One of the more graphic scenes from the hit 1995 movie Casino, shows actor Joe Pesci’s character placing a man’s head in a vise, and squeezing until one of the guy’s eyeballs pops out.

That scene was based on a real-life incident that took place in a Chicago suburb in 1962. The man who was being “squeezed” for information was Billy McCarthy. The guy applying the pressure was Tony Spilotro. And the name he wanted McCarthy to give up was Jimmy Miraglia.

When I was writing CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness, Frank Cullotta told me the full story behind what became known as the M&M Murders and I thought I’d share it with you.

Below is an excerpt from CULLOTTA.

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On May 15, 1962, events occurred that brought about the deaths of five people. Frank Cullotta himself nearly became a sixth victim. Two of the dead were Cullotta’s associates Billy McCarthy and Jimmy Miraglia. A scene in the 1995 movie Casino in which actor Joe Pesci’s character placed a man’s head in a vise and squeezed until an eyeball popped out, is based on McCarthy’s killing. Following are the facts behind what became known as the M&M murders.

One night McCarthy was out drinking by himself and went into the Black Door, a Mob-connected saloon in Rosemont. Two brothers, Ronnie and Phil Scalvo, managed the bar. Their father was closely tied to Outfit boss Tony Accardo.

Billy got into an argument with the brothers, who beat him up and threw him out of the bar. Billy found Jimmy and Frank and told them what had happened. He wanted revenge.

Frank said, “Billy, but you’ve got to forget about it. That place is connected and you can’t fuck around with those guys. If we start any more trouble they’ll whack us all.”

A couple of nights later Billy and Jimmy went back to the Black Door to get even with the Scalvos. Instead, they got another beating. Enraged, they wanted to kill the Scalvos and asked Frank to come in on it with them. He didn’t want to because he knew how well connected the Scalvos were. On the other hand, Jimmy and Billy were part of his crew. Reluctantly he agreed, but with the understanding that the killings couldn’t take place on Mob turf.

For about a week they went back and forth to the lounge watching the brothers. But every time the Scalvos left the tavern a cocktail waitress left with them. The Outfit frowned on killing innocent bystanders, so it was decided to wait for the right opportunity.

One night Frank was at a bowling alley he used to hang out at. He and a girl he dated were in the middle of a game when Billy McCarthy came in. “Jimmy and I are going to the Black Door tonight. Do you want to come with us?” Billy asked.

Frank explained he was on a date. “But I can send her home and go along if you want.”

Billy thought it over. “Never mind, you stay with her.”

“Here, you’d better take the key to my garage in case you need any guns. You know where they are,” Frank said, handing over the key.

The next morning Frank turned on the radio and heard a news flash about a triple murder in Elmwood Park, a suburb about seven miles from Rosemont. Two men and a woman had been gunned down in their car on a side street. No identities were given, but it looked like Billy and Jimmy had not only killed guys that were connected, they’d also killed the waitress and did it in Elmwood Park, a heavily Outfit-connected area.

A couple of days later Tony Spilotro was at Frank’s door. Tony said they had to talk and he didn’t pull any of his punches. “I know you hang out with Billy and Jimmy. They had a problem with the Scalvo brothers, and now the Scalvos are dead, along with a waitress. They [the Outfit] think you, Billy and Jimmy, were the hit men.”

“I had nothing to do with that, Tony, absolutely nothing,” Frank said.

“Look, Frankie, I’ve been sticking up for you with these people. I personally guaranteed them you weren’t there, that if you knew anything you’d tell me, huh? Here’s the way it is, you’ve got to give up Billy and Jimmy. If you don’t, I can’t save you.”

Frank knew he had no choice in the matter. If he tried to cover for Billy and Jimmy he’d be dead, too. He told Tony what happened the night of the murders, that Billy and Jimmy had done them using guns they’d taken from his garage.

Tony seemed satisfied. “You done the right thing, Frankie. Those guys fucked up bad and now they’ll have to pay for it. But you’ve got no problem; you’re going to be okay.”

Two days later Tony asked Frank to meet him at the bowling alley. Tony said, “They [the Outfit] want to talk with Billy McCarthy and they need your help in making the arrangements.”

Frank knew that if he didn’t cooperate he’d be a dead man. “What do you want me to do?”

“Call Billy and ask him to meet you at the North Avenue Chicken House at eight o’clock tonight.”

Frank got Billy on the phone and scheduled the meet. Tony then told Frank, “Meet me at the Howard Johnson’s on North Avenue at seven forty-five. Make sure you bring your car.” Frank knew better than to ask questions.

That night he met Tony and an Outfit driver called Saint at Howard Johnson’s. Tony took Frank’s car and left him with Saint. About forty minutes later Tony came back. He said to Frank, “Here’s your car, see you later.” Frank heard him tell Saint there hadn’t been any problems.

Frank didn’t know for sure what had happened to Billy, but he got part of the story when talking with Tony about ten days later.

“Billy’s wife called me a few days ago looking for him,” Frank said.

“Frankie, Billy’s gone. It’s all over. Forget about it, it’s done. I don’t want you to say anything to Jimmy about it, though.”

They got Jimmy a few days later. Tony told Frank all about it shortly afterward.

“Jimmy was in a lounge when we got him,” Tony said. “We took him in the liquor storage room and beat him, but we didn’t kill him. Later we took him out and put him in the trunk of his own car and took him to where we were keeping Billy’s body.

“Jimmy knew he was going to be killed. He asked to be strangled so his wife could collect some insurance money. We did what he wanted and dumped him in the trunk of a car along with Billy. Then we drove the car to another neighborhood and ditched it. A couple of days later somebody smelled the stench and called the cops.”

Tony was in a talkative mood that day and divulged the rest of the story about the night Billy McCarthy was killed. He said, “He was one tough fucking Irishman. We beat that motherfucker with everything, but he wouldn’t tell us who did the Scalvos with him. We finally got so pissed off we put his head in a vise and turned it. The kid’s eyeball popped right out of his fuckin’ head. Billy begged for me to kill him. He gave up Jimmy’s name just before he died.”

Even though Tony told Frank he was off the hook, he was very cautious for the next six months. Tony stayed in touch with Frank regularly then. “Relax, Frankie,” he said. “You did the Outfit a great favor with Billy and Jimmy. They accept you and they know they can trust you.”

Frank was now connected to the Outfit. He had Tony and a few other guys on his side, so the connection was solid. If he made a big score he’d have to kick back some money to them. Other than that, he could do what he wanted and didn’t have to answer to anybody. That was good enough for Frank.

Denny Griffin

Denny Griffin is a well known true crime writer and author. He is also a major part of the CrimeWire project.

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