Sol Landie and Nick Civella
In January of 1970, four days before the KC Chiefs met the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV, KC bettors were laying thousands on a Chief’s victory. An FBI agent climbed a pole directly across the street from the Northview Social Club, aka The Trap, and hooked up a couple of wires. About 20 blocks away at the local FBI headquarters, Agents gathered their coffee mugs, ashtrays, and snacks and put on earphones and settled in for a long boring day. It was not but a few minutes when agents heard a bookie named Frank Tousa scolding his sub-agents and directing their activities. They heard the big bettors like Sol Landie calling. Tousa expressed concern about how much money was going down on the Chiefs. A day before the January 11 Super Bowl, they heard Tousa call Nick Civella and report they had $47,360.00 in bets on the Chiefs that he needed to lay off to another bookie. He needed to keep his book balanced.
How sports gambling works
The mob does not like to bet, they want an equal amount of bets on both sides of a contest. They earn their money by taking a 10% vig or lug from the losing bettors. When Tousa called Nick Civella he got him to talk about this problem and giving directions on what to do. Nick Civella was caught by his own words. The US Attorney charged Nick with running a gambling enterprise and in October 1970, Agent Bill Ouseley and his partner Lee Flosi arrested him. The Court set a $5,000 bond.
The Investigation and Sol Landie
Over the next few months, agents subpoenaed bettors to a grand jury. One large sports bettor was a scrapyard operator named Sol Landie. He freely admitted that he had placed the bets in question and he became an important witness because he had called in from Kansas solidifying an interstate gambling case.
The Kansas City Strike Force
During this same time, the US Attorney designated Kansas City as the Midwest Office for Organized Crime and Racketeering which became known as the Strike Force. They designated several of their best Associate US Attorneys as members of the Strike Force. Each federal agency, FBI, DEA, ATF, Treasury assigned certain agents to work with the Strike Force. A brilliant attorney named Michale DeFeo was designated the lead attorney and 3 other attorneys were assigned along with small support staff. They took over the Civella gambling investigation s their first case.
The plan to murder Sol Landie
A Mob underling named Johnny Frankovigilia, aka Johnny Franks, learned that the government witness list included the wealthy scrapyard owner Sol Landie. While it will never be known for sure, all indicators make me believe that Johnny Franks wanted to prove his worth to Nick Civella and he decided to eliminate Sol Landie. In November 1970, less than a month after Nick Civella was released on bond. Johnny Franks called an African-American associate named Thomas Jefferson Lee to his gas station at 10th and Hardesty on the northeast side of Kansas City. He offered him money to “take care of ” Sol Landie. Lee said he would see what he could do and left.
Shortly after than Lee approached 4 young African American guys. Lee recruited 25-year-old Ronnie Willaims and is cousin Marquis Williams who in turn offered 17-year-old Lee Johnson and Earl Howard $1,000 each to murder a white man who owned a scrap yard’s house. He instructed them to make this murder look like a robbery because the victim was a witness against “somebody big.”
The night they killed Sol Landie
Lee gave Ronnie Williams gave them the address of Landie’s scrapyard and a description of his Buick Riveria along with 3 marijuana joints. They drove to the scrapyard and found the car. Willimas found out Landie lived in the 74 hundred block of Washington Street and they made a few runs until they found the Buick at a house. Later that night, because e Willimas told them Johnn Franks wanted this done before the weekend was done, they started drinking and smoking marijuana. They made three trips over to the Landie house and each time left. On the 4th trip, they parked and entered through an unlocked back door. The 3 young men found Sol Landie and his wife in bed. They terrorized the couple pretending they were there to rob them. The men kept accusing Lanide of holding out on them. At one point in time, one man asked Landie’s wife if she wanted him to cover her face with a pillow because they were going to shoot her husband. At that time, one man did cover both of their faces with pillows and they murdered Sol Landie. They tore up the house and took all the cash they could find and about $10,000 in jewelry to make this appear like a robbery.
They return and report to Thomas Jefferson Lee that the deed was done and he paid Ronnie Williams $2,000 and the others $1,000. These “hitmen” could not keep their mouths shut and soon local law enforcement arrested one who named the others. By the trail, all four men turn on Thomas Jefferson Lee and testify. Lee pleads out and takes a life sentence. They can link Lee to Johnny Franks via some observations made by Ronnie Williams and the others. When faced with a possible death penalty, Williams can directly implicate Johnny Franks. It is a slim case because all they had was that Lee told them they were killing this scrapyard dealer for a white guy because Sol Landie was going to testify against “someone big.” Ronnie Williams successfully implicated mob associate Johnny Franks because he claimed he used to place sticks of dynamite at businessmen’s houses and Johnny Franks then extorted money to p[recent this supposed death threat. The state produced a local witness who claimed he had found some dynamite on his porch and Johnny Franks later approached him and claimed he knew how did it and for $2,000.00 he would get it stopped. After a change of venue to St. Louis, a jury will find Johnny Franks guilty of murder for hire in the case of Sol Landie, the sports bettor. He never turned on Nick Civella or other mob members in this case.
Show Notes by Camillus Robinson
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