Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. Gary interviews KC Mafia historian Frank Hayde, author of The Mafia and the Machine. They discuss the KC Mob from Prohibition to the Murder of the Two Charlies. Charlie Binnagio became a dual threat when he joined Tom Pendergast and became a political boss and the mob boss of Kansas City. His bodyguard, Charlie Gargotta, remained in the shadowy world of mafia hitmen and enforcers. Someone will murder both of the men dramatically. These dramatic murders expose the unholy partnership between the Mafia and the Machine.
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GARY JENKINS, Frank Hayde
Well, hey, all you Wiretappers out there. It’s good to be back here in studioof Gangland Wire. First of all, I want to introduce you to my friend and fellow mob historian Frank Hayde, as you can see right there. I know many of you and because I’ve seen you on Facebook talking about the Mafia and the Nachine. Well, this is the dude that wrote the mafia machine, the first the first definitive history of the mob in Kansas City. So and you know, my friend Bill Ouseley wrote another one called Open City, but this was the first one and, you know, Frank, I know he was working on at the time and all sudden, the both of them came out at about the same time, if I remember right, and, you know, Frank helped me out with an interview, if you guys have seen my Ballot Theft: Burglary, Murder, Coverup about the theft of the 1946 election, which a lot of you have, and if you want to see it, you got to go to my website, and I can, I can rent you a link for $1.99. But Frank helped me out with that. And, you know, he’s just he is an expert on the mob and Kansas City, there’s the whole over you, you know, me I, I mainly know about the skim days and the days when I was a copper, but I don’t know that old history, like, like Frank does. And today, we’re going to talk about the joining of the Irish political machine and the Italian Mafia, and a man named Charlie Binnagio. That came out of it. Frank, welcome. I really appreciate you being here.
Gary Thank you for having me. It’s great to be on your show.
So we’ve talked many times, and emailed and that kind of thing, different things. And first time, we’ve really had a show like this together. So this will be fun. Now, before we really get started, guys, Frank, tell them a little bit about the new book, which is really exciting, because this is something I live in and was around during the time when this this subject was was hot. So tell me a little bit about your new book,
I do have a new book coming out that is, in a way a sequel to the Mafia and the Machine, in the sense that it covers the case, the underworld in the 1990s. So you know all the other treatments of the KC mob, basically ending the 80s with the skin and the big takedown and straw man. So this story kind of pushes the timeline forward into the 1990s. The book is going to be called mafia dreams. The subtitle is, what is myself but the subtitle is a true a true crime saga of young men at the end of an era in Kansas City. So it’s about some young guys who were trying to break into the life in the 1990s, you could maybe say that they were the last generation these guys are my age now are in their early 50s. Now back then they’re in their mid 20s. And could prop probably the last generation of young man really trying to break into the modern life. And it’s a fascinating story that centers around one particular case involving an FBI involved shooting at a reverse drug sting, but it offers a window into the AC underworld of the 1990s. And Gary, I want to give credit where credit’s due, you will help me a lot with this book, he introduced me to a couple of very interesting people who I was able to interview for the book, who knew some of the major players have, you know, and knew some of the people and events that were going on, that I’m covering in this book. So thank you for your help. I think it’s gonna be really enjoyable and I hope that all you you fell a wire tappers out there, we’ll have a chance to read it and enjoy it.
Yeah, I want you to get it to guys we’ll talk more about what to do a whole show on whenever it comes out. But yeah, I’ll tell you a little bit I know about it that we had the whole big investigation over and around this incident that Frank’s talking about and we call it the young Italians they they had a group of young guys are most of whom were Italian. All most of whom a couple of them were like relatives of the old school mob guys. And of course, you know, back in the day the old school guys they got their bones I shall we say with prohibition, well, we’ve got a modern day prohibition. We’ve got drugs we’ve got okay. And that’s where the money is. And that’s where that show goes and or that story goes and I’m gonna do I’ve got US Attorney out here that that handled prosecution on one of those guys on on a separate drug case. I’m gonna get chuck on here to tell that story about the time we do. Frank’s story about the situation he’s talking about, which is, you know, it was it was really dramatic. I’m just gonna leave it at that guys. It was really a dramatic situation that played out on every TV screen in Kansas City before the first week or two. It was up after the FBI shooting. So it was quite a quite a scary,
very dramatic at the time made a big local splash and then was quickly forgotten about exactly hoping that this this is a very deep dive investigative story. And it goes, it takes us deep into the backstory, and I think a lot of Kansas City fans are gonna be shocked. is one of those eye popping books.
I got to fit into this. Anyhow, so today we’re going to talk about Charlie but Nijo which was a fascinating, fascinating, interesting guy. This was a mob guy, I found some old newspaper articles, Frank and I know you’ve probably seen them. Or he the newspaper The Kansan. He starts talking about Charlie. But now as you casually strolling, strolling in and out of the governor’s office, the governor who studied that’s how, how far the mob got in with state level politics at the time. So let’s talk let’s go back a little bit about where did Charlie Banaz yo come from? He came from the north, and I got to assume and came up through the normal way. What do you remember about his early days?
He was actually born in Texas. And he seems to have some connection to the Denver also because I know he spent some time when he was a young man in Denver. He grew up in the north end. And he I believe he was a godson to James Balistreri. Or maybe it was Joe D’Giovanni. I can’t remember but he was a godson to one of the big moustache, Pete Dons in KC. And you know after Lazia died well, when Lazia died, Charlie Binnagio was one of the pallbearers.
Now John, was he was really close to the Irish mob boss, mob boss, political boss named James Pendergast. Johnny Lazia was his his man in the north end, which is Little Italy. And Lazia actually had a office on the fifth floor, and maybe not the fifth the third floor police headquarters right down from the chief of police at one time. So Binnagio learned at the feet of the best who was a mob boss and a political boss at the same time.
And that’s, and that’s kind of the most important takeaway about Binnagio. Always is fact that he was a he was both and in that sense, he was unique. He truly was a mafia boss and a political boss at the same time. And yes, I’m glad you mentioned Johnny Lazia and Tom Pendergast, because that whole era, which is documented in my book, The Mafia the Machine, really set the stage for Binaggio. Oh, you know, together Lazia and Pendergast created this Machine and Mob alliance, which became so powerful and which basically sewed the city uptight, made it an Open City. Binnagio, in a way, inherited when he was a pallbearer at Johnny Lazia’s funeral. That’s sort of when people notice Hey, this guy’s an up and comer. This is someone you know to keep your eye on whether you were in the underworld or in law enforcement, either way, seeing him as a pallbearer, you know, the head up that this was a future player in the Kansas City family.
None he ever hold political office at all was, oh, he
He never did. Just like Tom Pendergast. He never held political office. But he, for a time the most influential, the most, the most powerful Democrat in Jackson County. And Binnagio was actually known publicly as a an influential Democrat if his name appeared in the paper, whether it was local paper or New York Times or some other publication from some other city, he was usually referred to as a Kansas City Democrat, or a powerful Democrat. You know, influential Democrat. That’s that was his public persona. Even though it was quite clear, especially at least in Kansas City, and in Missouri. He was more than just a Democrat. He was he walked. It’s fascinating. That’s one of the things that fascinates me so much about Charlie Banaji Oh, how he could do both at the same time. That was something that happened in Kansas City, you know, oh, I said, Kansas City family was typical in the sense that, you know, all the characteristics that we associate with the American mafia, we see in Kansas City, but one thing that I think sets the Kansas City family apart was it was so closely aligned with politics to a degree that that other families were not, you know, even Chicago, I don’t think was quite as tightly we’ve like a basket almost, you know, with Oh, See and politics as it wasn’t Kansas City for a couple of decades. And Kansas City at the Kansas City family seems to have this have had this unique arrangement where the old guys the real serious mafiosi, the mustache Pete, you know, guys like a DiGiovanni brothers and James Balistreri, James Carolla, the DeLuca brothers, you know, these guys were behind the scenes, quiet, secretive, shadowy speaking with broken English, but they understood that political power was essential to a strong and flourishing family. So they put these guys out front guys like Johnnie Lazia, and then later Charlie Carollo to a point and then Charlie Binaggio. And the Mustache Pete’s seem to be pretty comfortable having these guys out front who were very public, and who were known as big time Democrats, and so I think Binnagio had been in any other crime family in the country, I don’t know that he would have would have been able to become both a mob boss and a political boss at the same time. But in Kansas City, the conditions were such that that was kind of the way it worked.
It was okay for him to have his name in the paper once in a while. And it was okay for him to know policemen and judges and and be friends with him and drink with him and go to functions with him and that kind of thing. Whereas the old school mob guys, they wouldn’t even talk to anybody outside of their little closed circle. And this guy is he’s like out there. That he, I mean, what were some of the things he would do, you know, it was this was gambling times, you know, prohibitions over for the mob goes into gambling, they have a wire service, get horse racing results here in Kansas City, and a lot of betting action on horse races back then, and of course, local games, and it off the books, casinos. And next of all, our guy that became our modern boss, he had a casino like thing dolwn on Baltimore. And so that’s where their money was coming from. And so what did Binaggio do do in that realm?
Yeah, definitely, deeply involved in gambling. You know, there was a lot of drug dealing going on at that time within the family, major heroin trafficking happening in nationally, and Kansas City was kind of at the center of that. And that was during the Binnagio reign, I don’t think that Charlie himself was involved directly in the drug rings. But he held a position of power while all that was happening. And then you mentioned the race wire, Gary. And that was, I think, the big one. Because he really helped grow that race wire, and expand the reach of the race wire and make it more profitable. And he did that. Working in concert with Chicago, and Chicago, I think, really appreciated that. I mean, nausea, was able to use his political contacts, in fact, to get an injunction against shutting down the race wire. So I think Chicago looked at this, this guy in Kansas City and said, Hey, man, this guy, he’s got political contacts, he knows how to make money. The race wire, you know, when that thing was happening, and there was a lot of conflict between couple of getting cert services, there was some violence in some other cities. And in Kansas City, it was just smooth as can be. You know, Banaggio, really, as far as I’m concerned, deserved a lot of credit for that. So, here we have Charlie Binaggio, who in the mid 40s, has kind of emerged out front as the face of Kansas City mob, and a powerful Democrat. And he’s also expanding the rackets, not just for the KC family, but for the National syndicate. Also, his his star at this time is just really on the rise both locally and nationally. Yeah,
I think I kind of remember now especially by the war he, they had, you know, Pendergast, the politics in Kansas City in 1939. There was a new broom sweeps clean and they swept out a lot of the Pendergast people, but they didn’t sweep out the mob guys. They didn’t sweep out the first board desert the north end. And they also reached out into the Second Ward and still held a big chunk of the vote. So even though you’ve got these squeaky clean politicians that were were sweeping out some some bad had guys. They had such a hold on those two or three wards down there that you couldn’t really ignore. And they couldn’t there weren’t any cases that were made on. They made one case on Pendergast and put him in jail. But Binaggio, they didn’t make any cases on him for whatever reason. And so they had to deal with him. And that’s when he I think that’s when he thought he almost as his reach ended up exceeding his grasp nationally, but that’s when I think he really, you know, came into his own was during the war after Pendergast was gone.
Right. And that’s a really good point because I think you’ve been really representative come back for the mafia and the machine because in 1939, you had to take down of Tom Pendergast. And Charlie Corolla went down with him. Finally ended up in Alcatraz and Pendergast ended up in Leavenworth, you know, and the Reformers came in. And I think there was some people around town who thought, Oh, well, that’s the end of that, you know, but it was not at all the mafia was too entrenched. And they cleverly also, you’re right, they maintain that grip on those river boards in the city. But they also pushed out into the county, really, at this time in the 40s. And they said, Well, okay, we’re under scrutiny in Kansas City. But Jackson County is a different story. You know, let’s let’s get out into the, you know, the area, the unincorporated areas on the fringes of the city will set up operations there. And that’s what they did. And it worked. And you know, it still wasn’t like it was in the 30s. But that was part of what the old guys I think, charged Panozzo with they said, We want you to make it the way it used to be, you know, back in the 30s the good old days. So see what you can do. And I think that was his objective was to bring gambling especially back to the level that had been Pendergast and Lazia. I think that’s probably where we’re going next with this is what did he do? And how did events transpire for him to achieve that combat?
I know they like they had some carpet joints out what we call a carpet joint or like a country club and one up in Platte County, Mirror Lake. They’re all out in unincorporated areas. There was one in South just outside the city limits in Kansas City South. And then on the eastern Jackson County, there was a lot of bars and they put at slot machines in those bars. So it was they were trying to open this back up. That was his whole thing was to open it up.
Yeah, but But you know, because he wanted to go one step further. I’m not sure if it was his vision, or if it was the old guy’s vision, and they were just kind of using him as the means to achieve it. But the idea was to make the entire state of Missouri wide open state might seem like a pipe dream, way things were in the 30 years under Pendergrast Lazia. And the sheer amount of corruption No, that was going on in Kansas City, Jackson County. Maybe it wasn’t such a pipe dream. After all, I think that the syndicate guys saw this as entirely realistic and entirely possible. You know, if they could corrupt the right officials, they could swing the elections. They could control the politicians and they could open up Kansas City, St. Louis, and all the other medium size towns in the state police protected vise gambling. And that was Binaggio’s big goal. It was very ambitious. He went a long way. He came very close to achieving it. Basically, what happened was, well, I guess it kind of started before that 1946 election. And I know Gary, you know, did an entire film about the 46 election and we can touch on that briefly here now.
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I encourage everybody to see Gary’s film because the 1946 election alone as its own issue is just incredibly fascinating. Like Long story short, you know, but Binaggio nominated, you know, or got behind certain candidates that were in opposition to him. Jimmy Pender gives him Pendergast Tom’s nephew Banaji started presenting a challenge to the Pendergast machine, the establishment, the Democratic establishment and it’s the 1946 election. Harry Truman, who was president by now he’s president in the United States, you’ve got a Jackson county guy in the White House. That bodes well for the Democrats in Missouri, which means that bodes well for the mob in Missouri. President Truman made it clear he wanted a new Congressman, Binaggio got behind that movement to nominate a different Congressman than the incumbent,
my dear Jim, I had hope to see you Sunday afternoon or evening. A great many friends and acquaintances dropped in. I wanted to talk with you about Slaughter. He’s has become insufferable to the administration. Because of his actions as a member of the powerful Rules Committee of the house. He owes his position on that committee to me. The meanest most partisan Republican has been no more anti-Truman than Slaughter. It seems that that is what confronts me. Much to my regret. Slaughter is obnoxious to me, and you must make your choice. Hope your family are well. Sincerely, Harry.
And he was able to do the same types of things that the guys did back in the 30s stuff, ballot boxes, you know, ghost voters, intimidation at the polls, basically stole the election in the primary, this guy might have won anyway. But they weren’t taking any chances. They fell back on all their old tricks. The machine and the mafia, more or less stole that that primary election Authorities law enforcement investigated, and they seized all the ballots, and they put them in a safe in the basement of the Jackson County Courthouse. And very same night, root demolition guys goes in blows the safe steals all the ballot. All the evidence. All the indictments ended up being dismissed because there was no more evidence. You know, it was this incredibly bold and brazen event that really brought a lot of scrutiny and a lot of attention to Jackson County, but in the eyes of the national syndicate. I mean, this was great stuff, right? Yeah. And they’re looking at this Binaggio. Who is this guy in Kansas City? I mean, he he first of all, he steals an election and then he goes and steals the the evidence and I mean, this guy’s you know, got balls right? And,
and then they got a woman that’s gonna rat them out on and they kill her. They murder her in broad daylight with a shotgun. I mean, it was an obvious mob yet. Married bonobo. I mean, it was just like crazy. She was her boyfriend was the was the Nitro guy who blew the safe for them. They hired him, the brothers safe. And then she knew about it. And she she had something she wanted. She was the US Attorney. She wanted to get her. Actually it was her husband. This was her son in law that did it. She wanted to get her husband out of the penitentiary. So she offered to give up these guys for that burglary of the ballots. And then the next day, they blew her away. So I mean, that’s that’s how bold and how brazen they were and got away with it just didn’t. Yeah, it was appeared after this.
Yeah. And, and I think So this illustrates, again, that, you know, sides of the Binaggio’s personality. On one hand, he’s a politician who’s heavily involved in delivering an election for the President of the United States. On the other hand, he’s part of this ruthless and vicious organization that murders women in broad daylight, and steals, you know, evidence right out of a safe in the Jackson County Courthouse with the sheriff’s office right upstairs. So I think if you’re, you know, if you’re in the National Syndicate, if you’re in New York, Chicago, wherever you’re looking at this guy saying, well, he’s got political power and, you know, muscle muscle. Yeah. And this is this is someone we need to be paying attention to. And then this is about the same time you know that he’s growing that race wire racket. Yeah. I’m mainly for Chicago’s benefit. Again, he’s just, he’s like a superstar. He’s like a superstar.
Now it kind of went through his head because he really took off then he’s he got into the you know, the whole statewide thing. As you mentioned before, what opened up the whole state would open up the whole state, you need the governor. You need somebody over the highway patrol, and the local sheriff’s they didn’t have too much to worry about but he needed somebody in the governor’s office or the governor and that’s when this was the beginning of his ear and that’s that’s when his his hubris rose as they say when when your hubris when hubris rises, Nemesis always appears like Greek gods and so his hubris was on the rise. And he was gonna he was gonna open up the state.
Yeah. And that takes us to the next election. So we had the 46 election with the ballot theft and then the 48 election at this point Binnagio has surpassed Jim Pendergast and the mafia is no longer subservient to the Pendergast politically, Charlie Binaggio, who is in charge of the mafia and the machine first time in history that it’s happened maybe the only time you know, certainly the only time in Kansas City, probably I’m guessing only time nationally, where one guy occupied that role, those dual roles in the 48 election. This is when he’s reaching out to the National Syndicate. This is when he’s saying Hey, guys, invest in me invest in Kansas City, because we’re going to make Missouri a wide open state. You know, you guys can come in from New York, Chicago, other places and run operations, they’ll be protected. I’m going to grease the skids for you. And we’re gonna get the job done. So you had Frank Costello in New York, investing money in Charlie Binnagio. You had the Ricchetti up in Chicago, investing money into Charlie Binaggio. Oh, now Binaggio has working closely with the LCN in St. Louis, to make this happen. And money is just pouring into Binaggio’s coffers, and he’s using it like crazy in this 1948 election, overwhelmed his opposition both in the primary and the general election. He gets his governor, like you were talking about Gary, and he’s poised. Make Missouri wide open state at this point. He’s the most powerful Democrat in Jackson County. This is like you were saying this is the time when he’s dropping in to see the governor whenever he feels like it. Basically, he is going into the Statehouse during legislative sessions, even though you know, some of these sessions are typically close to outsiders, you know, if you’re not an elected official, you’re got no business being in there. But but there’s Charlie Binaggio and he’s got control over oh, gosh, probably close to a dozen state representatives and and almost as many state senators you know, he can swing elections they Democrats all over the state start calling in judge out of respect for his ability to be a mover and shaker within the party. He’s appeared in Life Magazine and Look magazine and other big publications as prominent Democrat and then then they get into his underworld ties and that kind of thing to this is the pinnacle for Charlie Banaji. But unfortunately for him, you know, it doesn’t last
at this time. I mean, he’s his frat guy and everybody knows him. But he’s got a partner shall we say a guy named Charlie also Charlie Gargotta and Charlie Gargotta is a guy that is a real deal mobster not a politician Gargotta went all the way back to got the shootout with a local sheriff when when he was in the middle of a mob hit. Anton Ferris. I think the guy’s name was a bar owner. The county sheriff drives up and they get the shoot out and and you know, the guy here’s what he got. The sheriff saw him kill this guy, right. And the sheriff and I think a deputy and they saw him kill this guy. And they got him they caught him. And he had a gun that was stolen out of the armory over here in Kansas City, Kansas. A 45 was 1911 45 pistols. And you know what he got? He got his final conviction in Jackson County was for possession of a stolen pistol and he did like you know, not very much they couldn’t even convict him of that murder. That’s how corrupt Jackson County was back in that
and I’ll just add one small detail to that story which is the unloaded pistol at Sheriff
Sheriff yeah try that forgot it
It was a clear cut case of attempted murder against the county sheriff. Yeah, and they got off scot free because the kcpd fabricated evidence Yeah.
And change the gun I think I think they change that change
The evidence tag on the gun and there was a corrupt corrupt prosecutor at that time who kept giving continuance after continuance. It was probably one of the most cases if you want to ice you know, just look at a case study urban corruption you know, with with mafia involvement the Charlie Gargotta case is perfect for that and it goes on and on it gets really deep in the weeds and very fascinating case but but yeah, you’re right. Gargotta that was back in the Lazia days, but now Gargotta is Binaggio’s right hand, man, and that’s an interesting relationship because the Binaggio was not a heavy guy. He was not an Intimidator. I mean, he wasn’t friendly neighbor. You know, nothing thuggish about the guy at all. I even wonder sometimes if he was even a made guy. Yeah. Because you know back then in KC, you had to kill somebody to become a made guy. I’m not sure Binaggio was really that type of person. If he was not a made man, he was certainly an extremely powerful associate But our God like you said, Gary, he was the real deal in terms of a market killer. And so, you know, probably been nausea when he’s walking around town, going from joint to joint collecting envelopes, whatever he’s got our daughter right there by his side. And as you can put forward that public friendly politicians face but you know, right right back to America is that men have seen you know, Mafia stare of Charlie Garotta. So again, he got to both you know, the the mafia and the machine just again, hand in glove right there in the form of your What,
what’s kind of interesting that is in modern times, Pablo Escobar, they had a say it down there when they were dealing with politicians, lead or silver. Well, that’s what we had with Garotta and Binaggio, we had lead or silver.
Board, you know, we’re like job or business or whatever county contracts or whatever. And that political connections, or you got lead?
Yeah, no doubt. That’s I like that. That’s very fitting for those two. For sure. The dude Charlie’s they called him and yeah, interesting relationship for sure.
But But something happened in I believe, was that the governor of Smith, Harry Smith, was that his name?
Let’s see that Governor, I think was forest store
Smith horse man. What happened with forest Smith? Okay, so yeah, I’m supposed to appoint a real gambling friendly Police Board and gambling for the people in the State Patrol and in St. Louis. And
yeah, I think Governor Smith, I could be, you know, typical politician was playing both sides of the fence. You know, I think he really did appreciate the nausea. He was embedded the nausea, and he understood that. I’m sure he had some respect for the garganta side of, of have a to Charlie mafia machine relationship. But he was able to kind of, you know, he did, he did do some favors for Panozzo, he made some appointments that were favorable to Banaji. Like, for example, he pointed to men to the Kansas City Police Board, that were more or less open to working with Banaji. But there were two holdovers from the previous administration, he needed three out Banaji, I needed three out of four votes, you know, to really get anything, you know, make some to make some serious changes to the type of changes that would open up the city and the county to like a gambling, you didn’t quite have that. So Governor Smith was able to pass Banaz your bone here and there without ever really opening things up to the degree that Charlie needed into. And when I say needed, talking about at this point, Benozzo was under a tremendous amount of pressure on the old guys in KC, and from the National Syndicate, these guys had invested all this money with him. And so far, the state has still hadn’t opened up, as he was starting to get very nervous. And he didn’t he had, he knew that he was in a position where he if he didn’t deliver on this, he was either gonna have to pay back all that money, or the lead, like said, Gary, or the lead was common. At this point in the story, you know, I start to feel sorry for Bonacci do I can just kind of feel that sense, the downward spiral in the hopelessness that he’s experiencing, you know, he was so high up on top, he was just at the pinnacle of, of political power and, and seemed to get power. And now all of a sudden, he’s in the hot seat. And he’s so close to making it happen, but he just can’t cross the finish line. And so sure enough, we end up with one of the most sensational, I think, gangland killings in the history of the American mafia.
It was a pivotal moment nationwide. Because really, this is this event here, stirred the not McClellan hearings, but the Kefauver. Yeah, keep off or came out of this particular murder of the two Charles the murder there to Charles. Plus back in those days guys. They had they would allow photographers access immediately and newspaper reporters anybody had access to a crime scene, this was a hell of a crime scene. So tell us about that that crime scene and what happened that night is it’s a pretty good story. I won’t
go into too much of the backstory about what nausea was was doing in the days and hours leading up to the event. But the two Charlie’s Binaggio and Gargotta were at the Democratic Club that do ran down on on Truman road. And this was the newly named Truman road behind me, you can see a portrait of very Truman. Oh, yeah, you know, so we got driven in the White House. And they’ve now named a prominent Road in Kansas City after Harry Truman. And that is where the Binaggio’s Democratic Club is situated, sometime in the evening hours as Binaggo and Gargotta. That they’re in the Democratic Club, which was called, you know, this was after hours now, it was no longer open to the public, there in there, behind closed doors, and with some other people, who those other people where we can speculate, I think Barry probably has some thoughts and opinions on that. But Binaggio and Gargotta both ended up shot and killed. Binaggio got four bullets to the back of the head. He was slumped in his chair, or Gargotta appears he tried to exit moving towards the front door was shot I think also in the head had this picture, you know, which is in my book, really did cause a sensation. I’ll see if I can just kind of hold it up to the camera. I pretty small. Here, but you know, here’s the picture to it with right here with Charlie Gargotta. A corpse blood oozing out of his head and a giant portrait of Harry Truman looking down at the crime scene. Yeah. Now, if you’re a Republican, go, this is like a gift from the gods. I mean, here you’ve got a gang land sensation. Don’t double murder. I call this the double murder at the Democratic Club. I’ve also heard it referred to as the murder of the Two Charlie’s going to the Two Charlie’s, but the double murder at the Democratic Club with Harry Truman looking down at the crime scene. And the implication was that Truman was closely connected to the Pendergast machine that was no secret. And so, you know, the star was more or less, believe it or not Republican at that time. Yeah. And they sold this picture, you know, every other newspaper in the country. And the implication was, hey, political corruption. And the mob connections in Kansas City go all the way after the White House. And that was the implication Now, personally, I don’t believe that Harry Truman was mopped up. I think he was an honest politician. And he was, he never denied that. He owed a lot to Tom Pendergast. Very, very little evidence, though, to suggest that he was in tight with the mob. However, this caused such a stir, that it forced Truman to get behind this key favour investigation. He had opposed it up to that point, because he knew it was kind of make the Democrats look bad. Because, you know, there was so many connections between the Democrats and the mafia nationwide. But after this event, Truman could no longer oppose it. He said, Yeah, we got to do this. Go ahead, Mr. Senator key favour, and do your investigation of organized crime and interstate commerce. So the double murder at the Democratic Club in Kansas City is what led to that pivotal event. And as many of the wiretap errs, know, that keep our hearings exposed, the National mafia syndicate like it had never been exposed before. And that’s when people really started to understand what this thing was, and what was going on in the major cities in the country. And it was very shocking to most people who thought of crime as a local affair and ever really thought that there was this sinister national syndicate working behind the scenes to swing elections and to corrupt labor unions and to make millions and millions of dollars through illegal gambling and prostitution and all the rackets. So that was the legacy of the double murder at the Democratic Club.
And then another event that that fired people up was at the time that’s when TV for came in. And so I understand that the these Kevauffer hearings, there were televised a lot of them. And people were buying TVs just to see the key proper hearings. This became like, on a national basis, every major city in the United States, and people were looking at their local mobsters coming and they were showing up and they were being mobsters. You know, they were refusing to answer questions taking the Fifth Amendment. Nobody ever seen that before. They just hear about this stuff. You know, I bought something that fell off a truck, you know, to them. It’s kind of cute and fun, or, you know, they’ve got Gamblin over at that one place. And, you know, I went down there one time, you know, that kind of thing. But now the sudden they see, as you say, these connections that these guys got and the connections into the government, and then they see him face to face, they see what they look like, you know, say guy like Joey Gallo, with his Sharkskin suit and white tie, and sunglasses inside and that kind of thing they face in the mob? Well,
yeah. Or Frank Costello, his hand. Yeah. Right. Because that was hit somehow, customers lawyer got an injunction where the TV cameras couldn’t film his clients face. And so they fill up his hands. And he’s very expressive in that typically Italian way, you know, when we want to hand gestures when he talks. And so it’s focused on his hands. And that image was one of the most really lasting images in the history of television, as far as I’m concerned. You know, like you said, it was at the very beginning when television was just catching on. And that unusual image of Frank Costello’s voice accompanied by his hands, playing was fascinating to many people. And then, of course, unfortunately, the TV cameras didn’t the TV didn’t get involved until after the KC hearing.
Because if they had seen that, I wondered,
yeah, it’s really unfortunate because we would have got some great footage of these Casey gangsters, especially Tony Gizzo, that Tony Gizzo, you know, counting his money.
You gotta tell folks, that story got this job that you remember that say to ask him about how much money he had?
Yeah, you know, it was the they asked him about the mafia. And he kind of slipped up a little bit sort of tacitly admitted to the existence of the mafia. Then he kind of tried to backpedal. And then one of the senators said, Well, I understand that you tend to carry a lot of cash around on you in your pocket. You said you want to see it pulled out as roll? Yes. And just starts counting down $100 bill after the $100 bill, right there in front of the cameras turned into senators. And there’s a good picture of that in my book, too, which is the right there.
During the war, if you remember Paul Ricca and Cherrie Nose Gioe. Charlie Cherry Nose Gioe, Louie Campanga and several mob outfit bosses out of Chicago got caught up in extorting money from Hollywood producers and the unions out there, and it was a national thing. They all went to jail. Well, Harry Truman had his Attorney General, Tom Clark, who he will later make a Supreme Court justice before he leaves office. Tom Park is the US attorney. And those guys all get out and about three years. And there’s a lot of supposition. It was a big scandal at the time, that Tom Clark is the one that gave the final approval to let those Chicago outfit guys out after about, I think little less than three years in the penitentiary on a ten-year bit. So you know, it politics and the mob. They don’t have that anymore. That’s one reason they don’t have any power. Back then they had power because they had political connections, they could get out the vote, they could get you elected, as we found out in 46. Or they could make sure you didn’t get elected. Yeah,
and I would argue that that that alliance between organized crime and politics reached its pinnacle in Kansas City in the late 1940s. Under the reign of Charlie Binaggio. Yeah, someone in New York or Chicago might want to argue with me, and I’d love to have that conversation. And I’m sure they would have a lot of good points. Yeah. But, but I do believe that that was the case and fascinating chapter of the overall Kansas City, Korean and I think that that represents not just the pinnacle of politics, but also the high watermark of the mobbed influence in in the United States, you know, during 1950 or so. And then we you know, from there, you get into brief reign of tony gibson was boss and then into this Avila era, which is it’s whole a whole nother world a whole nother era of of intrigue and
the next the next generation shall we say it’s a whole nother story. Their next novella is a young guy at this time right during the murder that to Charles, I have people ask me what do you think he was involved with and I talked to Bill Owsley you know, he didn’t write thank you was probably involved. He thinks it probably a guy named Black Louis cotton loc. And oh god who was upset and I’ve lost the names one of the other guys who was bobbing in the burglary of the Jackson County Courthouse.
Oh, Thomas Simoni
Mason ball. Yeah, Thomas “Highway Simone” so people like that because Kansas City it was their job. It was their man it was their job that didn’t come from outside that was that was approved of on the national by the National Crime Syndicate of course commission they approved of it but then they go to gay go back to Kansas City and say, you know, you got to take care of this and you know that
there was at that time, the family was probably had a dozen different guys that could have could have done that. They had so many heavy hitters at that time. I’ve heard speculate, you know, those names that you brought up very, but I’ve also heard Nick Civella probably did the deed and that’s how he really made his bones and cut out on the fast track to leadership. That seems like a very plausible theory to me. Yeah. I would not be at all surprised if if Nick was in that room.
Somebody that they were comfortable bed with had to be in that room. Yeah, there was no signs of a struggle other than but Gargotta tried to run out the front door. Binagio was just sitting behind his desk. Oh, relax. So they met somebody there that they were comfortable enough to be in that room with
Tuffy DeLuna was 23 years old at that time, he was trying to make a name for himself. I know that Jimmy dua already was was a suspect in that double murder. He was interviewed he was taken into custody and interviewed over that but they never did not he did their murder remains unsolved.
Well fairness those guys we’ve never solved the mob murdering has never been a mob murders have been solved. Except one time some some guy hired some other outsiders to do a murder and and they took down that one Bama mob associated with them, but the outsiders outbreak every time so Gary,
you know earlier when I was probably the topic for a whole nother podcast but I was curious about the DeLuca brothers. And because they seem to you know they were a players but behind the scenes, guys mustache Pete’s more or less. We’re probably you know, pulling strings behind the scenes during the Binaggio era, but I think they were still around at the time that you were investigating things and I just was just curious if you ever had any dealings with them?
No, I didn’t. Not at all. Nick’s Civalla and Tuffy DeLuna and Cork Civella, they were front and center they the only people they were the face of the Mob to law enforcement driven by those years by 1970s, late 60s early 70s.
Interesting though, how even then even in the 70s some of these old guys were still around. Yeah, Joe Florido, DeLuca brothers, Filardo and you figure you know, maybe they still had influence certainly
Tanno LaCoco Yeah, we used to see Joe Filardo and Tano LaCoco which were ended and Luca brothers and di Giovanni and they were like the old SugarHouse syndicate that cornered all the sugar in order to the prohibition they were pretty young at the time. And, and those two, we used to see those two guys together for Filardo, who had a bakery and Tanno Lacoco, used to see them together a lot. They would ride around together. So they were everybody the word was they were like, you know, they needed some advice. He wants some advice about what was going on. I never forget I followed a man I just saw him going office building downtown, so I just parked and jumped out and went in behind them got in the elevator with him. They were going up to a lawyer’s office. There were these two little old guys, four foot 11, little sticks of men that were giant mafia feared mafia guys, you know, go bigger. Filardo was at Appalachian, for God’s sakes with Nick Civella. So, you know, it was really it was, it was a surreal experience for me being on the show, guys.
Well, and I just if I could just as we wrap things up here, I’ll just mention it. Panel. okoa. You know, I believe it was the age 98 Yeah. And then in about 1993 1994. Again, we get back to who’s carrying the coffin right? Ah, yeah. So you were talking about the young Italian uns, and I know that some of those of those young Italians were carrying the coffin of Gaetano LaCoco. And some of those guys are the ones who appear in my deck book. Mafia dreams will be out. It’ll be out in about six weeks, I
think I will get.
I’m really looking forward to coming back on your podcast because, you know, I definitely wanted to debut this book on gangland wire, because you were so helpful with this book dairy, introducing me to these people that I interviewed for the book, and you’ve been super supportive. So I really appreciate it.
Yeah. And folks, by the way, Last Man Standing out of those young Italians just got out of the penitentiary from this murder. We talked about the FBI shooting. He just got out of the penitentiary. He’s out here today working at a used car dealership. He’ll be real interested in this. I don’t know if you’ve talked to him since he got out. But he,
you’re talking. You’re talking about Mike Albanese Albanese. And he, he participated in my book he was he was willing to be interviewed. And, you know, I really appreciate him for that. He was very candid. And I’m not saying that he, you know, admitted to very much. But, you know, he has his perspective. And he was more than willing to share it. He did 25 and a half years in prison, he went in at the age of 25, and got out at the age of 50. And yeah, he really represents the, that group of young Italians, who had their own mafia dreams back in the 1990s. And got wrapped up in this fascinating case, which involved a murderer and a drugs thing and bought illegal input interesting legal implications. I was able to speak with the lead agent on the case to agent Ron halter. He was also very gracious and willing to share his memories and experiences. So we’ve got really good perspectives from both sides. Again, thanks for letting me mention it. All right.
Wow. Frank Hayde. And the book is the Mafia and the Machine that I know a lot of you guys know about, because you mentioned it on Facebook every once in a while a lot of people have read it. And I think a lot more people probably read it after today. Because it is it is a beautiful, well done and well documented overview of Kansas City mafia from the Blackhand days to the modern era. So it’s really appreciate you doing that and going to all that work, Frank and, and for coming on the podcast. Thanks a lot. All right.
Thank you, Gary. See you next time.
All right. Well, guys, don’t forget guys. Don’t forget I like to ride motorcycles. So watch out for motorcycles when you’re out there. And if you have a problem with PTSD, be sure and go to the VA website and get that hotline if you’ve been in the service. And if you have problem with drugs or alcohol, your good friend former Gambino man Anthony ruggiano is in the treatment center business down in Florida and he’s got a hotline on his website, I think as reformed gangsters.com or something like that. Just just start looking for anthy ruggiano. So thanks a lot guys, and we will talk to y’all later.