“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 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 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.
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: