One of the largest Mafia trials in American history is slated to begin in Chicago in May, and a key witness could be a former killer and thief who roamed Las Vegas during the heyday of the local mob. Frank Cullotta talked with the I-Team's George Knapp. Watch the extended interview.More>>
Saturday, May 25 2013 12:11 AM EDT2013-05-25 04:11:44 GMT
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Friday, May 24 2013 8:00 PM EDT2013-05-25 00:00:21 GMT
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Friday, May 24 2013 5:05 PM EDT2013-05-24 21:05:30 GMT
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The Mafia bosses who once controlled Las Vegas are long gone, but their ghosts are about to be resurrected. Federal prosecutors in Chicago are working on one of the largest, and perhaps last, trials of organized crime kingpins in America, targeting some of the men who pulled the strings in Las Vegas during the darkest days of mob influence in the city.
At least 18 unsolved gangland murders could finally be solved. One former Las Vegas mobster says he's ready to tell the court what he knows about those crimes. Frank Cullotta has been in hiding for 25 years but he surfaced long enough to give an exclusive interview to the I-Team's George Knapp.
George Knapp: "Do you think of yourself as a hitman?"
Frank Cullotta: "Not really. I guess if you kill one person you're a hitman. I don't think of myself as a hitman."
But hitman or not, Frank Cullotta did kill people on orders from the mob. He murdered a man named Jerry Lisner in this house on Rawhide and left the body in the swimming pool. Cullotta won't say how many others he may have killed, but it's more than just Lisner.
When things began to unravel for the mob in Las Vegas, everyone was expendable, even the other members of the Hole in the Wall Gang, like Ernie Devino and Joe Blasko, both of who were slated for death. And the boss himself, tough Tony Spilotro, who was beaten to death in front of his brother Michael and then both were dumped in a cornfield. Even though Spilotro okayed a hit on his pal Cullotta, Cullotta still winces when he thinks of the brutal way Spilotro died.
Frank Cullotta said, "I know that Tony was a violent person himself and that he killed a lot of people and hurt a lot of people, but I grew up with this guy. I just don't think if I had to kill him, I could kill him that way. I'da just shot him."
The murder of the Spilotro brothers is one of the charges now facing 14 Mafia figures in Chicago, including longtime mob kingpin Joey The Clown Lombardo, the boss to whom Spilotro reported. Cullotta thinks Lombardo had to okay the Spilotro murders, as well as the murder of the mobster who botched the burial of the bodies. He's pretty sure a Mafia soldier named Al Tocco was also in on the hit and that the upcoming trial just might be the end of the line for the Chicago mob.
Frank Cullotta said, "I would think it's the end. I don't think it will ever be as strong or as organized as it was."
What about certain Las Vegas mysteries? Who tried to kill Frank Lefty Rosenthal by planting a bomb under his car on Sahara Avenue?
Contrary to law enforcement suspicions, Cullotta says it wasn't Spilotro for the simple reason that if Tough Tony had done it, Lefty wouldn't have escaped. What about their former lawyer, now Mayor Oscar Goodman? Might he have anything to fear from a tell-all book by Cullotta? Did he ever cross the line?
Cullotta said, "Nah, he's just got a big mouth. I got nothing to say about him. He's got the right job. He likes everyone to see him and hear him."
For the record, the mayor is no fan of Cullotta's either and says the former gangster is a notorious liar. Former strike force prosecutor Don Campbell who helped turn Cullotta from killer to witness says Cullotta's testimony was critical in the conviction of numerous mob figures, but he scoffs at Cullotta's suggestion that the Hole in the Wall members were modern Robin Hoods who only stole from other crooks.
Don Campbell, former federal prosecutor, said, "Like hell. They were absolute scum of the earth. They would turn on anyone. Themselves. They would rob their own mother. They were despicable human beings."
Cullotta says he's a much different person since going straight. He owns a business in an undisclosed town and says some of his new neighbors have figured out who he is from seeing old TV footage.
Cullotta said, "They know I'm a changed guy. I live a legitimate life. I don't harm nobody. They don't feel uncomfortable around me. As a matter of fact, they feel protected. Don't ask me why."
Cullotta's tell-all book is slated for release in late April. The Chicago mob trial is expected to begin in May.