In our final episode, Aaron and I talk with Retired KCPD Major David Barton. He was the Captain in charge of the Jamaican Drug Posse Task force in the 1980s. Barton would go on to command the entire Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) . Barton tells how the extreme violence of the Jamaican drug possess and huge increase of crack addiction affected Kansas City neighborhoods. In response, Chief Larry Joiner assigned David Barton to the sleepy little narcotics unit. By the time this Jamaican investigation was done, the KCPD had more than tripled the size of this unit. Major Barton developed an efficient and effective team capable of working an international drug conspiracy.

The Kingpin, Errol “Dog Bite” Wilson was identified and prosecuted.  He relates the problems of working persons from a foreign country. One huge problem was government corruption problems in Jamaica. Barton was able to develop trustworthy sources within the Jamaican Constabulary.

In this episode retired Sergeant David Starbuck tells us how the Kansas City Jamaican Task Force became known as the Black Hole posse in Jamaica and south Florida. Because of the many Jamaican crack houses in KC, the Task Force developed a streamlined procedure to “fast track” arrests after a search warrant. The Intelligence section develops the target house, the undercover makes a purchase, the drug is field tested for content, the Administrative squad is already typing the probable cause for a search warrant, the Tactical Response Team (SWAT) does a drive-by to make an entry plan, the search warrant is served, the dealer(s) are questioned, the U.S. Attorney was working up the charging documents, the arrest is taken before the U.S. Magistrate, a high bond is set and the arrest is taken off to rural Missouri to a jail. Many times, because they were just cannon fodder to the dealers, they were never heard from again until they were in trial preparation with a public defender. To the other gang members, it appeared as if the arrested person went into a black hole and never came out again.

This tactic worked for the lower level dealers, but the Task Force officers had to identify the leaders. Starbuck tells how they had to become familiar with Jamaican politics because these guys were from Kingston neighborhoods and each neighborhood was affiliated with one of two political parties, either the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP). When questioning the gang members, the officers must know the culture to get any conversation going. They learn that much of the drug money was being used to purchase firearms in the U.S. to take back for use in political disputes.

One evening Starbuck was following a higher level dealer and they ended up at the KC airport. He called his boss, Captain David Barton to ask for guidance. Capt. Barton instructed him to buy a ticket on the same plane if possible and go to Florida. Capt. Barton calls his law enforcement contacts in Florida and Starbuck is met by a Florida Drug Task Force surveillance crew. He points out the individual and they follow him to a house. Starbuck, with only the clothes on his back and his handgun, stays in Florida for a couple of weeks.

Kansas City once was once the home of a powerful Mafia family before it became the stronghold of a Jamaican Drug Posse. The Strawman prosecutions for skimming from Las Vegas casinos sent all the bosses to jail and weakened the structure. Mobsters like Willie the Rat Cammisano and Cork Civella were known to be vicious brutal killers, but they were pikers when compared to the new Kansas City crime family. Like the Sicilians of old, these new gangsters spoke English with an accent, did not attempt to fit in with the existing gangsters, killed any competition and included the neighborhood people in their crimes. They, like the prohibition era crime syndicates, took advantage of a ban on an addictive substance. Instead of alcohol, they sold narcotics. Like the bootleggers, they found new creative methods of importing, packaging and marketing this substance. Like the bootleg alcohol business, the money they made helped launch a whole new underground economy in the poor neighborhoods of Kansas City.  They introduced crack cocaine to Kansas City. Although law enforcement officers invoke the memory of Al Capone to describe the viciousness and vaunting ambition of the new gangsters, by the 1980s Kansas City’s most fearsome crime family spoke with a Jamaican accent.

 

Special guest, retired KCPD Sergeant David Starbuck was once assigned to the Jamaican Drug Task Force. David tells this story from an insider’s view. The listener learns how the new drug dealers were discovered by local narcotics addicts. Undercover narcotics detective Starbuck found the Jamaicans were paying local folks to use their house as a sales point. They marketed the address of the new crack house by making small leaflets with the address and distributing them at party houses and bars. The drug house was staffed by Jamaicans fresh in from the island. If the house was taken down by the police, they had many more in operation and a constant supply of new illegal immigrant workers streaming in from one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, Jamaica. They were constantly opening new houses with new people. This is the first of 3 episodes telling the story of how Jamaican drug kingpins moved cocaine from Columbia though Jamaica into south Florida and north to Kansas City.

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In Part 3, Paul Scharff tells about his struggle to help clean up the McHenry County Sheriff’s office and elect a new sheriff. Paul runs into reluctance on the part of the sitting sheriff and he embarks on his own investigation into why the McHenry county authorities do not want to verify Frank Culotta’s claim that Larry “Lurch” Neumann killed his father, Ron Scharff. He learns the sitting sheriff was even called out to Nevada to testify in the Bertha’s Gift’s burglary trial. He was going to be used to discredit the main government witness, Frank Culotta who was testifying against Tony Spilotro, Larry Neumann and his other Hole in the Wall Gang members.

In Part 2, our special guest, Paul Scharff tells about his first contact with the McHenry County Sheriff’s Investigator. Paul learns they have never looked at Larry “Lurch” Neumann. When Paul first contacts the Sheriff’s investigator, they try to discourage him by intimating he may learn information about his fatherDenny Griffin that he does not want to hear. They had put this off as a killing by a jealous lover of the bar maid killed at the same time. He talks to Frank Culotta and finds out that Neumann is a real psychopath that killed for money as well as fun. Culotta tells him the story of how Neumann got a phone call from his ex-wife and was very angry when he hung up. Cuoltta asked him about the call and Nuemann said this bar owner in Chicago had thrown his wife out of the bar. Neumann said he had to go back and kill the guy because this was disrespectful to him.  Culotta and Neumann were part of a burglary gang headed up by Chicago Outfit member, Tony Spilotro. Culotta knew the boss, Spilotro, would not approve of a revenge killing. This is the kind of unnecessary murder that can bring heat on the Outfit. Culotta sends a guy back to Chicago with Neumann on his next trip home in an attempt to prevent this killing. For unknown reasons, Neumann was still able to kill Ron Scharff and get back to Las Vegas.

Frank Culotta, Larry Neumann and other members of Spilotro’s Hole in the Wall Gang were set up by the Las Vegas F.B.I. and the Las Vegas Metro Intelligence Unit on July 4, 1981. Spilotro’s gang was dubbed the Hole in the Wall Gang because they cut usually cut a hole in the wall or roof of jewelry store to steal diamond and gold jewelry. They used this entry method to escape the usual window and door burglary alarms. Only one month, almost to the day, after Neumann killed Ron Scharff, F.B.I., Agents Emment Michaels and Dennis Arnoldy along with Metro Police Intelligence Commander Kent Clifford and his squad waited for the Hole in the Wall gang. On July 4, 1981, the officers watched as the gang cut a hole in the roof of Bertha’s Gifts at 896 East Sahara, Las Vegas. Once the gang was inside, they surrounded the building and arrested everyone. This was the end of this gang.

The gang members posted bail and Spilotro ordered him to kill Frank Culotta and another gang member. Culotta learned of this plot and entered the Witness Protection program. His testimony would help put Neumann in prison for life on another unrelated killing. Culotta would testify against Spilotro in both Las Vegas and Chicago. He was not convicted on either case, but the Chicago judge hearing that case would be convicted of bribery charges a few years later.

 

 

 

Francis Wayne “Frank” Sinatra Jr. died on March 16, 2016. When I saw the report of his death, I was thrust back to 1963. I was just out of high school when I saw the dramatic reports of his kidnapping. A556x255_Frank_Sinatra_Jr_Kidnapped media frenzy commenced. He was the son of a famous father with purported Mafia connections. His sister, Nancy Sinatra was already receiving media attention for her acting and singing abilities.

At the time of this kidnapping, many in the entertainment media reported this was a publicity stunt. They speculated about Frank Sinatra Senior’s organized crime connections,  particularly with Chicago Mob boss, Sam Gianacana.

My research revealed this was no publicity stunt or related to Sam Gianacana or any organized crime family. This story had its own dramatic and unusual twists. To my surprise, the perpetrators were former high school classmates of the younger Sinatra. Suspects Barry Keenan and Joe Amsler attended Beverly Hills High School with the Sinatra kids. Kennan had even participated in school activities with Nancy Sinatra. The ring leader, Barry Keenan was a successful young stock broker who was spiraling out of control because of drug addiction. He hatched and carried out this plot to get enough money to get back on track as a rising young star in the financial world. He even planned to either give the money back or donate it to a favorite Sinatra charity, once he made his comeback.

The kidnapping had to be postponed a few days when JFK was assassinated. Finally, on December 8, 1963, Keenan and Amsler used a room service ploy to enter Sinatra’s hotel room at Harrah’s Lodge in Reno, Nevada. As the kidnapping progressed, Sinatra Junior would use his personality and charm to charm his captors into believing  that he was compliant and no threat to escape. When this came out, the entertainment media continued to speculate this was a publicity stunt. To more complicate this claim, Barry Kennan went to another childhood friend, Dean Torrence, of Jan and Dean, to obtain seed money for this venture. Dean Torrence did not believe Barry would actually follow though and that this was Keenan’s creative method to convince him to give a drug addict money. Even after the kidnapping hit the news, Torrence still did not call authorities. Even after,Keenan came back to Torrence for more money in the middle of the media frenzy and young Sinatra still missing, he gave Kennan more money and failed to tell authorities. Torrence would later be charged as an accomplice.