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Authors: Adela Gregory

Crypt 33 (34 page)

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The Code of Omertà
he final name on the Mafia hit list was Frank Cullotta. He was a lieutenant for Spilotro, a rank between soldier and capo. Frank was a boyhood chum of Anthony's prior to becoming a Mafia hood. “[Cullotta] operated together with Spilotro and Schweihs.” Jules advised. “Frank Cullotta testified against [gangsters] in Las Vegas and Chicago,” an informant remarked without hesitation.
On a very warm, dry day in June 1986, in the desert of Las Vegas, federal agents nabbed Frank Cullotta. He was advised of his rights as the cold handcuffs gripped his sweaty wrists. Within an hour Cullotta was booked, photographed, and fingerprinted—an old routine for the mobster. When they were finished the police officer turned him around roughly and click... the cuffs were locked tight once again. Frank was led to a cell. “We're going to throw the key away,” a cop shouted as he locked the cell door, walking away smiling.
“Screw you!” Frank yelled out.
Cullotta had been charged with receiving stolen property two years before, but he had a long criminal record and was suspected of many other crimes as well. Indeed, if the government could prove other serious crimes he had allegedly committed, the sentencing judge's words would haunt him for the rest of a life spent behind bars. Unlike Schweihs, Frank had once taken the oath of silence, the code of Omertà, but that silence would end.
Word reached the streets that the feds had Cullotta, and within hours a message was sent: “Frankie, watch your ass. Spilotro put the word out. He is going to whack you.”
“Fuck the code,” he told the agents. “I want to talk. Protect me, protect me,” Cullotta insisted, and he was given assurance. Government agents got the break they had long been waiting for.
One police source could not believe what he was hearing, stating, “You can't keep him quiet. ”
Gangster Frank Cullotta, Spilotro's childhood buddy and partner in crime, told the FBI, “Anthony won respect from the bosses.” He alleged that in 1962 Spilotro had murdered two renegade mob killers and stuffed their bodies in a trunk.
Soon after Cullotta's affidavit, the Ant was arrested, tried, and acquitted of the murders. Criminal Court Judge Thomas J. Maloney insisted there was reasonable doubt. Apparently Frank Cullotta had not teamed up with Spilotro on these hits, or he could have incriminated himself.
Frank Cullotta could not forgive Spilotro for his past acts. After being arrested in Las Vegas, Spilotro had abandoned his friend and committed the cardinal sin of not providing for Cullotta's wife and daughter. Now that the Ant wanted to silence him, Cullotta set out to pay him back!
Cullotta provided assorted details of some fifty contract killings involving the Chicago Mafia, crimes that were considered unsolved homicides on police files.
The pigeon was rewarded for his many songs. Frank Cullotta joined the witness protection program, was relocated and given a new identity, and was given assistance in obtaining legitimate employment.
Anthony Spilotro was alive and well when an informant identified him as one of Marilyn Monroe's killers. “Under indictment K.C. [Kansas City] conspiracy trial in L.V. [Las Vegas] skimming—Las Vegas enforcer for Chicago interest—suspect in numerous gangland assassinations. Italian, 5'6”, dark, age 50.”
In 1971, Spilotro packed his bags and left the Windy City. He was going to the desert as overseer of the Las Vegas casinos in which the Chicago underworld had interests. There, he would become known as the most powerful organized-crime figure in Nevada.
Headquarters for the new overseer was at Circus Circus Casino. Here he ran the gift shop, taking out a business license in his wife's name.
For fifteen years Anthony Spilotro had been a target for prosecution on charges ranging from burglary to murder. So far the only arrests he could not beat were the juvenile infraction of stealing a shirt and the adult fraud charge of lying on a home loan application, for which he was convicted and fined one dollar. At age forty-seven, the Ant was arrested, along with eleven others, on conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines and racketeering. An indictment was returned in September 1983 and, after numerous delays, the case was ready for trial in 1985. But the charges were later dropped after a mistrial.
Cullotta turned informant to escape a life sentence and entered the government witness program. His testimony did no good in the earlier murder case against Spilotro, and the jury refused to buy Cullotta's story this time. A mistrial was declared. Once again, in April of 1986, the Ant walked away a free man. Rumors of jury tampering arose, but charges were not filed.
Michael Spilotro did not enjoy his brother's freedom. Awaiting another trial in Chicago, he had just been indicted for his organized-crime links to prostitution, credit card fraud, and extortion.
