Al CaponeI have been researching for my next podcast. I have invited FBI (Ret) Agent Bill Ouseley to participate. We will discuss the relationship between and connection between Nick Civella, the Chicago Outfit and the Kansas City Outfit. One thing I learned is the relationship between Chicago and Kansas City started before Nick Civella was of any importance. Al Capone was a frequent visitor to KC.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Bellerive hotel at 214 E. Armour boasted a parade of famous guests: actress Mary Pickford, silent-film actresses Lillian and Dorothy Gish, contralto Marian Anderson and Scarface Al Capone stayed there. Stars like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Liberace, Al Capone Bellerive_HotelBob Hope and Jerry Lewis performed at the hotel’s swanky Casbah nightclub. Old Scarface was also known to vacation at the famous Elms Hotel and Resort in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

Al Capone also stayed at the Rieger Hotel, 20th and Main. The Rieger has been preserved and currently contains a upscale bar and grill. the owners have created a special blend whiskey named J. Rieger & Company.

Hank StramWith the Chiefs heading for the playoffs, I think back to the 1969-1970 season. The KC Chiefs were headed to the Super Bowl against the favored Minnesota Vikings. Nationally, the Vikings were getting all the action to win. Locally, the money was going down on the Chiefs. Nick Civella called the tapped North View Social club’s phone. This was the clubhouse known as “The Trap.” The main bookies, Dude Fontanello and Frank Tousa were worried about the “Book” being out of whack. Dude noticed too much local money going down on the Chiefs. They needed to “lay off” the Chief’s action to another city. At another city like Chicago or Minneapolis where there would be more money down on the Vikings.

You see, the Mob does not gamble with the “Book.” They equalize the number of bets on each team in any given contest. The losers pay the losing bet and a 10% “Vig” to the bookie. The winner gets his win while the Mob keeps the “Vig.” Vig is short for vigorsh.

My Oklahoma friend, Richard M. Mullins, has released his true crime book on Oklahoma criminals. What first drew my attention was his chapter on the James S. “Jimmy” Duardi attempt to take over the Grand Lake area and open it up to illegal gambling, prostitution and other criminal behavior.

So, if you want the definitive book about a crew of dangerous Oklahoma criminals,  click hereOklahoma book.










Sonny killingBlack Mass is the type of story that I call, “You can’t write this Sh$t,” this has to be lived. Johnny Depp, as James “Whitey” Bulger, has the dead eyed soulless persona down. I have met two other men in my life like this, and when they looked me in the eye, they were devoid of any human feeling. I can recommend this film for that alone.

The true crime fanatic has another reason to see this narrative film. Screenwriter, Mark Mallouk’s depiction of F.B.I. agent John Connolly as James “Whitey” Bulger’s informant handler was so true to life, it was scary. Australian actor, Joel Edgerton, captured the personality of a man in over his head at work. He became that ego maniac with an inferiority complex whose reach has far exceeded his grasp. As a young policeman, I learned that smart and capable professional criminals often become “informants” and use their handler’s egos to achieve their own criminal goals. It takes a strong personality and self discipline to control them, Connolly had neither. Screenwriters Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth  were able to capture the subtle intricacies of that type of relationship. The one thing that did not ring true (for me, it is important that a true crime story is believable) is the scene where Whitey has an interaction with Connolly’s wife. The only other problem I had with the film was, there is no “good guy.” But, the story was so compelling and well acted, I can forgive them. In the subculture of real cops and real robbers, many times there is no real good guy.

Mark Mallouk is from  Prairie Village, Kansas which means he probably attended Shawnee Mission East High School. Mallouk graduated from the University of Kansas with three degrees; a BA in Economics, a BA in Psychology and a BA in Human Development. He then attended Pepperdine University and obtained a MBA. He was bitten by the film bug in L.A. and completed the Professional Program in Screenwriting at the UCLA Graduate School of Theater, Film and Television.

Mallouk is working on a screenplay about Frank Calabrese Sr and the crime family he ran out of Chicago that was known as The Outfit. Frank Calabrese Sr. was a vicious mob extortionist and killer. I met his son, Frank Calabrese Jr. at the 2013 Las Vegas Mob-Con. He is the co-author of Operation Family Secrets, the true story of how a father pushes his son into the mob and what happened to bring Calabrese Jr. to the point that he wore a wire on his own father. This is another compelling mob story that should be made into a movie. Frank Jr. helped bring down his own father for involvement in 13 gangland murders as well as other crimes.

