the Mind of Mobster Frank CullottaThe 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."

Thanks to Carol Marin

Monday, June 18, 2007

Michael Spilotro P.I.?

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro, Frank Cullotta
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

The Spilotro Hollywood moment is that scene in "Casino" with the cornfield and the baseball bats that the critics loved, though it really didn't happen that way.

That's how America remembers the Chicago Outfit's Anthony Spilotro and his brother Michael, whose famous murders are among 18 Outfit killings comprising the historic federal "Family Secrets" mob trial set to begin this week. But there is another Spilotro Hollywood moment, long forgotten. In this one, actors don't play the Spilotros. Rather, Michael Spilotro played a tough FBI agent on the hit TV show "Magnum, P.I.," starring Tom Selleck.

Special Agent Spilotro appeared in the 1981 episode "Thicker than Blood." And you thought only Christopher from "The Sopranos" had a Hollywood urge.

Michael was the little brother of Tony, the Chicago Outfit's overseer in Las Vegas in the 1970s and 1980s. Michael received bit parts on "Magnum" and other shows. (I've got that "Magnum" DVD, but don't ask to borrow it.)

"Magnum" was a private-eye show set in Hawaii with a fancy red Ferrari and beautiful girls, gunplay, more beautiful girls, more gunplay and beautiful girls. That was when TV was TV. In the episode, a gang of wisecracking French drug dealers try to import loads of heroin. But G-man Michael Spilotro won't stand for such shenanigans.

Rather than wear a tie, Agent Spilotro wears a sports coat and an open shirt, but no gold chains. And Agent Spilotro did an interesting thing when he met Magnum in a parking lot in broad daylight. He reached for his gun. How rude.

Did Agent Spilotro think he was in some parking lot at Grand and Harlem?

Magnum was worried about his friend, TC, who'd been set up by the evil drug lords, so Magnum approached Spilotro to find out what happened to his buddy. "He doesn't wanna talk," Spilotro informed Magnum and Rick (played by native Chicagoan and Michael's boyhood friend Larry Manetti).

Spilotro unleashed his lines in an unmistakably thick Chicago accent, about as thick as mine, with the same flat vowels.

Later, FBI Agent Spilotro is hiding outside a warehouse, peering through a window, clenching a bullhorn while watching the drug dealers unload their heroin. One of the villains, in a thick French accent, says quite sarcastically, "$10 million worth of heroin, courtesy of zee United States Coast Guard."

Just then, Agent Spilotro springs into action: "This is a federal officer! The building is surrounded!! Come out with your hands in da air!!"

"Magnum" action music—including wailing guitars—pulsates to a disco beat. Agent Spilotro charges in, cornering the evildoers by firing his pistol into the air.

They surrender, and wisely. They didn't know if "Family Secrets" prosecution witness and Outfit enforcer Frankie Cullotta might have been hiding nearby, supporting Spilotro, with a vise that would fit several French heads. The vise thing was in "Casino," but it was drawn from Chicago Outfit war stories and, no wonder, since Cullotta was a technical adviser on "Casino" and knew what a vise could do to a head.

Spilotro may have been trying to increase his Hollywood profile for business reasons, but I don't think the old guys back home who ran things were too pleased about Michael raising his profile on TV. But others disagree, including Manetti, who ran a Chicago construction company that helped build Rush Street clubs before getting into acting. Manetti says he's developing several projects, including a TV comedy about burned-out cops working the night shift and a movie about Cuban refugees.

"I didn't know Michael as a gangster, I knew him as a guy I grew up with in the neighborhood," Manetti said. "Michael wanted to be on TV, that's all. Who wouldn't? It was a top show. He had fun. He wasn't trying to be a movie star or an actor, he was having fun."

Common wisdom is that Tony was the tough guy and Michael was the innocent victim, though some law enforcement sources suggest Michael may have been more devious than his brother. But that's not how Manetti saw his friend, who visited him in Hawaii and was offered a bit part.

"I loved Michael. I don't know what the rumors are, he wasn't a bad guy. Everybody has aspirations of being a movie star. We thought about it. It was funny, you know, Spilotro, FBI agent. . . . With us, it was all fun, no bad stuff. I think we talked about him playing a guy named Zookie the Bookie once, you know, just fun stuff. He was OK as an actor, he wasn't so stiff."

