I recently aquired an interesting piece of Las Vegas mob history. I have a signed
photo montage signed by "Frank Cullotta" leader of the "Hole In The Wall Gang"
in Las Vegas that was put together in 1979 (COA included)
Frank Cullotta, born December 14, 1938, was a former enforcer for the Chicago
Outfit, leader of the "Hole in the Wall Gang" in Las Vegas, and friend of notorious
Chicago mobster Tony Spilotro. Eventually he gave evidence to the FBI against
Spilotro and other mob associates.
In 1979, Tony Spilotro assembled a group of experienced thieves, safecrackers,
and killers, 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 & 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 killing of James Miraglia and Billy McCarthy, known as
the "M&M Murders", on behalf of Spilotro. He also admitted to the Sherwin Jerry Lisner
homicide 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.
Martin Scorsese's 1995 film Casino was based on the lives of Spilotro and
Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal as portrayed in Nicholas Pileggi's 1995 book Casino.
Frank 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.
Frank Cullotta has written Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas
Mobster, Government Witness, and a Tony Spilotro biography: The Rise & 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.
Al Varelas / USMC