Cuban Gardens 1            In 1929, John Lazia owned a luxurious dinner club and casino called the Cuban Gardens. Like the Mirror Lake County Club and the Riverside Race track, this club was located in a rural area, north of the Missouri River. It was very close to the Race Track. Lazia required customers to be formally dressed. Like any respectable speakeasy, a new customer had to have a connection to gain admittance. The staff was all sharply dressed. A close look at some revealed a gun in their waistband. The entertainment was always a big band,  usually playing swing or Latin dance music.

Andy Kirk was a 1930s era jazz musician and leader of the nationally known, Clouds of Joy. Kansas City’s famous pianist, Mary Lou Williams was a member of this band. Chuck Haddix in his book,  Kansas City Jazz – From Ragtime to Bebop, recounts a Mary Lou Williams’ story about the band’s brush with Kansas City’s dark side of the jazz scene. The band was playing at the Cuban Gardens. Andy Kirk was playing tuba while the lead singer, Bill Massey, was conducting the band. Bill Massey got into an argument with the club manager. Ms. Williams described him as a “hood” who said, “You guys better pack up fast, the rest of you are too nice for me to kill Massey.” She reports they packed up and left. The Clouds of Joy resumed playing at the Pla-Mor, a large Cuban Gardens 2ballroom located at Linwood and Main.

An interesting fact is that the Cuban Gardens was located just inside Clay County, about 1/2 mile east of the Platte County Line on 9 Highway about where the current Broadway Extension crosses over 9 Highway. This is about 1 mile west from the KC Waterworks plant. The Riverside Race Track was probably less than a mile west into Platte County. The old Cuban Gardens site was completely wiped out by new construction of 9 Highway by 1970. See the facebook site On the Spot Kansas City (History of KC’s criminal past) for aerial photos.

Tom Pendergast had a long time interest in horse racing. William H. Reddig, in his book “Tom’s Town”, explains how horse race betting became legal. The Supreme Court interpreted a law that declared the “certificate” form of betting in a horse race was legal. This meant that a race fan could “contribute” some money  to “improve” the breed. Soon a group of Pendergast associates formed the Riverside Park Jockey Club and took over a Riverside, Missouri dog track. This became known as Pendergast’s Track.

Local gamblers saw an opportunity in opening a gaming casino close to the track. Mr. Heddig reports that a Kansas City gambler named Jake Feinberg opened the Green Hills Club in the area. This was soon closed by Platte County Presbyterians. Shortly after, just over the Clay County line, Johnny Lazia opened the Cuban Gardens.

Phil McCrory, a Pendergast associate, advanced $12,000.00 to Lazia.   In an interesting side story, in 1922, the Drover’s Bank in the Livestock Exchange building was robbed of $100,000.00. The money was never recovered. The suspects were found to be St. Louis criminals. The getaway car was found. This car was stolen from Phil McCrory and left within 50 feet of where it was taken. A subsequent investigation caught the bandits and there never was any known connection to Pendergast or McCrory.

Cuban Gardens 3When Lazia opened the Cuban Gardens in Clay County, the open gambling was soon attacked by the Ministerial Alliance of Liberty. After several raids by the Clay County sheriff, no evidence of gambling was found.

In Tom’s Town, Mr. Heddig reports Lazia kept armed guards at a small gatehouse to admit the autos of Customers. Inside the club, the gambling was like that in the back of Rick’s in the film, “Casablanca.” The actual casino was in a back room closed off to the restaurant and guarded by armed men in evening clothes.

It is reported many of the elite Kansas City folks frequented this club for the great food cooked by chefs imported from Europe.  This clipping tells how they were able to avoid Clay County law enforcement.  The Cuban Gardens closed on New Year’s Day in 1931. John Lazia would be the victim of a Mob execution in 1934.  Tom Pendergast’s reign will end in prison in 1939.

In the 1950s, a popular method of operating a gambling club was to buy or open a club outside any city limits in the County. Law enforcement was lax and more rural than inside the city. In the 1950s, a mob gambler named Edward “Eddie Spitz” Osadchey organized and started the Mirror Lake Golf and Country Club, Inc. This club was located on 45 Highway just west of Parkville, Missouri. The grounds are part of the National Golf Club today.     PHOTO: WILLIAM OUSELEY

Mob politiciansRetired F.B.I. agent William Ouseley wrote in Mobsters In Our Midst, ” On December 13, 1959, a 25th wedding anniversary party was held for Nick and Kathrine Civella at the Mirror Lake Country Club . . .” Agent Ouseley goes on to report that 500 to 1,000 guests came and went during the evening. What is important to remember is that this was 2 years after Nick Civella was discovered at the famous Mob meeting in Appalchin, New York. By this time, all of Kansas City and the nation knew the importance of this Mob meeting and Nick’s participation. Nonetheless, in attendance were the following Kansas City politicians; City Council members Tom Gavin and Sal Capra; State Senator Jasper Brancato; ward politicians Alex Presta and Henry McKissick; Jackson County Administrative Judge Hunter Phillips; and Lyman Field, President of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and long time friend of President Harry Truman.

