Steve Kraske had me on Up To Date last Friday morning to talk about Gangland Wire. Steve is a great guy. I remember when he was a new KC Star reporter assigned to the police beat. At that time, the Star was given an office on the third floor of Police headquarters. A reporter was assigned to report out of the office. I once gave him a bunch of details for a story about a huge embezzlement from the Kansas City Missouri School System.

My good friend, Aaron Gnirk, invited me to appear on his internet TV and radio show and talk about the Kansas City mob and Gangland Wire. 

This comedy show showcases local bands, filmmakers and other local artists. Plus, they are crazy and funny. I have been on before and always have a good time.








Mob Spero drawing0001When Harold Nichols, Bob Arnold and I were assigned to help the F.B.I. work on uncovering the theft of casino money from Las Vegas, we had an unconnected assignment for a while. Because the original microphone was placed because of a valid threat to Carl Spero’s life, we were part of a team that was to either interrupt a future attempt or catch them in the act. In other words, we were to keep him alive. He had survived one attempt and was paralyzed from the mid chest area down. Carl was tough and he continued his own criminal operation which included a conspiracy to kill Nick and Carl Civella and Tuffy DeLuna.

Carl lived on a small farm in rural Clay County. We would sit in a field and wait for him to leave. To follow a guy, you get in a place to see him leave and have other crews covering the possible main roads out. In this case we left someone in Kearney, MO to see if he went to I-35 and south into Kansas City. Then we have crews go ahead and wait at possible exits, like into downtown or east onto I-70. One of our early attempts found him staying on I-35 and exiting onto Rainbow in Kansas. We followed him into a parking lot on Rainbow, close to KU. He went inside and we waited. When he left, I went inside to see what he had been doing and I found a dialysis clinic. Oh, yeah he lost his kidney function in the previous attempt on his life.Mob Spero 20001

One time he was back at the joint, the Virginia tavern, where he and his brothers were attacked and a shotgun blast cut his spinal cord. We saw a known mob associate cruising around the place.  He soon disappeared. We found a pay phone and called into the wire room (place where the wire taps are monitored). We learned this guy was calling Cork Civella from a pay phone. He told Cork that Spero was all alone at the Virginian. Cork asked, “Are there any agents around?” The guy replied,”No!” Cork Replied, “Well that just means they are there somewhere.” But, shorty after they sent in the A-Team to check it out. About an hour later, we saw another car cruising the bar and Carl was still inside. One of the guys could see Tuffy DeLuna was a passenger. We called into the F.B.I. office. We were ordered to move in closer and to not let them get inside to kill Carl while we  were watching. Well, once we moved in closer, I remember a car with three occupants started following me! I drive east on Admiral Blvd to Paseo and then south. I was cool, reporting to the others that I was being followed. But, I was a bit nervous. I know in my rational brain that Mob guys want nothing to do with cops, but the fear is always that they think the undercover is a member of the Spero crew protecting him. At 12th and Paseo, the car pulled up next to me and I looked over to see Tuffy Deluna looking at me and smiling. He gave me a slight nod and they hightailed it out of the area.  I felt a bit of relief. We were trying to get marked units in to stop them but they slipped away.

This was winter and the Bureau rented a four-wheel drive Bronco. A few years later, I had an informant tell me a story. He was a professional car thief. He said he was drinking with Spero at the Red Apple strip club in Kansas. Carl offered him a thousand dollars to go steal a Ford Bronco that was parked in the Red Apple parking lot. I guess Carl thought that would be funny. The Bronco was in the parking lot and some of us were inside to see what he was doing. We did not look at the strippers, I swear.

My friend author Nick Pileggi helped me as much as he could, in spite of his agent, in making this film. He had agreed to sit for an interview, but got called off by his agent and his new TV show, Vegas. He asked to view it. He said about the film, “In Gangland Wire,  Gary Jenkins tells the story in a way only an insider could. He captures the tragicomic aspects of this true crime tale, told by the players themselves through excerpts of the wiretaps and interviews of law enforcement and other eyewitnesses to the events.”

