Frank Cullotta, a veteran mobster who later became a Las Vegas attraction for his in-depth knowledge of organized crime’s history in Sin City, has died. He was 81 and passed from complications caused by COVID-19.
Cullotta was the right-hand man to Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro, portrayed by Joe Pesci in the film Casino. Another of their childhood friends, Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal, was the inspiration for Robert De Niro’s Ace Rothstein in the film.
Cullotta arrived in Las Vegas from his Chicago hometown in the 1970s and formed a burglary group known as the Hole in the Wall gang. The name derived for their propensity to bust through buildings to avoid door and window alarms. Cullotta ran the operation and paid cuts to Spilotro, and also performed other tasks, including murders, at his childhood friend’s request.
However, an unsuccessful burglary saw Cullotta arrested. He soon feared that Spilotro was targeting him for a hit, and so he turned on Spilotro, later testifying against him. The federal agents felt it was the most valuable tool they had in their fight against organized crime. That’s even though they couldn’t get a conviction against Spilotro, who was later killed by the mob, with Cullotta entering the Witness Protection Program.
Cullotta stayed in the federal program for several years, then emerged and took back his real identity when he felt he was no longer a target. He became a well-known figure of Vegas’s darker past, running his own YouTube channel and organizing a ‘Vegas Mob Tour’ and a Casino tour.
He was a consultant on the 1995 Scorcese film and had a brief cameo as a hit man. Cullotta appears near the end of the film and puts two bullets in the back of Andy Stone’s (Alan King) head in a steak house parking lot (see it in the excerpt above).
He later appeared in an episode of the Food Network’s Bar Rescue, and was part of the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s podcast Mobbed Up: The Fight For Las Vegas.
In 2016, Cullotta appeared in several episodes of the AMC documentary series The Making of the Mob. He also was the star of a 2014 installment of the British series Locked Up Abroad in the episode Vegas Mobster.