In June 1986, the Spilotro brothers left Michael's suburban house in Oak Park, Illinois. The two eldest had been summoned to meet Joe “Negall” Ferriola, for years the top henchman of the notorious Fiore “Fifi” Buccieri and then for James “Turk” Torello.
Anthony Spilotro had stolen an estimated eight to ten million in cash from casino skimming, juice-loan operations, and stolen-goods sales. The money belonged to the Chicago mob and they believed it was buried. Before Anthony's body would be temporarily buried in a tomb, the treasure had to be unearthed.
Headlines around the nation reported the Spilotro brothers missing, feared to be victims of foul play. Then on Monday, June 23, 1986, state troopers from northwestern Morocco, Indiana, found two bodies in a cornfield, believed to be those of the Spilotro brothers.
Sources close to the probe said informants named Chicago mob chieftain Joseph “Joe Negall” Ferriola as the man who had ordered the hit. One of the prime suspects in the Spilotro brothers' murders, according to the FBI, was Frank Schweihs, Anthony's long-time pal and accomplice.
The Cover-up
arilyn Monroe's murderers expeditiously departed her west side home virtually undetected. They left behind just one trace of incriminating evidence—Hoffa's telltale room bugs. Giancana gave his wiretapper instructions to keep the tapes running while the homicide was in progress. The tapes would be his insurance policy for one more attempt to control the Kennedys.
Author of
The Ominous Ear,
king of the wiretappers, chief investigator to Jimmy Hoffa, Bernard Spindel had his ear in Marilyn's bedroom, and in the rest of her house as well as in the whole of Peter Lawford's home. When he wrote his book in 1968, Spindel pointed out, “When a citizen taps a phone it's called wiretapping. For the FBI it's labeled monitoring, when the phone company is listening in, they interpret the act as just observing.”
In 1968 Bobby Kennedy was criticized for his exclusive use of wiretaps, including the illegal monitoring of Martin Luther King's phones and the rooms he frequented. The attorney general announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination that year.
Around 3:10 in the morning on Friday, December 16, 1966, a well-planned raid at Spindel's home in Holmes, New York, was executed. A caravan of marked and unmarked state police cars slowly approached his driveway. Spindel was awakened by a knocking at the door, saw flashing red lights and car headlights. The wiretapper knew his uninvited callers were cops. Spindel shouted out, “Who are you, what do you want?”
“We have an order for your arrest, search warrant for your house, open up,” Investigator Carmine Palombo of the New York State Police called out. The warrant had been issued by New York County District Attorney Frank Hogan.
“It's illegal, out of Hogan's jurisdiction,” Spindel later pleaded, to no avail.
Herman Richard Zapf, assistant D.A. of Putnam County, stood by the front door; his superior, William Benchtel, was a few feet behind him. The chief investigator for the New York Telephone Company was also present that very cold morning. Spindel demanded to see the warrant, asking that a copy be pushed through the front door. “No, you'll see it when I hand it to you,” Palombo said.
“Screw all of you,” Spindel shouted from behind the door. Reaching for a twelve-gauge shotgun, he pointed the weapon toward a window. Zapf, Bechtel, Palombo, and the other agents took cover. “Show your search warrant, or get the hell off my property.” Spindel could be seen, ready to pump the shotgun. Palombo, in compliance, carefully held the document up to a window. Spindel, assured that it was proper, opened the front door, then dashed to a phone. Frantically he dialed a lawyer. His attorney was not delighted to be awakened, but he agreed to provide immediate legal assistance.
The state police, district attorney's agents, and other undisclosed law-enforcement offices began to tear Spindel's house apart, piece by piece, almost stone by stone. “Where's the Marilyn Monroe-Kennedy tapes?” one agent asked. Spindel did not answer. In the mid-sixties, search warrants were not required to detail exactly what a search was for. Anything found, regardless of its nature, could be removed from the suspect's property. The charges were nebulous: “Feloniously, wrongfully, willfully, unlawfully, and knowingly concealed and withheld and aided in concealing and withholding certain property belonging to the New York Telephone Company.”
Barbara Spindel, wife of the accused, collapsed during the raid. Her doctor was summoned, arriving within a half hour of the call. Mrs. Spindel suffered a serious heart attack, the physician suspected, and she was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital. Mrs. Spindel was diagnosed at the medical center as suffering permanent cardiac damage.