Manetti, who lives in California, said he'll read the Tribune to follow the "Family Secrets" trial. "I miss him. Listen, if it's about the guys who killed Michael, let them burn."

Some who ordered the murders have already been burned, and are likely burning still. And though Michael Spilotro may have had fun on TV, I've got a feeling that a few Chicago critics who could make him or break him didn't like his performance as a crime-fighting fed.

They gave it two broken thumbs down.

Thanks to John Kass

Made to Be Mayor

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro, Frank Cullotta
Friends of mine: Oscar Goodman

Oscar Goodman once defended some of Chicago's most notorious hoodlums and is now running the city they once ran: Las Vegas.

When federal prosecutors in Chicago put 14 mobsters on trial this summer, an aspect of the case will be how the outfit once controlled criminal rackets in Las Vegas. That prospect has Las Vegas' most prominent politician somewhat skittish because he was part of that past.

Oscar Goodman, Made to Be MayorIn a city of lights and largess, no one shines brighter or bigger these days than Oscar Goodman, the mayor now in his third term. The seat behind his city hall desk isn't just a chair, it's actually a throne. Even the headliners billed out on The Strip haven't played the halls that King Oscar once played before becoming mayor: the halls of justice, where for years as a lawyer, he tried to keep some top Chicago hoodlums out of jail.

The Chicago mob-the outfit, which is the given name for traditional organized crime founded in Chicago almost a century ago, is an organization pioneered by Al Capone and perfected by Anthony "the Ant" Spilotro, the outfit's Las Vegas emissary into the 1980s, frequently shadowed by his lawyer, Oscar Goodman.

"From a government perspective, he killed 26 people 21 people or 19 or whatever, but when I represented him he never did a day in jail. From '72 until the time he was killed ...They created him to be much greater than the role that he was really playing on behalf of Chicago while he was here, but they made him into an everyday news item and caused him to have a reputation perhaps he didn't deserve," Goodman said.

Nor did Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael deserve this, according to Goodman: the men were buried alive in an Indiana cornfield after angry mob bosses ordered them pummeled and planted.

"It was a violent death," said Goodman. "I think it was interesting when they were filming the movie Casinoand depicting the murder of Tony and his brother, it was so rough, that even during the production of a movie, somebody broke their arm. That's how violence it was."

Oscar Goodman knows all about the brutal movie. He played a mob lawyer in the film, and Goodman reveals that, as the Spilotro murders remained unsolved for years, he was never contacted by investigators. "I was always disappointed that nobody asked me any questions about who had done it or what was happening as far as Tony was concerned before it took place," Goodman said.

I-Team: "They didn't ask you a single question?"

Goodman: "No, not a single one. Don't you think they would've asked: Do you have any idea who might have done this?"

Despite smothering the opposition in last April's mayoral election, Goodman is not without critics.

"He's a braggadocio man. He's got an ego as big as it can be, and he's got the right job, because he's got a big mouth and he can promote [Las Vegas]," said Frank Cullotta, ex-mob hitman.

Cullotta was Tony Spilotro's major domo In Las Vegas before rolling over in 1982 to help the government prosecute outfit bosses. Cullotta and two former lawmen are authors of a new book on the Chicago mob and contend that Goodman had little to do with the mob's eventual exodus from Las Vegas.

"The Chicago Outfit is much less potent than it was years ago," said Dennis Griffin, author/former policeman.

"It is interesting that the mayor stopped it. Because before he said there was no organized crime," said Dennis Arnoldy, author/former FBI agent.

"Big corporations cleaned up this town...not Goodman," said Cullotta.

Unlike Mayor Richard M. Daley, who refuses to capitalize on Chicago's rich mob history, Goodman proudly displays outfit trinkets in his office and is turning a historic Las Vegas building into a mob museum.

"To celebrate that era, basically it's going to be telling the truth about Las Vegas. We're not going to implode any decades here...I won't whitewash our history here. We advertise as what happens here stays here, the mystique of Las Vegas. I don't want to give that up," said Goodman.

Goodman says that during the time he was representing mobsters, federal prosecutors tried to have him indicted for obstruction of justice but could never convince a grand jury that he did anything wrong. He has never been charged with anything.