The Mirror Lake Club created a “liquor pool” in order to circumvent any federal or state liquor laws. The claim was that all members of the club were part of a  ‘liquor pool’ of their own alcoholic beverages.  The Board of Directors of the Club on June 2, 1953, shortly after its organization, passed a resolution that created a ‘liquor club.’ This was for Club members to join. In substance, that resolution authorized the collection of a single $ 2 fee with which liquor supposedly was to be purchased for the use of members of the Club. The resolution, however, made clear that each member was to ‘pay for each drink served upon the premises of this corporation’ and that the ‘proceeds derived therefrom to be used to replenish stock, mixers, ice, fruit, broken glasses, and for service.’

A subsequent investigation revealed that purchases of liquor were not from any separate ‘liquor pool’ account but that they were made from a general account fund maintained by the Osadchey partnership.

A 1959 investigation revealed they were actually buying the cases of booze from Broadway Liquors. The owners of Broadway Liquors were Marco M. Filardo and Victor J. Vogliardo. “Eddie Spitz” was subsequently convicted of a conspiracy to avoid the federal laws on the sale of alcohol.



5-reasons-to-date-a-stripper-mainI did an audio podcast on this investigation. For those that don’t do the podcast, here is a written version of this story. You may wonder what happened after the River Quay area died out. As Chuck Haddix said, after the bombing of the building housing Judge Roy Beans and Pat O’Briens night clubs, customers simply stopped coming to the Quay area. All the existing restaurants, bars, galleries and clothing stores closed. Delaware Daddys, a strip club from West 12th street, opened featuring strippers.

In the old space occupied by Papa Nicks Omelet restaurant, a new bar named the Bowery opened. This was on the northwest corner of 5th and Delaware. A former used car salesman named Gary Huffman obtained the liquor license. We did not pay much attention until we started hearing stories. We started driving by and taking license numbers to see who was frequenting the joint. We found cars belonging to some of the local Mob guys like Tuffy DeLuna were parked outside the club. We found the car registered to state legislator Alex Fazzino parked there. We found cars registered to members of the El Foresteros motorcycle gang parked there. Our first visit revealed they did have strippers. We noted a table occupied by Motorcycle gang types was the table where the strippers would go and sit when they were not performing. This was a common River Quayoccurrence, motorcycle gangs providing strippers to clubs.

Informants were reporting the girls were stripping down completely naked later at night. The word was getting around and soon, every evening found a long line of guys waiting to pay the dollar cover charge and gain entry. I was assigned to go inside later in the evening and see what was the big draw. I also wanted to see if any of the mob guys took any management type actions. The signs someone has a hidden interest in a club are; going behind the bar and getting their own drinks or a drink for a friend, have unfettered access to backroom offices and storage areas, making sales and using the cash register or directing employees.

What I saw was a bar full of guys totally focused on the strippers. The strippers were taking all their clothes off. This was a huge “no no” at that time. Tuffy and his pals seemed to be merely watching the show with great amusement. About midnight, an attractive 20 something couple were leaving the bar. The man stopped Huffman at the door and they had a conversation. Huffman slapped his hands together and said, “OK!.” He turned to the bartender and shouted, “Set up 5 shots at the end.” He gestured toward the far end of the bar as the couple walked back to that area. The young woman threw back 4 of the shots while the guy did 1.

The couple went to the jukebox and selected a song. They got on the small stage and started dancing an erotic dance wearing their street clothes. The male customers became very interested and crowded up next to the stage, within a foot or two of the dancing couple. One particular loud and obnoxious guy started chanting, “Live fucking” over and over and the rest joined in. The couple started stripping and the chant got louder and the crowd pressed tighter and closer to the stage. Actually, this was a very scary and weird sight. Soon, the couple were naked and the man was doing pelvic thrusts between the woman’s legs. As I would soon learn, this was simulated sex. The song ended and they stopped, grabbed their clothes and pushed through the crowd. As they pushed through, the obnoxious dude, yelled, “Shit dude you weren’t even hard.” The male dancer yelled back, “You get on the stage and see how you do.” This shut him up and the bar owner handed the couple  a wad of cash.

