Death commutes 92-year-old Outfit escapee’s sentence
‘LITTLE NICK’ MONTOS Burglar, safecracker was serving 40-year term , sought clemency
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.”
Nick “Little Nick” Montos was booked in 1985 after an arrest for a heist in Hammond.
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.