Goodman says he is so well liked that a movement is underway to eliminate term limits in Las Vegas so he can continue to sit on the throne.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mobster Frank Cullotta Gives Another "Exclusive" Interview

Friends of ours: Frank Cullotta, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro
Friends of mine: William "Slick" Hanner

Investigative reporter Chuck Goudie traveled to Las Vegas for an "exclusive" interview with the former mob hitman, Frank Cullotta, who will be a key witness in Chicago's upcoming mob murder trial. Recently, Frank Cullotta gave another "exclusive" interview to George Knapp. Chuck needs to head back to Las Vegas and interview Slick Hanner as well, which is what George did. Plus, who can pass up a business trip to Vegas?

There was a time about 25 years ago when the Las Vegas Strip was dominated by the Chicago outfit. History will be revisited during this summer's upcoming Operations Family Secrets trial in federal court in Chicago, largely through the testimony of a hoodlum named Frank Cullotta.

"I only had a few legitimate friends. They were like my best friends. But everybody I hung with I stole with; robbed with; killed with," said Frank Cullotta, mob informant.

For decades in Chicago and Las Vegas he was a robber by trade and a killer by necessity. But, since Frank Cullotta turned on the outfit 25 years ago, he has been a professional government witness. When Cullotta makes his next court appearance this summer in the case against 14 accused Chicago mobsters, prosecutors are expected to have him explain the outfit's historical hierarchy and testify how lead defendant Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo has been Chicago's top hoodlum.

"He knew everything that was going on, it had to go through him. This is what I would believe, he's the boss," said Cullotta.

Cullotta, an ex-con, is about to release a mob book, co-written with a crime author and a former FBI agent, timing that Lombardo's lawyer says is no coincidence. "There is no question that this was all orchestrated for the benefit of this horribly written book in terms of the writing style. Somebody said it was a third grade level. I think that is two grades above the level at which it's written," said Rick Halprin, Lombardo lawyer.

Much of the book and Cullotta's testimony will focus on Anthony "The Ant" Spilotro, the outfit's emissary in Las Vegas until the early 1980s. "To me, he was a friend...I grew up with this guy. I knew he was ruthless, he was mean, he was tough. He could kill easily," said Cullotta.

Cullotta ran Spilotro's burglary crew in Vegas, known as the "hole in the wall gang," and he helped collect on mob juice loans from broken down gamblers.

"Ya tell 'em, you know, 'We need the money. We're not gonna keep on waiting.' And after about the third time, if they didn't listen ,you just give 'em a beating," said Cullotta. "Or we'll make their wife a widow."

I-Team: "How many people did you take out?"

Cullotta: "Two direct, two indirect."

I-Team: "Who were the two direct?"

Cullotta: "Some guy, he was a union guy for the barbers union (in Chicago)."

Cullotta himself re-enacted the 1979 murder of Jerry Lisner (a small time drug dealer and hustler) in the movie Casino, shooting Lisner twice in the head, chasing him through his home and in real life strangling him with an electrical cord before dumping the body in a swimming pool.

"You become the judge, jury and executioner, so you justify that in your own mind so it makes it a little easier on you. Most of the guys who got whacked or got killed, I'd say the majority of them probably deserved it."

Cullotta has received immunity from prosecution for the murders and crimes he committed. The former FBI supervisor on Cullotta's case is now Cullotta's book partner. "In law enforcement you use the tools that are available. Sometimes you have to use tools like that. In fact, you want to use tools like that because I am not going get the information from you or anyone else. It has to be someone inside," said Dennis Arnoldy, former FBI agent and supervisor on Cullotta's case.

A few years after Cullotta turned on the mob, his former boss Tony Spilotro and Spilotro's brother were savagely beaten and buried in an Indiana cornfield. They are among the 18 murders that are central to this summer's Chicago trial. "If I had to, and I was ordered to kill him and his brother, I'd have just shot 'em...unless they told me to do opposite, then I'd find somebody else to do it," Cullotta said.

Tony Spilotro's widow calls Cullotta a liar and told the I-Team she would like to have a hand in administering justice for his killers.

"If I could do it myself I would," said Nancy Spilotro.

Cullotta still travels with a bodyguard, although he admits it is mainly for show. "I am sure somebody would like to whack me if they had the opportunity to try to make some points. I don't know if they were making any points. They would probably get whacked after they whacked me," Cullotta said.

There is not much whacking going on those days in the city of Las Vegas and hasn't been for the last 20 years or so. There are a lot of construction cranes and new buildings going up, including hotels and casinos.

