Sunday, August 25, 2013

Frank Cullota

“I liked Jewelry stores because they had a lot of cash.”  - Frank Cullota
Frank was the Leader of the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a very success crew that pulled scores in Las Vegas when the Chicago Outfit reigned supreme in Sin City.

Frank Cullota

Frank was born June 20, 1938 in Chicago.  He met the man who would become his best friend in his criminal career when he was 13 years old.  That man was Tony Spilatro.  Tony would work his way up from a street thug to the Outfit’s man in Las Vegas.  

I was speaking to Frank on the phone the other day and I asked him a few questions.

First, I wanted to know about Herbie Blitzstein.  I liked Herbie, I always felt he was a good guy who just did what he knew.  A lot of people refer to him as an enforcer but I never got that vibe when I was around him. The FBI was running Operation Button Down and Operation Thin Crust in 1995 in Las Vegas.  The LA Family was once more trying to regroup and Las Vegas was one of the places they were working on.  

Fat Steve Cino lived there along with a host of associates, so LA Capo Jimmy Caci and I would drive out there frequently.  Jimmy was out on an appeal bond for a Telemarketing deal gone bad, so we were trying to get things moving.  Jimmy and his brother Bobby Milano liked Herbie and so did Steve Cino.  

Jimmy would get picked up by LAPD because he was around an FBI informant named Ori Spado in Beverly Hills.  Ori had gone out on a collection in the Valley and Jimmy was in his car.  Ori went into this business and he started running his mouth selling wolf tickets, the guy had enough of Ori’s crap and he decked Ori with a tape dispenser.  Ori was on the ground and the guy had a pistol out when Jimmy came into the office and stopped the guy.  The guy knew Jimmy from the track so he chilled and he explained his situation.  The guy had a business that went bankrupt everything was in bankruptcy so he had nothing.  Jimmy helped Ori to the car where he dressed Ori down for acting so foolish.  Ori never told Jimmy what he was doing there or Jimmy would not have even gone with him.  

A week later I went to dinner with Jimmy and Ori at Frankie’s after dinner Jimmy went to Ori's apartment.  While there, Ori had to get something from his car.  The next thing Jimmy knew there was a knock at Ori's door.  Ori ran to open it, and it was the LAPD OC Squad.  
Ori lived in a secured building.  

Thanks to Ori,  Jimmy was away on January 6, 1996 when some wannabee low class robbers broke into Herbie’s condo and murdered him.

This was not a Mafia crime in anyway shape or form.  The only guys I heard that wanted him dead were the two FBI informants John Bronco and Fat Tony. They both owed Herbie money.  The FBI used it in a RICO case against Steve Cino and Bobby Panera but it was a joke.

Speaking to Frank about Herbie helped me learn some more about Herbie.

Herbie was a bookmaker in Chicago and he made juice loans but he was not a tough guy.  He was in too big to go on scores but he always had money on him.  He would carry 20k in his pockets because the IRS would take anything of value from him.  He owed them for unpaid taxes.  Frank was asked by his boss in Chicago to move out to Las Vegas to help Tony out in the 70's when he got out of prison. It was not an order just a nudge to go out to Las Vegas.  

Tony opened up a jewelry store in Las Vegas called Gold Rush Ltd where they bought and sold Jewelry.  Tony told Frank that he was bringing out the Jew to help, that is what they called Herbie.  Herbie mostly worked in the back room removing jewels from settings and melting down the gold.  He bought hot merchandise.

Frank told me that Herbie was never a hard guy he just looked it.  

I asked Frank who he admired most in his criminal life and he came back with two answers.  One guy he liked was Sam Giancana who was tough and smart.  Sam used to tell him that he was too quick with his fists because Frank was young and angry.  He told him that it would get him in trouble someday.  The other guy is a criminal legend. Tony Accardo, Joe Batters the man who was in the Outfit since Al Capone and never spent a night in jail.  He would see Tony at the Golden Bear Pancake house and after the first time Tony saw him there he would say hello. Nobody got close to Tony but he knew who everyone was everywhere he went. If Tony would have been legit he would be a Billionaire today.

I cannot do justice to Frank’s story on this blog, you can read all about his life in his book Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness. Frank has a lot to say and anyone who wants to gain a better understanding about the Life should attend Mob-Con Sept. 7 and 8 in Las Vegas at the Palace Station.  You can meet Frank and ask him any questions about the life.  Others I have featured on previous blog posts will be there also:
Andrew DiDonato
Andrew Didanato, Frank Calabrese, Tony Montana, Tim Redsull as well as Law enforcement speakers and authors.

Hear from Andrew about life in a crew where one wrong step could mean death and that went for the boss's son John Gotti Jr.

