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December 14, 1938
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Known for||Mob affiliation, informant|
Frank Cullotta (December 14, 1938), is a former enforcer for the Chicago Outfit, leader of the "Hole in the Wall Gang" in Las Vegas, and a friend of notorious Chicago mobster Tony Spilotro. In later life, having given evidence against Spilotro and other mob associates, Cullotta wrote a book about his experiences.
Cullotta was born on December 14, 1938, in Chicago, Illinois.:10 He entered Steinmetz High School in 1953. He began his criminal career as a teenager, graduating from petty theft to burglary, armed robbery, arson, and murder.
Murder of Sherwin Lisner
On October 10, 1979, Cullotta murdered Sherwin "Jerry" Lisner because Lisner had provided Grand Jury information about money changing scams that Cullotta and Spilotro had committed. Cullotta asked Spilotro to seek permission from his superiors to carry out the killing.
Cullotta enlisted Wayne Matecki, a friend from Chicago, to help. Cullotta called Lisner and asked to talk to him alone. When Lisner invited him to his house, Cullotta went inside while Matecki waited in the car. Cullotta got Lisner away from the front door by having him investigate a strange noise, then shot him twice in the back of the head with a .22 caliber handgun. After a chase through the house, Cullotta overpowered Lisner, who claimed that his wife knew that Cullotta was there. Cullotta tried to strangle Lisner with the cable of a water cooler, but it snapped. Matecki, who had entered the house, held a cushion over Lisner's head while Cullotta reloaded the gun. Cullotta then shot Lisner in the head.
Cullotta and Matecki dumped Lisner's body in the backyard pool and cleaned the blood off the furniture and floor. They searched the house for documents naming Cullotta and Spilotro, and for security cameras and recorders. They found nothing, and Matecki flew back to Chicago the same night.
Hole in the Wall Gang
In 1979, Tony Spilotro assembled a group of experienced thieves, safecrackers, and murderers, including Wayne Matecki, Larry (Crazy Larry) Neumann, Ernie Davino, Leo Guardino, and ex Vegas Police Officer Joe Blasko. Frank Cullotta was the gang's leader, operating in Las Vegas. The burglary group became known in the Las Vegas media as the "Hole in the Wall Gang" because of its skill in smashing entry holes through exterior walls or cutting through the roof of buildings during their burglaries. They committed many high end burglaries, and stole large amounts of money. On July 4, 1981, most of the HITWG gang was arrested during a well planned burglary at Bertha's Gifts and Furnishings on Sahara Blvd in Las Vegas. Bertha's was a very large high end retail store with 35 employees, and was estimated to be doing about 15 million dollars a year in gross sales. Bertha's customers included Las Vegas entertainers like Wayne Newton and Liberace. Frank Cullotta, Wayne Matecki, Ernie Davino, Leo Guardino, Joe Blasko, and Larry Neumann were all arrested in and around Bertha's Gifts, and each charged with burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, attempted grand larceny, and possession of burglary tools.
Learning from a FBI tape a few months later that Tony Spilotro had ordered a hit on him, Frank Cullotta entered the federal witness protection program early in 1982 and admitted to the FBI that he had arranged the murders of James Miraglia and Billy McCarthy, known as the "M&M Murders", on behalf of Spilotro. He also admitted to the Sherwin Jerry Lisner murder and provided information about many burglaries.
By this time, Cullotta and Spilotro were on bad terms and Spilotro had become very mistrustful. On one occasion, Spilotro made Cullotta and others enter a jacuzzi in swim suits to check if they were wired. The Las Vegas authorities discovered that Spilotro knew that Cullotta had provided the FBI with information about the M&M Murders and various other crimes. Spilotro ordered Neumann to kill Davino. In September 1983, Spilotro was indicted on murder and racketeering charges, with Cullotta as the key witness, but he was acquitted. (The trial judge was convicted in 1992 for taking bribes). Neumann was also tried and was sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy to murder. Stolen property was discovered at Cullotta's home in November 1983 and he was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment.
Life after crime
Martin Scorsese's 1995 film Casino is based on the lives of Spilotro and Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal as portrayed in Nicholas Pileggi's 1995 book Casino. Cullotta—renamed "Frank Marino" in the film and portrayed by actor Frank Vincent—was hired as a technical advisor for the movie. Cullota has also played the role of a hitman who carries out several murders, one of which is similar to the 1979 murder of Sherwin Lisner.
Cullotta has written Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, Government Witness, and a Tony Spilotro biography: THE RISE AND FALL OF A 'CASINO' MOBSTER: The Tony Spilotro Story Through A Hitman's Eyes , and has been involved in making several documentaries. He co-hosted AMC Mob Month alongside Henry Hill in 2011. Cullotta is known as an underworld historian and an expert on organized crime. He has spoken at The Mob Museum in Las Vegas. In 2013 he told his story in an episode of Locked Up Abroad.
Cullotta appeared in the season 5 premiere of Bar Rescue where he gave commentary to the Las Vegas bar he visits, Champagne's (formerly Champagne's Cafe). He also appeared during the bar's grand re-opening.
Frank Cullotta is also appearing in the upcoming documentary film "Mr.Undercover". that will be ready in 2018.
- Dennis N. Griffin; Frank Cullotta; Dennis Arnoldy (2007). Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster and Government Witness. Huntington Press In. ISBN 9780929712451.
- Newton, Michael (2009). Mr. Mob: The Life and Crimes of Moe Dalitz. McFarland. p. 276. ISBN 9780786435166.
- Nicholas Pileggi; Martin Scorsese (1996). Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. Faber & Faber. ISBN 9780571179923.
- "Casino (1995)". Retrieved 19 October 2012.