For the record, defense lawyers in the Chicago case note that Cullotta's testimony has not always resulted in convictions, something they hope will be the case during this summer's trial.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Friday, May 18, 2007

Spilotro Brothers Murder Not in a Cornfield?

Friends of ours: Tony "the Ant" Spilotro, Nick Calabrese, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Rocco Lombardo, Joe Ferriola, James Marcello, Frank Cullotta, John Fecarotta
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro, William "Slick" Hanner

It's been 21 years since Tough Tony Spilotro, the reputed rackets boss of Las Vegas, was murdered along with his brother, presumably by members of "The Outfit" in Chicago. But the best-known version of how the men were killed is simply wrong, according to federal prosecutors in Chicago, who are preparing to out away the men responsible.

Operation Family Secrets is the name of the FBI probe that led to the indictment of 14 Chicago mobsters, charged with 18 gangland murders, including those of the Spilotro brothers. The trial, slated to begin in two weeks, will challenge widely held views of what really happened to "Tough Tony."

Movie fans around the world are familiar with the bloody end met by Las Vegas mob boss Tony "The Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael. In the film "Casino," the characters based the Spilotro brothers were taken to an Indiana cornfield, then were beaten to a pulp, one at a time, with baseball bats, and then buried while still alive.

In Chicago, federal prosecutors are prepared to make the Spilotro murders a centerpiece of the massive prosecution of 14 mob figures. The case that will be presented at the Dirksen Courthouse lists 18 murders in all, along with many other crimes, but because of their movie notoriety, the Spilotro's are likely to get top billing.

Rick Halprin, Chicago defense attorney, said, "The event is depicted in a movie, and anybody sitting on a jury, or most of the jury, is going to associate the two. The judge is going to have to deal with that when we select a jury."

Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp: "But the movie version is wrong. Mobster-turned-informant Nick Calabrese is ready to testify that the Spilotro brothers were killed, not in Indiana, but instead, here in a quiet suburb of Bensenville."

Why should a jury believe Nick Calabrese about the Spilotro murders? Because Calabrese admits that he was one of the killers. He's also fessed up to participating in 14 other mob murders and is ready to tell all he knows about the Chicago outfit, including his own brother Frank.

This is the story told by Calabrese and corroborated by the FBI with other sources. Tony Spilotro, who was facing three indictments in Las Vegas, returned to Chicago in the belief that he might be in line for a promotion in his hometown.

Former mob associate "Slick" Hanner said, "The reason they got killed was because they were going back to Chicago to take over The Outfit. He was telling his crew we're going back to Chicago."

Acting boss Joe Ferriola, now deceased, saw it differently and ordered the murders. Spilotro's presumed boss, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, allegedly signed off on the hit. The Spilotro brothers were wary about going to a meeting, but changed their minds about taking guns along, presumably because someone close to them put their minds at ease.

According to Calabrese, the Spilotro's were picked up by James Marcello, currently listed as boss of The Outfit, and were driven to a house in the Bensenville suburb. Tony was supposed to get a promotion. Michael was to become a made member. When they got to the house, they were taken to the basement for the ceremony, and that's where Marcello, Calabrese, and four other men beat them to death.

At least two men, including hitman John Fecarotta, put the bodies in a car and jumped on the highway. As the I-Team learned, one of the first signs they would have seen directs them toward Indiana and the cornfield. Former Spilotro underling, hitman Frank Cullotta, tried to put Spilotro away, but is still bothered by the imagery.

Cullotta said, "If I had to kill him, I couldn't kill him that way. I'd a just shot him. I couldn't beat him to death like that, let his brother watch. I just assume they were showing one or the other, you're not such a tough guy after all."

The bodies were never supposed to be found, but were. For botching that job Ferracotta was murdered by Nick Calabrese. Years later, DNA evidence from that murder allowed the FBI to turn Calabrese into a witness, which led to the indictments of all the others.

Defense attorney Rick Halprin ridicules the government for going after men whose average ages are 75. He says his client, Joey Lombardo, was in prison when the Spilotro murders took place and had nothing to do with it.

It's decades later, but the trial will still be watched in Las Vegas where family ties run deep.

This year, when Rocco Lombardo, brother of Joey "The Clown," appeared in federal court, he was defended -- ironically enough -- by Attorney John Spilotro, the nephew of Tough Tony.

