The Chicago Syndicate: Slick Hanner
Showing posts with label Slick Hanner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Slick Hanner. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

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

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Battle of Thieves?

Friends of ours: Frank Cullotta, Tony Spilotro
Friends of mine: William "Slick" Hanner, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal

Since 1995, George Knapp has been the chief reporter on the Las Vegas Channel 8's I-Team investigative unit. In that capacity, he has earned two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a national Edward R. Murrow award for his investigative stories on the voter registration fraud in the Clark County election of 2004. Knapp has won eleven Emmy Awards. Seven were for his "Street Talk" commentaries and one was for an investigative story. Seven times, he has won the Mark Twain Award for best news writing from the Associated Press. Recently Knapp ran a series (Part 1 and Part 2) that covered his interview with Frank Cullotta, a former thief/mob hitman who turned government informant.

Slick Hanner has shared with me an email that he has sent to Knapp in which he challenges the credibility of Cullotta. In addition to providing examples, Hanner proposes a sitdown in which Knapp moderates a discussion between the Cullotta and Hanner as a "Battle of Thieves". It is a compelling idea and one that I hope that Knapp embraces. Below you will find Hanner's email to Knapp. Feel free to pass along your thoughts on this to both myself and directly to Knapp.

Dear Mr. Knapp,

The last couple of nights I watched your show on Frank Cullotta with my mouth open in disbelief. This guy is trying to whitewash every lousy thing he did. I admit to being a thief all my life. But I was an honorable thief, meaning I never snitched on my friends or turned states evidence against anyone. You will see that I'm telling the truth when you read my life story in my newly released non-fiction book, Thief! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist (Barricade Books.) In the book, I reveal my life of crime with the mob, prostitution and gambling when I lived in Chicago (Outfit headquarters,) Miami and Las Vegas. And I hold nothing back about what kind of a guy I was. I wrote THIEF to straighten out the public on Cullotta and Rosenthal's lies (Pileggi's main informants) in the book Casino.

Cullotta was the worst kind of thief. He thought nothing of betraying his friends and even turned on his brother in order to save his own neck. Now he's on your program telling so many lies, which I will be happy to refute.

For instance, Cullotta said Tony Spilotro brought him to Las Vegas to be in his Hole in the Wall Gang. But the truth is that Cullotta came to town as a pimp for his girlfriend, Debbie, who worked at the Dunes. Then Cullotta hooked up with his boyhood friend, Tony Spilotro, and asked Tony if he could bring his own burglary crew to Las Vegas. Tony said yes as long as he got a piece of Cullotta's action.

Mr. Knapp, this is only one example but there's much more. I can recite chapter and verse on the truth about Frank Cullotta. I also have a friend who is willing to step forward with more evidence of Cullotta's lies, and he was in a position to know. Together, we have an arsenal of information that has never come out previously. Should you want more information from me or care to have me on your show, I will be happy to give names, places, dates, etc., as would my friend.

Why would I even bother to do this? Cullotta makes the Hole in the Wall Gang seem like Robin and his merry men, just a bunch of innocent pranksters. What a joke! Let's get some facts on the table. Maybe you could have me and Cullotta on your show together in a "battle of the thieves?"

William "Slick" Hanner

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Author Comments on Thief!

Friends of ours: Lucky Luciano, Carlo Gambino, John Gotti
Friends of mine: William "Slick" Hanner

It's strange that our fascination with the mob centers so on top bananas like Lucky Luciano, Carlo Gambino and John Gotti when, as any crime beat reporter will tell you, the most incredible stories always involve madcap misfires by the lowliest flunkies, the truly clueless nostra.

Fort Myers author Cherie Rohn ran into just such a lovable screwball more than a decade ago in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when, after losing her job as a TV station manager, she enrolled in casino dealer's school. One of her instructors was a well-traveled man of action named William "Slick" Hanner. "He was walking around with his notebook of 20 hand-scrawled pages in his third-grade-educated hand of his life story, looking for somebody to write it," Rohn recalls. "No money, of course, but I looked at it and it was like an electric shock went through my body. Something about this guy grabbed me and I vowed to write his story."

A decade in the writing, "Thief: The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist" is the laugh-out-loud misadventures of a savvy Chicago street kid who managed to partake in the profitable mob trifecta of booze, gambling and prostitution without ever actually becoming a made guy.

Like some street-smart version of Forrest Gump, Slick went from rags to riches while drifting through America's hottest post-war entertainment scenes. Whether he was fleecing poker players aboard his yacht, the Knot Guilty, in Miami Beach, driving a limo for Nevada's infamous Chicken Ranch, serving as Jerry Lewis' bodyguard or managing the poker room at the Landmark casino in Las Vegas, Slick was where the action was for the last half of the 20th century. "He was an interesting kind of a screw-up adrenaline junkie con artist who goes through life like a speeding freight train about to derail at any minute," Rohn says of her colorful collaborator.

The project was no mere samba down memory lane. Hanner's third-grade education was one obstacle, but Rohn had her challenges as well. "Aside from a couple lurid love letters, I hadn't written anything," she says. "So I had three tasks: I had to learn to write, I had to learn to write as a guy, and I had to learn to write as a guy who hung with the mob."

Rohn does a wonderful job at all three, telling Slick's first-person tale with all the swagger and latter-day slang of a high-rolling con artist of the day. "We filled it out very slowly," she says. "I actually had to put words into his mouth."

She also found that time was of the essence if she hoped to interview Slick's running mates. "Through the nine agonizing years of writing this story, a lot of people died, mostly from unnatural causes," he quips.

At 74, Slick is still doing what he does best, playing poker and consulting with Las Vegas casinos on how to thwart card sharks.

Does the guy who knows where the bodies are buried fear that some associates may take offense at his candid biography? What are you, nuts?

"We had a few death threats," Rohn admits. "I'm not going to tell you where they came from but they were real. Slick isn't one to worry. His attitude is, 'Hey, if that happens, we can sell a few more books!'"

Thanks to Jay McDonald

Friday, March 24, 2006

Did the Mob Elect Kennedy?

Friends of mine: Slick Hanner

While a UIC researcher earlier this week presented a case that he said debunked the Mob's impact on the Kennedy's election, is that really the case?

William "Slick" Hanner has a book coming out this fall in which he will refute those who claim the mob did not have a hand in the 1960 Presidential election. An excerpt:


In 1960 I was working in a Mafia run strip joint in Chicago's first ward. Although I was a felon and not allowed to vote, my boss Big Joe Smith (not to be confused with big Joe Arnold) told me to register to vote on election day. Me and the strip joint employees where transported to the polls to vote for Kennedy. "Don't make a mistake," Joe said.

Can you imagine if they did this for Nixon who would have won???


Slick's book, "Thief! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist," is a Barricade Books release due out in fall of 2006.

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