Frank Cullotta, Former Chicago & Las Vegas Mobster, Dies at 81

Frank Cullotta Dead

Screengrab via YouTube/Coffee With Cullotta Frank Cullotta pictured during a news report in the 1980s.

Frank Cullotta, the former member of the Chicago Outfit and Las Vegas mobster, died on August 20 at the age of 81.

Cullotta’s death was confirmed through a video that was published on his official YouTube channel, Coffee With Cullotta. According to the video, Cullotta has been in the hospital during the last weeks of his life. Cullotta’s cause of death was not made public. A video that was published on the site on August 16 said that Cullotta was “not feeling well.”

Cullotta’s tales from his mobster life in Chicago and Las Vegas helped to inspire the movie, Casino.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Cullotta Had Been Suffering from Coronavirus

In August 2020, a CNN feature on business struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic in Las Vegas, businessman Adam Flowers mentioned that Cullotta was suffering from coronavirus. Flowers said that Cullotta was still sick in the feature. Cullotta and Flowers worked together on the former mobster’s tour guide operation.

Flowers said that as a presymptomatic carrier of coronavirus, he met Cullotta for lunch. Flowers said that the pair removed their face masks. He said, “We took our masks off, and we sat there and ate. That must be when I gave it to him.” Flowers said that Cullotta tested positive for the virus shortly after that meeting.

2. Cullotta Has Confessed to Having People Killed on the Orders of Tony Spilotro

In 1979, Cullotta, a native of Chicago, relocated to Las Vegas to join fellow mafia member Tony Spilotro. The group became known as The Hole in the Wall Gang.

In 1982, Cullotta became a government witness against Spilotro and other Las Vegas gangster after federal agents played him a tape featuring his former partner saying the gang needed “clean [their] dirty laundry,” according to a United Press International report from 1983. During the trial, Cullotta confessed to having killed people on Spilotro killed.

3. Cullotta Was Tecnhical Advisor on the Set of Casino & Appeared in a Small Role in the Movie

For the 1995 movie Casino, Cullotta was renamed Frank Marino and portrayed by Frank Vincent. Cullotta served as one of the film’s technical advisors and appeared in a small role. Cullotta told the Las Vegas Sun in 2015 that author Nicholas Pileggi, who penned the book the movie was based on, had told him there would not have been a Casino movie without Cullotta.

According to Cullotta’s IMDb page, he has also appeared as himself in the television series Locked Up Abroad, America’s Book of Secrets, The Makin of the Mob and Sinatra: Dark Star.

4. Cullotta Compared His Life in the Mafia to ‘Fighting a War’

When asked about killing people for a living, Cullotta told the Sun, “It’s like fighting a war. I hate to use the military as a comparison, but that’s how it felt; I was carrying out an order.” Cullotta said in the same interview that he often suffered tension headaches when he thought about his career in the mafia. He said, ” I used to have headaches all the time, from tension, and I don’t have headaches anymore. I’m clean today. I’m very clean.”

In July 2017, Cullotta was the subject of a Daily Beast feature that detailed his life as a tour guide in Las Vegas.

Cullotta co-authored two books about his life, 2007’s Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, Government Witness and 2017’s The Rise and Fall of a ‘Casino’ Mobster: The Tony Spilotro Story Through A Hitman’s Eyes. Cullotta told The Daily Beast that it was his literary partner, Denny Griffin, who worked with businessman Robert Allen who lobbied to have Cullotta’s tours approved by city officials.

5. While in the Witness Protection Program, Cullotta Lived in Mississippi, Alabama, Texas & Colorado

Following his departure from the mafia, Cullotta entered a witness protection program. Cullotta told Forbes in 2013 that he lived in Texas, Estes Park, Colorado, Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama. Cullotta said that he was regularly moved around because of a contract that was put on his life.

In one instance, Cullotta said that he ran into the sister of an old friend in Mobile, Alabama. He moved to Mississippi the following day. Cullotta told Forbes, “You hear my voice? Can you imagine me living in Biloxi, Mississippi? Do you think I would fit there or Texas? Of course, people would look at me and they would say, ‘you’re a Yankee, you’re a gangster, you sound like a gangster.”

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