A lot of Spilotro family members still live in Las Vegas, including Tony's wife Nancy. They generally don't speak about those days long ago but have told the I-Team they feel some relief that the government is finally prosecuting someone for the murders.

Thanks to George Knapp

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Slick Hanner Challenges Frank Cullotta's Credibility on Family Secrets

Friends of ours: Frank Cullotta, Tony Spilotro, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Nick Calabrese
Friends of mine: William "Slick" Hanner, Michael Spilotro, Frank Calabrese Jr.

Chicago's still powerful Mafia family, known as "The Outfit," is about to be pummeled by Operation Family Secrets, an FBI probe aimed at fourteen top mobsters.

The Outfit once had considerable control of casinos and street rackets in Las Vegas. Now, the remaining bosses will be prosecuted for eighteen unsolved murders. Among the witnesses will be former mob soldiers, including one time Las Vegas hitman Frank Cullotta.

Will Cullotta be credible when he takes the stand? Other "wiseguys" aren't so sure.

Frank Cullotta told Chief I-Team Reporter George Knapp, "I would think it's the end. I don't think it will ever be as strong or as organized as it was."

Admitted hitman and thief Frank Cullotta was raised on the mean streets of Chicago. He robbed people, boosted cars, and ran with a bad crowd, including his future boss, tough Tony Spilotro. In the late '70s, Cullotta joined Spilotro in Las Vegas as part of a burglary ring known as The Hole in the Wall Gang.

Cullotta committed at least one murder on orders from Spilotro, eventually joined the witness protection program and testified against Spilotro and other former associates. Now, he is listed as a likely witness in the prosecution of what remains of the Chicago outfit -- 14 alleged mobsters charged with 18 murders -- including those of Spilotro and his brother Michael. "There's guys who killed guys that have been killed for murders. Jesus, there's a lot of guys," Cullotta said.

Defense attorneys found out what Cullotta might say in court by obtaining a preview copy of his soon-to-be released book about his life of crime. A former federal prosecutor who helped turn Cullotta thinks he's a credible witness.

Don Campbell explained, "Certainly Frank knew what was going on in Chicago. How intimate his knowledge might have been on any particular crime, it depends on the crime. Clearly he was in the loop on an awful lot of criminal activity."

But others, including Spilotro's defense attorney, now Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, have complained for years that Cullotta isn't believable. Oscar Goodman said, "He's a liar, he's a pimp, he's a thief."

Another Cullotta critic, former mob associate, William "Slick" Hanner said, "What can he say that they don't know?"

Hanner, who grew up in the same Chicago neighborhoods, ran with the same crowd, but even before Cullotta. Hanner said, "I ain't saying I'm better than him. I'm not a killer, but I don't embellish things. He said Tony sent for him. Tony never sent for him. He came out here to put a girl to work. She was a prostitute. Then he went to Tony and said he's gonna bring his crew out."

Hanner, who ended up working in licensed casinos despite his long criminal record, has written his own book about the bad old days, entitled "Thief." He admits to being a participant in skimming millions from the mob-tainted Stardust casino but feels Cullotta is exaggerating his own importance "I would have never given him witness protection, never. He's as bad as the ones he's testifying against," Hanner continued.

Cullotta is expected to testify that his boss, Spilotro, reported to longtime reputed outfit kingpin Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, the best known of the fourteen defendants in the Operation Family Secrets case. Two other mobsters, Frank and Nick Calabrese, are ready to tell what they know about the other defendants. Lombardo's lawyer thinks those two will be tough witnesses, but he sounds like he will be ready for Cullotta.

Rick Halprin, Lombardo's defense attorney, said, "Even though I've seen tapes of Cullotta, I don't know what he's gonna be like until I see him on the stand. I don't think he'll be what I've seen on the tapes. I really don't."

Anyone who's seen the movie "Casino" probably believes the Spilotro brothers were murdered in a cornfield. Not so.

Thanks to George Knapp

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Chicago Mafia Figures on Trial For Spilotro Murders

Friends of ours: Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Al Capone, Frank Cullotta
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

Federal prosecutors are ready to drive what may be the final nail into the coffin of the country's most powerful Mafia family. It's the most significant prosecution of the Chicago outfit in history.

Fourteen suspected Mafia leaders are charged with numerous crimes, including the murders of suspected mobsters who controlled street rackets in Las Vegas.

