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Mafia Special

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Date Host George Knapp
Guests Dennis N. Griffin, Frank Cullotta, Andrew DiDonato

The Mafia is a shell of its former self because of federal prosecutions, internal warfare, and competition from other organized crime groups. But a few old-style wise-guys have survived prison and the Mob Wars, and two of them spoke with George Knapp about their previous lives in this 4-hour special. Crime writer Denny Griffin was featured for the entire show, which included mobster Andrew DiDonato, who survived bloody wars between rival Mafia families (2nd & 4th hours), and Frank Cullotta, a Chicago hit-man who was portrayed in the movie Casino (3rd & 4th hours). Griffin assessed the Mafia of today, and said it was a different breed. "The loyalty all goes from the bottom up, not to the top down," and more members are turning on the Mob than before, he said. Griffin added that years ago, you wouldn't have seen crimes like child prostitution and human trafficking that some Mob members have been arrested for recently.

In the 1970s, Tony Spilotro was sent by the Chicago Mob to oversee their operations in Las Vegas, and he assembled a crew of burglars, arsonists, and killers, including his childhood friend Frank Cullotta from Chicago, to watch his back and provide 'muscle' to shakedown drug dealers and illegal bookies, Griffin detailed. The crew became known as the 'Hole in the Wall Gang' based on their penchant for breaking into places by cutting a hole into the building they were burglarizing. "There's no such thing as paychecks when you belong to the Outfit or a Syndicate-- you got to go out and earn," said Cullotta. In 1982, Cullotta had a falling out with Spilotro, and believed he was about to be killed, so he became a government witness and was instrumental in the arrest of a number of mobsters.

DiDonato was in a similar situation, working for the Gambino crime family out of New York City, and when two of his close associates were killed, he figured he was next. Like Cullotta, he also flipped and became a government witness, and testified at several high profile Mob trials. DiDonato talked about his collaboration with Griffin on their book Surviving the Mob, which depicts "the average street soldier trying to work his way up the ranks," while just trying to stay alive.

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Bumper music from Sunday April 29, 2012

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