Death com­mutes 92-year-old Out­fit es­capee’s sen­tence

‘LIT­TLE NICK’ MON­TOS Bur­glar, safe­cracker was serv­ing 40-year term , sought clemency

Chicago Sun-Times - - Metro - BY SHAMUS TOOMEY

Ni­cholas Ge­orge Mon­tos was once one of the na­tion’s top bur­glars and safe­crack­ers, a ca­reer crim­i­nal from Chicago who had his own set of rules to avoid the cops— in­clud­ing chang­ing his brand of beer ev­ery few months.

The 5-foot-5 “Lit­tle Nick” was bru­tal, too. Leg­endary Sun-Times mob re­porter Art Pe­tacque in 1985 called him one of the Chicago Out­fit’s top hit men, though he was never con­victed of mur­der.

Mon­tos also holds the du­bi­ous claim of be­ing the first man to make the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list twice.

Pris­ons couldn’t hold him — by 1956, he’d bro­ken out of five.

On Sun­day, the 92-year-old es­caped his last prison cell by dy­ing of nat­u­ral causes at a Mas­sachusetts hospi­tal while serv­ing a 33-to 40-year sen­tence for a botched rob­bery that put an em­bar­rass­ing end to his life on the streets.

He was 78 in 1995 when he went in to an an­tique store in Brook­line, Mass., pulled a si­lencer-equipped pis­tol and tried to rob the 73-year-old woman be­hind the counter.

But she grabbed an alu­minum bat and cracked him over the head. She called the cops and whacked him again when he didn’t go qui­etly.

“I don’t take any crap from any­body,” the store owner, So­nia Paine, said in 1995. “I beat the hell out of him.”

At the time, Mon­tos had been on the lam for nine years — in­clud­ing a stint in Greece — to avoid a 40-year sen­tence for a Ham­mond jewel heist.

Mon­tos’ first ar­rest came at age 14. When he died, he was Mas­sachusetts’ old­est in­mate — an ac­com­plish­ment con­sid­er­ing he’d been sen­tenced to death in Ge­or­gia in 1956 for beat­ing and rob­bing a 74-yearold farmer of his $1,000 life sav­ings. That landed him on the FBI’s list the first time.

Mon­tos was 18 and in Mi­ami when he made his first es­cape from jail. He ran from a chain gang in Alabama in 1942 and es­caped again in 1944.

Dur­ingWorld War II, he lived in Broad­view, where his 23rd Av­enue neigh­bors knew him as Arthur Brown, the guy who put­tered around his lawn and car­ried a suit­case. In 1945, the neigh­bors learned the suit­case was filled with bur­glar’s tools, and he’d been car­ry­ing them to Ten­nessee and Alabama for bur­glar­ies.

He was wanted in a 1953 rob­bery of $153,000 from a Florida bank. In 1954, he was im­pli­cated in the Wis­con­sin rob­bery of in­ven­tor Os­car Zerk. An ac­com­plice held a gun to Zerk’s head as Mon­tos’ crew made off with $200,000 in jew­els and art.

The feds caught up to Mon­tos in sub­ur­ban Westch­ester that year. They also ar­rested his 22-year-old girl­friend, Lila Mae Nail, known as “Doo­dle­bug,” on charges of har­bor­ing a fugi­tive. Mon­tos agreed to plead guilty in ex­change for Nail’s release. The Sun-Times de­scribed at the time how Nail “looked grate­fully at Mon­tos” be­fore she left the court­room.

Mon­tos got seven years in prison, con­cur­rent with a sen­tence in Mis­sis­sippi for a safe bur­glary. But in Jan­uary 1956, he and an­other man used a hack­saw to es­cape a Mis­sis­sippi prison. That landed him on the Most Wanted list for the sec­ond time. Both fugi­tives were soon col­lared in a Mem­phis mo­tel af­ter agents shot tear gas into the room.

In the 1970s, the Sun-Times re­ported Mon­tos had risen to “a po­si­tion of im­por­tance in the Chicago mob.” When he was ar­rested for the Ham­mond heist in 1985, it was re­ported he was in big trou­ble with the mob. The ar­rest vi­o­lated a pro­ba­tion the syn­di­cate put him on in 1982, when he botched a bur­glary they hadn’t ap­proved.

At the time of his death, Mon­tos was wait­ing on a re­quest to Mas­sachusetts Gov. De­val Pa­trick to com­mute his sen­tence.

“I re­al­ize that my crim­i­nal record is ex­ten­sive,” he wrote to the pa­role board. “I sus­pect there may be some who will sug­gest I de­serve no mercy or com­pas­sion. I can un­der­stand their feel­ings. But there is no way I am go­ing to live to serve out my sen­tence.”

Con­tribut­ing: AP

Nick “Lit­tle Nick” Mon­tos was booked in 1985 af­ter an ar­rest for a heist in Ham­mond.

AP

ABOVE: Mon­tos was the first to make the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list twice — in­clud­ing in 1950. BELOW: Mon­tos, be­ing led away from the Mem­phis jail, made five prison es­capes by age 40.

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