Frank Calabrese
Speak to Frank Calabrese about growing up in a Mafia house hold and then running his father street rackets.  

For more information check out the convention’s website:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

John & Craig

John Baudanza and Craig Marino are two badged guys in the Mafia.  John Baudanza is a Lucchese Soldier and Craig Marino is a Colombo Solider.

They started out hanging around Bruno Facciolo and Joe Scopo at Bruno's horse stable.   Bruno had some horses and he would meet guys down at his stables.  John and Craig were just kids but they were already trouble.  John had been in a tagger crew called BPB or Bay Parkway Boys. Craig was from Mill Basin so he was with the Mill Basin Boys.  They were both close to future Gambino Family murder victim Robert Arena.

John Baudanza (locked up)
Bruno Facciolo was a badged member of the Lucchese Family in a crew headed by Paul Vario of Goodfella's fame.  It has been said that he was one of the guys who did away with Tommy DeSimone on the day he was told he would be inducted into the family.  Bruno was one of Paul Vario's heavy guys who put in a lot of work for the family.  Bruno would later be murdered by some fellow Lucchese Family Mobsters after the corrupt so-called “Mafia Cops” told the family he was an informant.  He was lured to a garage in Brooklyn and stabbed to death.  He was then stuffed into the trunk of his car with a canary in his mouth.  It would come out later that the Mafia Cops lied and he was never an informant.
Bruno Facciolo

Joe Scopo was a rising star in the Colombo Family because he knew how to make money.  He learned how to work the Unions from his father Ralph Scopo, a made guy in the family, and the guy who took care of the bosses in the Concrete Club.  The Concrete Club was really just members of the Commission who took 2% from any concrete job in New York that paid over 2 Million Dollars.  This was also part of the Commission Trial (the trial in the late 80s when all of the NY bosses were convicted of being part of a commission that oversaw mafia corruption across the country).  Ralph was hit with a 100 year sentence and he would die in prison.  Joe Scopo followed in his fathers footsteps and handled the Unions for the family.  When the Colombo war started he was a Capo on the rebel side.

John Baudanza and Craig Marino were his drivers and bodyguards. They were over at Wild Bill’s house during the war with Joe. So they were in the mix with the Colombo's. They were not with Joe when he was gunned down in front of his home October 22, 1993.

Joe Scopo's murder was again part of Mafia take down day.  A couple of Persicos were charged with conspiracy to murder Joe.

John and Craig were also very close to Anthony Casso Jr, the son of Lucchese boss Gaspipe Casso who would himself flip and become an informant. There are rumors of a fight in a diner where a guy confronted Casso Jr and when he went outside John or Craig blasted the guy 9 or so times.  The guy lived and Gaspipe was pissed about the whole thing, that they would shoot someone over nothing serious.  They had another friend named Freddy D who asleep on his couch after a long night and was shot dead.  Robert Arena their friend was killed and they did nothing.  

Things would change for John after Joe Scopo was killed.  He was locked in with the Colombo's because of his Uncle and his father Carmine who was a long time Colombo Associate who I hear was badged.  John fell in love with Danny Cutia’s daughter (Cutia is a Capo in the Lucchese family) and soon they were married.  Cutia, who was on the panel that ran the family, had John placed in his crew.  John had things going for him for awhile.  He had an auto body shop and then he moved on to stuff on Wall St.

Craig had gone with the Colombos and he was close to Joe “Waverly” aka Cacace who would be underboss for a minute.  

Craig Marino
Craig Marino's name was placed on a list that was handed out to other famlies to see if there were any objections to getting their badge. One problem: Craig was written down as “Graig” Marino.  The other problem was that the FBI got a hold of the list after a drunken Persico left it laying around.  Craig was inducted into the family, but some people still had bad feelings for him because of the war.  Craig was soon in control of a number of brokerage firms around the city, Brooklyn and Staten Island.  One of the guys who ran them for him was his younger brother Lance who ran Barron Chase on Maiden Lane.  Lance would prove how stupid he was by climbing on top of a drunk friend’s Range Rover and then letting him drive off “car surfing.”  The ride was short for Lance, and that was end of him.  

Craig would get involved with a golf course and that all went bad after the FBI started looking into the deal.  

When I was in Brooklyn, he was involved in Zone Chefs a company that delivers healthy food to customer’s doors.  They did well, but Mafia business never takes a back seat and he soon turned back to criminal enterprise.

John Baudanza made some money with stocks and he soon got involved with the same telephone business that I was part of on Maiden Lane.  John also became an acting Capo around this time.  He then decided that he could do better than the company and he and some of his guys took some equipment and the account for St Marten.  He ended up blowing it and the whole deal went bad.  