This week marks what would have been Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro's 69th birthday. He was a feared man in the '70s and '80s, but was murdered in 1986 along with his brother Michael. Murders that were made famous by the movie "Casino." The case was never solved but now federal prosecutors are going after some of the men they believe were involved, men whose criminal enterprises are inextricably linked to Las Vegas.

On the wall of defense attorney Rick Halprin's Chicago office is a newspaper cartoon, which pokes fun at how Joey "The Clown" Lombardo got his nickname. While in federal court one day, and to avoid being photographed, Lombardo made a mask out of a newspaper. People thought it was clownish.

In the big-shouldered city of Chicago, where organized crime has been a fact of life since before Al Capone, everyone knows Lombardo's name. For more than 30 years, the word "reputed" has been attached to it.

Rick Halprin, Lombardo's defense attorney, said, "Without question, when you walk down the street, if you ask a citizen about the case, the mob case, the only name they know is Joey Lombardo." Defense attorney Rick Halprin knows that overcoming Lombardo's longstanding reputation, as a top boss of Chicago's outfit will be his major challenge in the upcoming trial based on the FBI's "Operation Family Secrets."

Lombardo is one of fourteen Windy City Mafia figures charged with a vast assortment of serious crimes, including eighteen unsolved murders. More than 1,000 murders have been attributed to the Chicago outfit over the years. Fewer than twenty have been solved. This massive indictment represents the most serious assault on the mob since Capone was put away.

Rick Halprin continued, "The interest is intense, and the pressure -- it's very, very big 'cause you're talking about Chicago. You're talking about an indictment that goes back 63 years."

A document known as a Santiago Proffer outlines the government's case. It reads like a Mario Puzo novel. Much of the information is so sensitive, involving protected witnesses, which the government blacked it out. What's clear from the case is the symbiotic relationship between mob bosses in Chicago and their emissaries in Las Vegas.

Loans from the Mafia-controlled Teamsters pension fund built much of Las Vegas. The loans came with strings attached. The mob not only used Nevada casinos to launder money from illicit businesses, they skimmed tens of millions of dollars from the countrooms, money that found its way back to Chicago. In the 1980's, Joey Lombardo was one of several mobsters convicted in a federal skimming case. Those prosecutions spurred many of the murders that only now might be resolved.

John Flood, a former Chicago lawman, said, "Any outfit murder out of Chicago, Lombardo would have been involved in it."

John Flood spent more than 30 years chasing mobsters in Chicago. He says Lombardo once tried to kill him by running him down with a car. He and others believe that Lombardo would have had to okay all of the murders mentioned in the indictment, including those of brothers Tony and Michael Spilotro.

Tony was Chicago's main man in Las Vegas. He protected the skim and allegedly oversaw a criminal operation known as the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. The murders of the Spilotro brothers were immortalized in the movie "Casino." One man who agrees that Lombardo played a role is Frank Cullotta, a Spilotro soldier who turned government witness and who is likely to be called in the Chicago trial. Cullotta gave the I-Team an exclusive interview earlier this year.

Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp: "Joey Lombardo?"

Frank Cullotta: "He was Tony's boss and he was my boss."

George Knapp: "You guys reported directly to him."

Frank Cullotta: "Tony did. I reported to Tony, so Joe relayed messages to Tony. Do I think Joe Lombardo was involved in it? I think they would have to go to him for an okay."

Cullotta has written a book about his life with the mob. It's due out in a matter of weeks. Rick Halprin thinks Cullotta is a flawed witness. However, he admits the government has stronger witnesses, including two members of the Calabrese family, made members of the mob who agreed to testify.

They've already given tips that led to the search for buried remains of murder victims. But don't count the Cagey Lombardo out. He's ready to spring a unique strategy called the withdrawal defense. After his release from prison in the '90s, he took out an ad in a Chicago paper announcing his formal withdrawal from the mob. It's not a joke.

Rick Halprin said, "So, ultimately we have to let the jury decide whether: a) Lombardo was involved in a conspiracy at all, which we say he wasn't, and b) if he was, did he withdraw from the conspiracy? And the government would like to prove that he did not."

The trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday, May 15th but has been delayed for another two weeks. The notoriety of the Spilotro murders means those slayings will play a central part in the government's case. But the version we've all seen is not how the murders went down at all.

Thanks to George Knapp


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