Frank Cullotta was born in Chicago in 1938. He began his decades-long criminal career as a teenager, graduating from petty theft to burglary, armed robbery, arson and murder. While growing up he met another young tough on the streets of the Windy City: Tony Spilotro. The two boys became friends and criminal allies.
As they grew older Frank preferred to operate independent of the Mob. But Tony went on to become a made man and feared enforcer of the Chicago Outfit. And in 1971 the Outfit bosses sent him to Las Vegas to keep an eye on their casino interests.
Returning to Chicago after being released from prison in 1974, Frank was invited to join Tony in Sin City. It was an offer he initially declined. But by 1979 Frank was under intense pressure from law enforcement in Chicago and agreed to join Tony in Vegas. His role was to watch Tony’s back and apply muscle as necessary. To accomplish that, Frank formed and ran a crew of burglars, robbers, arsonists, and killers that became known as the Hole in the Wall Gang.
However, Frank and Tony had a falling out in 1982; and at Tony’s request the Chicago bosses approved a contract to have Frank killed. Facing either life in prison for his myriad crimes or death at the hands of Outfit hit men, Frank rolled and became a government witness. His subsequent testimony resulted in the convictions of several of his former associates. He was preparing to testify against Tony Spilotro in June 1986, but Spilotro himself was murdered by the Outfit just prior to the trial getting underway.
In 1995 Frank was contacted by screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi regarding the Martin Scorsese film Casino. He was hired as a technical consultant to the movie in which actor Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro; and Frank Vincent played “Frankie,” a character based on Cullotta. In the film Frank appeared in several scenes as a killer, including one that was a fictionalized version of a murder he actually committed in Las Vegas in 1979.
Today, armed with a new government issued identity, Frank is out of the federal Witness Protection Program. He currently appears in organized crime documentaries and occasionally makes public appearances. In 2007 he wrote his biography titled CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.
MOB TALK co-hosts, Andrew DiDonato and Dennis Griffin
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