When I reported this back at the office, the upper management of the Department came back with orders, “Close this place down.”  The following Saturday night, we got 6 Vice officers, a tactical squad and an investigative squad from White Collar Crime to do the follow-up. I went in early and was to stay inside during the upcoming raid. The Vice officers were inside to identify the dancers that removed their Pasties and G-strings (this is in violation of city ordinance). They were to identify any motorcycle gang members who received money from tips given to the dancers.  My job was to see what happened after the raid.

Soon, the Tactical Unit entered the joint and pulled the plug on the jukebox, grabbed the owner and one got on the bar and told everybody to stay in place that the joint was being raided. This was so cool, just like in the movies. I wanted to be the guy who yelled, “This is a raid.” Several girls and one motorcycle gang member were arrested. We did not arrest the owner intentionally because we wanted to see who he contacted.

It was kind of a bust (no pun intended), because all he did was call the Central Patrol Station and complain about police harassment. We never saw him contact any mob folks. He closed the joint down about 2 weeks later and we never heard of him again.

JoeAgostoNick Civella‘s mole in Las Vegas was Joe Agosto. Immigration claims he was born  Sicily, probably in the 1920s. He claims he was born in a Cleveland brothel and had been sent back to Sicily as a child. The government tried to deport Agosoto several times and he finally prevailed in 1978. He obtained the status of citizen. He spent some time in Kansas City in the 1940s, but he was not a long time Kansas City guy. It cold be speculated that he came to know Nick Cviella during this time. In 1973, Nick Civella recruited him to assist John “Johnny Green” Amaro in a mob scheme. The plan was to promote a legal services benefit to Teamsters Union members. Nick would provide the assistance of KC Teamster leader, Roy Lee Williams. In return, Agosto paid Nick Civella $75,000.00 up front. The scheme failed.

Joe Agosto was still loyal to Nick. Agosto was either dispatched or went on his own to Las Vegas. He started the process to build a hotel and casino with Civella’s backing and Teamster’s money. Carl “Tuffy” DeLuna, as KC Underboss, was assigned to oversee and monitor Agosto’s activities. Joe found a more lucrative opportunity. He found out the owners, Deil Gustafson and chemical heiress Mitzi Stauffer Briggs Smith were depending on a Teamster’s loan of $50 million dollars. Nick Civella used his influence to squelch that deal. Then Agosto came in as a savior and a new Teamster’s deal was offered. During this time, Joe Agosto was able to obtain the confidence of Ms. Briggs-Smith and he obtained the rights to the floor show called the Folies Bergere. As he gained influence, Nick and Tuffy instructed him to get former Stardust and Circus Circus casino executive, Carl Thomas, a job. Thomas was owned and controlled by Nick Civella and the KC mob. He set up the scheme of skimming by placing his own trusted crew inside the count room. Here, they just took cash off the top before the daily take was counted. he explains this in great detail in my film Gangland Wire.

One of the more interesting events during this time was the time Nick Civella ordered a moratorium on all skimming. He wanted to see of anybody was skimming from the skimming. Carl Thomas tried to reassure him that he trusted all “his guys.” Soon, the skim started back up at a pace of about $40,000.00 per month.

Nick Civella, acting alone,set up the Tropicana skim operation. Therefore, Kansas City was allowed to keep all the Tropicana skim. The Stardust skim was sent to Chicago and divided between Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Kansas City. Nick Civella did reveal how he felt slightly “under” or obligated to Chicago, because he sent a percentage of the Tropicana skim to Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa. Joey Doves was code named “22” on the Wire and he was the Chicago Underboss.

Battle for las vegasHere is an audio clip from a hidden microphone placed in the visiting area at Leavenworth Prison. Nick Civella is serving his 3 year term from an earlier gambling conviction. This was after the Las Vegas Skimming case search warrants were served and everybody was indicted for that conspiracy.  He is being visited by his nephew, Anthony “Tony Ripe” Civella and his wife, “Kate.” She serving Nick home cooked food. Tony Ripe is talking somewhat in code. He is bringing complaints from someone about not making any money from a prescription drug deal. I believe this may have been the Chicago Mob’s Teamster’s connection Allen Dorfman because they referred to the Rabbi and that was Dorfman’s codename. In the latter part, they discuss a method to make a connection using “Stompy”, Chicago police sergeant and Civella nephew Anthony Chiavola, to get a number for a safe phone to Nick. He reminds his wife, he does not want to hear “nothing about this on the phone.” This is a family business. The secret phone number mailed to his nephew who delivers it to his Aunt Katie and she hand carries it to Nick.