And the attached photo is F.B.I. agents Leone Flossi, Shea Airey and Bill Ouseley taking Nick Civella to be booked for a gambling conspiracy charge.

I put a lot of gangster information in Gangland Wire and not as much information abut the art colony started in the River Quay. In my film, I do interview two famous Kansas City artists. Philomene Bennett has work in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art as well as the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph and the Daum Museum in Sedalia. Bennett co-founded and served as president of the Kansas City Art Coalition. She credits much of her success to what she calls “belligerent conviction.”
Lou Marak is married to Ms. Bennett. I interviewed them in their south Kansas city home which looked like an art gallery. Marak has taught at the Kansas City Art institute, worked for Hallmark hand has pieces in many galleries and important private collections.

They rented a large gallery and living space above Poor Freddies for about $75.00 a month from Marion Trozzolo. The River Quay art colony was a thriving creative addition to Kansas City.

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailI have not said much about the River Quay development. The first 1/2 of Gangland Wire tells the story of how this entertainment district developed. A man named Marion Trozzolo (click on his name to see the book he wrote) had a business in the City Market area. He saw all these great substantial unused brick buildings going to waste. He bought up some and obtained leases on others. He fixed up a few and enticed artists, restaurants and other small boutique type businesses to open with cool spaces, low rents and a proximity to downtown KC.

The City of KC had forced a block long strip of seedy bars to relocate because of a new convention hotel construction. These guys were connected to the local mob and they wanted to move into the River Quay. The son of a mob guy owned a successful River Quay bar named Poor Freddies. Freddie Bonadonna resisted this move by these mob associates because he knew this would destroy the friendly family oriented atmosphere that was making him and others money. His father was ordered to make Freddie quit resisting and to help them make this move though his own political connections. Freddie refused and his father, David Bonadonna, was killed. This murder was the beginning of the end for the River Quay. Freddie Bonadonna lived out his life in the Witness protection program.

At age 32, a real estate developer named Allen Glick was getting into the casino and hotel business in Las Vegas. He found that making a deal with the Midwest Mafia families got him a 62 million dollar Teamster’s loan. He bought the Stardust hotel and casino. Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal was installed by the Chicago Outfit to oversee the skim. Lefty and Glick clashed and soon the Mob decided they needed a more pliable Strawman to install as the front man owner. Carl “Tuffy” DeLuna was dispatched to tell Glick he must sell out and leave the casino. Tuffy was recorded telling how he had told Glick he must leave the casino. This conversation was recorded at a rear table in the Villa Capri bar In Kansas City.

I was interviewed on the Crime Beat Radio show last night. Co-hosts R0n Chepesiuk and Willie Hyb have the world’s biggest audience in the true crime genre with over 200,000 listeners. Both are true crime authors in the area of organized crime. They both are very excited about the new perspective Gangland Wire brings to the subject with the extensive use of the actual wiretap audio from government archives. Click  here to listen to the interview.

Check out Crime Beat shows and more about Ron and Willie, go to Crime Beat Radio.

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailIn the late 1970s, the Nevada Attorney General Bob List has filed  an action to ban Lefty from working at the Stadust. Mr. List is running for governor and Lefty Rosenthal has come up with a blackmail plan to get him to stop his action against Lefty. Joe Agosto has advised Carl “Tuffy” DeLuna of this plan. In this excerpt from the microphone in the Quinn & Peebles office, Tuffy tells Nick about the plan. Nick’s reaction shows he is not just an old gangster in modern times. A few days later Nick will get Lefty on the phone and tell him to “cool it, just cool it.”

In a modern twist, the daughter of a deceased Nevada Gaming Investigator, Dennis Gomes, has written a book that contains an account of Mr. Gomes investigation of the Stardust. Jane Morrison of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that this book cast allegations that Mr. List may have acted improperly in his investigation of the Stardust.

The F.B.I. investigation failed to uncover any malfeasance on the part of Bob List.