Spindel's house was trashed; he was placed in handcuffs and taken into custody. When court convened in the town of Southeast, New York, at nine in the morning, the eavesdropper was arraigned before the Honorable Behrend Goosen, Justice of Peace. Spindel was held over for trial, accused of possessing telephone company property. When Spindel produced paid bills, establishing he legally owned the equipment, the case was dismissed. But the New York D.A. got what he really wanted.
Unbeknown to law-enforcement agents, Spindel's residence, which housed much of his intelligence lab, was bugged. As the raid began, Spindel had thrown a secret switch activating a hidden recording system. The D.A.'s search squad had overlooked Spindel's room bugs. Upon release from jail, Spindel returned home only to find his case files, recording equipment, and tapes gone. One item in particular was of major concern-a box of fifteen-inch tape reels recorded at
/16th speed. It was identified only as the “M.M. tapes.” The irate man proceeded to his hidden bugging chamber and retrieved the tape he had made of the raid, but had no equipment to listen to it. When he purchased a tape recorder, voices of the raiders could be heard—some clearly, others faint. The distinguished wiretapper took notes of the conversations, which included, “Hoffa's man is gonna get what he deserves” and “Spindel takes blood money from the Mafia.” What caught his attention was mention by an unidentified voice saying, “What do Marilyn Monroe tapes have to do with Bobby Kennedy?”
Spindel's attorney filed a legal brief, requesting the property be returned. Reporter Robert Tomasson's sharp eye picked up the details. A three-column story hit the
New York Times
on December 21, 1966. The headline blasted,
and the article disclosed that Spindel wanted the Marilyn Monroe tapes back. He asserted they contained evidence concerning the circumstances surrounding Monroe's death. The New York D.A. denied having the devastating tapes. Years later, after Spindel's death, they admitted the Monroe tapes had been either lost or destroyed.
An informant, an associate of Spindel's, asserted that several copies of the Monroe bugging tapes had been made. One of the first was hand-delivered to Edward Bennett Williams, Hoffa's attorney.
When Lyndon B. Johnson declined to choose Bobby Kennedy as his 1964 running mate, the attorney general resigned his office, knowing he would be replaced. While under Joe Kennedy's influence, Bobby ran for and won the New York Senate race, an office he held until his assassination on June 6, 1968.
Bobby Kennedy manipulated the Justice Department in New York City. When the New York D.A. went after Spindel, he was not looking for a burglar or petty thief suspected of stealing phone company equipment. That crime would not justify a raid in the middle of the morning, nor would it call for the district attorney's top people to accompany the law-enforcement officers ordered by Bobby. There was but one objective—to obtain the incriminating Hoffa/Monroe/Kennedy tapes.
The following year, Spindel was arrested and convicted of conspiring to provide technical information about wiretapping. A private detective retained by Huntington Hartford, heir to the A&P grocery chain, asked Spindel for advice. Involved in a bitter divorce, Hartford wanted to tap his wife's phones. Spindel did not plant the taps or record any calls; he acted only as a consultant.
The Justice Department concluded a lengthy investigation of the Hartford wiretap. The private investigator and his agents who actually did the bugging were set free. The millionaire who paid for the tap was not arrested. Spindel, the consultant, was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison.
Spindel had been a wiretap consultant many times before. He served as a technical advisor for an ad hoc citizens' organization, the New York City Anti-Crime Commission. The committee was established to right police corruption in New York. Spindel, as well as our informant, instructed law enforcement agencies on the art of bugging and countermeasures. Hoffa's man had eavesdropping facilities in Alexandria, Virginia, not far from the CIA headquarters, one in the Watergate complex, and another off Pennsylvania Avenue, near the White House.
Barbara Spindel claimed officials offered to release her husband if he would talk about the Kennedys. After spending eighteen months in jail Spindel became a free man, not because he talked, but because he was dying. His death came on February 2, 1972, at the age of forty-five. He left behind a wife and six children—two of whom allegedly attempted suicide soon after his demise.
In May of 1984, one of Marilyn's neighbors recalled, “To tell you the truth, it's been so long ago,” referring to August 4, 1962, “but I am satisfied that I heard an ambulance coming to her house. I don't remember what ambulance company it was.” He didn't give it much thought at the time, as she had died that night and an ambulance arriving on the scene would have been routine.
