August 20, 2020 – One of the last Las Vegas mob cowboys of the city’s “mafia era” died this week, as former Chicago Outfit figure Frank Cullotta passed away from natural causes early Thursday morning in Nevada. Actor Frank Vincent (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Sopranos) portrayed Cullotta in the classic 1995 film Casino.
The 81-year old Cullotta was the right-hand man of rogue mobster Tony (The Ant) Spilotro, who famously ran the Chicago mafia’s interests in Las Vegas in the 1970s and 80s. Cullotta flipped on Spilotro and the Outfit in the summer of 1982. He headed Spilotro’s “Hole In The Wall Gang,” a Spilotro crew offshoot specializing in high-end burglaries.
Spilotro was brutally beaten and strangled to death in a Chicago basement in June 1986 for his repeated insubordination. Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony the Ant in Casino.
Putting down his gun and picking up a pen, Cullotta co-authored two books (Cullotta and The Rise & Fall Of A Casino Mobster). Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese used Cullotta as a history consultant and technical advisor in his helming of Casino back in the 1990s. In more recent years, Cullotta transformed himself into an on-line personality, hosting his own YouTube channel and doing personally-curated mob tours of Las Vegas.
Cullotta admitted to his role in multiple Chicago Outfit hits: copping to pulling the trigger in the October 1979 murder of Spilotro crew associate and suspected informer Jerry Lisner in Las Vegas and being the “set up man” in the headline-grabbing 1962 double homicide of independent Windy City wiseguys Jimmy Miraglia and Billy McCarthy, known in the press as the “M&M Murders.”
McCarthy’s was tortured, his head placed in a vise in an incident gruesomely depicted in Casino. In the years following the M&M Murders, Cullotta was nailed for a string of robberies and did six years in federal prison before reuniting with his childhood running buddy Spilotro in Las Vegas.
Cullotta and Spilotro both spawned from the Chicago mob’s Grand Avenue crew on the city’s Westside. Cullotta’s brother Joseph (Joe Kong) Cullotta allegedly acted as a street boss for the crew in the 2000s.
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