John Baudanza
Things had gotten so bad that John asked his friend Georgie to hide his truck at his grandmothers house.  Georgie had the truck hidden but the repoman still found it. So an acting Capo had no car for sometime.  He then had a party store and was doing driveways in Staten Island.

John even tried to get into the Mortgage Business with his friend Jerry Degerolamo but that failed.  Jerry D was another long time Lucchese associate whose father is also a long time associate.  They robbed an armoured car for 3.7 million dollars in 1989 and after Gerard Degerolamo was sent to a Federal Prison where he walked away with help from his son Jerry.  They then planned to rob a cash filled depot by shipping a small associate in a box to the depot.  It seemed to go well but the guy in the box had recently been busted for a small crime and had already flipped.  The FBI took them all down.

Jerry, along with John Baudanza, started a fake hedge fund that was called America's Hedge Fund, L.P. in Eltingville. It was a nothing but a fake fund where they just stole people’s money.

When I was with Teddy Persico Jr and Eddie Garafolo in the truck headed to 4th ave to get Craig Marino, Teddy was talking and my wire was on.  He told me that Craig had done some bad things in the Colombo war and that he was on the wrong side, but now he was with good people.  He also said Craig was all good now meaning he was an inducted member.  We were going to deal with Craig (who I liked - but when asked by a Persico to do something you have to do it).  Eddie and Teddy both pled out to this charge earlier this year.

John Baudanza took a plea for the pump and dump and other charges he received 7 years. He is now in Allenwood Medical Facility where he is sick and will be released in 2015.  A lot of guys in the family do not like him and if his father-in-law dies, who knows what he will do.

Craig Marino took a plea for everything, including the pump and dump that got him 10 years. He is in Fort Dix until 2016.  Craig had moved to Florida before his case so who knows where he will go when he is released.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Persico Legacy

Teddy Persico Sr and the Colombo War.

Teddy Sr is the brother of imprisoned-for-life Boss Carmine "Gimpy" Persico.  They had another brother Big Allie Boy "Alphonse" Persico who died in the 1980's. After Carmine and his son Little Allie went away in the 1980's, Teddy Sr worked with a panel to run the family.  Little Vic Orena was made acting Boss of the Colombo Family.  Little Vic was good for the family.  He knew that in the future the Family would have to adapt and work on new things.  He inducted new blood into the family.  

One ceremony took place in a nondescript house in Queens. Three men were to be "Badged" that day.  Little Vic, his sons, Joe Scopo and others would preside over the induction.  The men had been told to be dressed nice and they were picked up around Brooklyn and driven to the location.  Joe Baudanza was badged that day with a young guy (future informant) and an old guy nobody ever saw again.  They were brought downstairs and they each took the oath.  I was told recently by the future informant that the “ceremony” was a big let down and afterwards he felt stupid because he had been so eager to be in the family.

Little Vic and Billy Cutolo Sr got along very well with the other families and when they went to Commission Meetings they always had John Gotti's patronage. Little Vic and Billy Sr could speak to the families, they were good with the rules and they knew the intricate Union business so the Colombo's would get their fair share from the other families.  

Teddy Sr had other ideas about who should be the acting boss of the family.  He began promoting Consigliere Vincent "Jimmy" Angilino for the top spot.  Little Vic discussed it with the other families and they wanted things to stay as they had been.  So Carmine Sessa took out Jimmy Angilino and took over his spot in the family. Teddy Sr started telling family members that Little Vic was trying to take over the family. Little Vic and Billy Sr again went to the Commission and they were told to poll the Capo's and see who they wanted as Boss.  Some of them came in when they were sent for, and others did not.  Carmine Sessa, being the backstabber that he was, went to the Persico faction and gave up Little Vic.  Carmine Sessa gathered a crew to blast Little Vic but Little Vic caught the move when he was coming home and he drove away.  The Little Vic faction then went back to the Commission and they were urged to settle it without bloodshed.  They suggested that they take out Capo Greg Scarpa because it had been ordered and he was long suspected of being an informant.  They could get rid of a problem and also see how the Persico's reacted to the hit.

They had a van and when they saw Greg Scarpa he was with his daughter and the baby but they decided to hit him anyway.  Frankie Notch was so eager to get Greg that he fired his pistol getting out of the van.  The noise scared Greg, who got away.  They had blown the Scarpa hit, so Little Vic, Billy Sr and Joe Scopo went to see John Gotti who backed them behind the scenes.

The Soldiers in Brooklyn went to ground hiding out  and business stopped.  The soldiers under Little Vic were given 200 dollars a week.  The war was really 13the Ave against 11the Ave but it would prove costly.  The street war resulted in 68 indictments, 58 convictions and ten guys flipping. What a waste.

This is where Teddy Persico Jr came from and soon Teddy Persico Sr will be a free man.  Where will the Colombo Family go from here?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Colombo Family Mafia Take Down Day (Part II)

Official Complaint & Indictment

Why do the Feds use guys like me to infiltrate groups like the Colombo Family? They do it because guys like me can go places they cannot and we have a long record doing various crimes over the years. If they put an Agent into the situation they cannot fake guys knowing him since Juvenile hall days.  In the past before the RICO ACT and the use of Infiltrators, they would only take down those low on the totem pole.  If they got a boss like Vito Genovese or Al Capone it was groundbreaking.  The use of RICO, Infiltrators and electronic surveillance put an end to the Boss being untouchable.

Eddie Garafolo
I would record Eddie and Teddy every time we met.  This paid off and continues to pay off today. I would meet at places like the Fuel Oil Truck lot in downtown Brooklyn that Eddie was using for his trucks.  My wire would record everything and I would make mental notes of the locations of where we spoke, where Eddie met guys, etc.  This way the FBI could go back and plant bugs or use other surveillance techniques.  I drew a diagram of the Fuel Oil Truck lot on a pad of paper right after I left it for the first time.  I did the same when I went to Big R Trucking on Staten Island the first time.  I would identify each person I caught on tape for the FBI and that is how Steve Marcus started to be watched.  I also went into Teddy’s home and his mother’s home with my wire and later drew diagrams.

As a result of my recording Steve Marcus, the FBI also turned Steve, and he started wearing a wire.  He then had Eddie ask Teddy to get him transferred from the Gambino Family to the Colombos.  Steve was on record with the Gambino Crew as an Associate.  Eddie was caught on tape speaking to Teddy about it and telling Teddy that Steve had better come up with cash for him.

Teddy Persico
Using my recordings and Steve Marcus’s recordings, the FBI started putting together a massive RICO Case that would be the center of Mafia Take down day.  One big fish that was caught on Steve’s recordings was Michael Persico. Michael is not a made guy in the Colombo family, but he is the son of Carmine, the boss.  Michael was always the smart business man who held the purse strings for the Colombo family.  He was never made, but he was a very important conduit between Allie Boy, Carmine the Snake, and the rest of the family.  He was still a very high level gangster who they felt they were protecting by not officially inducting into the family.

Thanks to Steve Marcus, the FBI was able to use the full complement of electronic surveillance on Michael, phone taps, video cameras, car taps, etc.  These bugs caught him conducting Colombo family business and collecting on six figure shylock loans.  The FBI was able to snare Michael in shylocking and in trying to rig trucking bids for large contracts.  Once again, Teddy was brought into these charges because he was a major participant in the trucking business.  In the indictment the FBI charged Teddy and Eddie with conspiracy to commit murder May 25, 2004.  That was a tape I recorded in a car heading to a Bay Ridge restaurant.  Another count of the RICO charges was the participation of many Colombos, minus Eddie, in the murder of Joseph Scopo.  The fact that Teddy was already well into his prison sentence when the murder took place did not prevent him from being involved.  He had been furloughed from prison to attend his grandmother’s funeral.  At the same time, the murder took place.  

That was not the only murder conspiracy charges that Teddy was facing.  The man who had put Teddy away for the murder charges in the first place, another informant, was shot in front of his house in Brooklyn while Teddy was locked up.  Teddy and one of his friends who was incarcerated at another prison enjoyed writing letters to each other.  In a number of the letters Teddy wrote, he mentioned the murder.  The FBI was unaware of the ongoing penpal relationship, until decades later, when Andrew DiDonato informed the FBI that the letters existed.  They went to the former pen pal (now a free man) and surprised him with a raid of his house, where they found every letter from Teddy perfectly preserved.  

Carmine Persico
Meanwhile, Teddy’s cousin Michael was also charged with participation in one more murder.  The victim was unfortunate enough to be dating Allie Boy Persico’s ex wife.  The Colombos warned the victim to back off, but he did not head the warning, so they shot him in his garage.  Michael took a global plea deal along with Teddy and Eddie.  Michael ended up getting less than 5 years.  Teddy got another twelve years to add to his previous two decades behind bars.  Eddie Garafolo pleaded guilty in order to spare his wife (who participated in the trucking business) a long sentence, and when he is sentenced he will likely receive a decade.  Crime does not pay.  What good are the millions hidden away when you are in prison?  The FBI still has a number of infiltrators working in the Colombo family.  As long as the crimes continue, so will the recordings, charges and prison sentences.