According to the police, Marilyn's dead body was seen by her housekeeper, doctors, and police officers, but none admitted calling for an ambulance. All ambulance services still in business that had then served the Brentwood area were contacted. But twenty-two years after the fact, no records remained and long-time employees claimed no knowledge of being called to Monroe's house. An extensive search of county rescue ambulance files was made, and again there was no record of an emergency call.
In 1962 Schaefer Ambulance Service was the largest private firm of its type in the city. Twenty-three years later, the owner, Walter Schaefer, stated that they received the call but could not recall who phoned them. Eunice Murray, Marilyn's housekeeper, most likely called Dr. Greenson, her immediate superior, who in turn made the urgent request for the Schaefer ambulance and then called Rubin and Engelberg.
“Marilyn Monroe was comatose when we arrived,” Schaefer reported with certainty. Schaefer said she was still breathing when he transported her to Santa Monica hospital.
A report was filed with the Los Angeles Police Department as required by law. It listed Marilyn Monroe as the person transported and Santa Monica Hospital emergency room as the receiving facility. Hundreds of such transport reports are sent to the police department, often several days after their occurrence. It is difficult to believe this distinctive report about Marilyn did not receive someone's immediate attention at the Los Angeles Police Department.
Schaefer's account would have been earthshaking, so when he was asked why he didn't come forward with this information his response was, “No one asked me. After all, this is Hollywood!” Besides his recollection, there should be two other witnesses, a driver and an assistant, whom Schaefer identified as Ken Hunter and Murray Liebowitz. Hunter's statement was: “The exact time I cannot say but Marilyn was not responding when we arrived.” Hunter confirmed his assistant that night was Mr. Liebowitz. But when asked about the incident in 1982 by the district attorney's investigator, Hunter, contradicting Schaefer, said Marilyn was already dead when they arrived, and the police were present.
Liebowitz has since changed his name to Lieb and moved away from the Los Angeles area. He first denied working for Schaefer Ambulance at all, then admitted he was an employee, asserting however, he was “off duty” the night in question. Angered when he was tracked down and questioned, Liebowitz said, “I don't want to be involved in this, forget you found me, leave me alone.”
The Schaefer report and the Santa Monica Hospital's records are now deemed to have “never existed.”
Peter Lawford inadvertently got involved in the cover-up in an attempt to whitewash the story of her death. Schaefer Ambulance Service records did not show the return of Marilyn's corpse to her west side home. Peter Lawford called her home continually that night to ask her to dinner, he claimed. Peter, while drunk, under the influence of cocaine and PCP, talked about Marilyn's last day. “She was rushed to emergency and was dead or dying,” he confessed. “I went to the hospital; she was no longer with us.” He changed his story repeatedly. More believable is that one or both doctors were in the ambulance at the time of her death and directed the ambulance and her body back to her house to confer with Attorney Milton Rudin and Arthur Jacobs, in order to present Marilyn's untimely death in a more reasonable light consistent with Hollywood fantasy. Immediately suspecting the Kennedys might have had something to do with the death in response to the threats she was making, like a good soldier Lawford tried to cover the Kennedys' tracks. He called a private detective, Fred Otash, and, according to Otash's summation, the detective quickly removed whatever he could from Marilyn's house but then was asked to leave.
Bobby Kennedy had an alibi. He had been hoping to make a last-ditch effort to persuade the actress to back down on her threats, not realizing her home was bugged. The attorney general was attempting to cover up his extramarital affair. On Friday August 3, 1962, Bobby and his wife, Ethel, and four of their children arrived in San Francisco, about three hundred miles north of Los Angeles. The purpose of his visit was two-fold: to be the keynote speaker at the California Bar Association convention and to have a short vacation in Gilmore, California, but one unscheduled secret visit to Marilyn was arranged. The Kennedys set up camp at the Bates ranch, sixty miles south of San Francisco. John Bates, a wealthy lawyer and friend, was honored to have the attorney general as his guest. Bobby's visit to Marilyn Monroe's home the day of her death is verified by several witnesses. But how did he get from northern to southern California? Bates said it would only have been possible if Bobby were Peter Pan. He was almost correct. Brother-in-law Peter Lawford arranged to have a private helicopter fly Bobby from the Bay Area. Bobby's helicopter landed at Culver Field, near Santa Monica, only a few minutes' drive from Lawford's beach home.
BOOK: Crypt 33
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