Last Brother Standing

August 8, 2019

Corky Civella

This is a possible title for my upcoming documentary about the Kansas City mob war of the 1970s. This is the story of the ruling Civella brothers, Nick and Cork Civella and the upstart young Turks, Nick Spero and his brothers, Mike, Joe and Carl Spero. A quick overview if you don’t remember the multi episode podcast I did on this conflict. Basically it is the generation gap played out in a mob war. The old school Nick and his brother Cork Civella were born in the early 1900s and the young turk Speros were born during WW II. Just like the Baby Boomers resisted the previous generation’s conservative values and influence on society, the Spero brothers resisted the conservative mafia leadership of the Civellas.

A quick overview begins with the eldest brother Nick Spero coming of age as a career criminal who joins a mob robbery crew travelling around the country robbing grocery stores. They always kick a piece of this action up to Nick and Cork Civella after a successful score.  One of these crew members is an blood relative of other mob members named Sam Palma. He is arrested for a Texas super market robbery and the night before he is scheduled to plead guilty, someone murders him. Unknown persons set up this murder to look like a suicide and mob informants implicate Nick Spero. This must have been the desire of Nick Civella because Spero graduates to setting up a scheme to hijacking trailers of merchandise from trucking companies. I have one story that lets you know how sharp this guy was. The mob dominated Teamster’s Union makes sure he get a job working for a national truck line, Yellow Freight. He sets up a trailer load of liquor to be stolen. Nick goes to management and Yellow Freight security, claiming he can get this trailer back. Quickly he located the entire trailer minus a few cases of booze. probably for his trouble. A grateful Yellow Freight management team promoted Nick to a position of authority. He was access to all truck schedules and cargo manifest and given a voice in whether or not an employee will be prosecuted.  Yellow Freight notices that more and more trailers of merchandise like electric knives, perfume, batteries, film and booze are missing and presumed stolen. Nick is hard to fire with his mob connections though the Teamster’s Union but finally, Yellow Freight pays him a cash settlement to resign. Nick moves on to running travelling jewelry theft gangs of which his youngest brother, Carl Spero is the team leader. He gets another Teamster job and is so popular that he is elected a union steward. Nick Spero has a part time job for a mob connected c=vending company and he successfully intimidates many stores and bars into installing this companies vending machines. He seems to be a young mobster on a management track

Remember, this is the 1960s and by 1970, Nick Spero has effected the look and dress of other young people. In other words, he grows his hair out and sports a large Fu Man Chu mustache. He is seen wearing flowery bell bottom pants and colorful shirts. The conservative Nick Civella has always dictated that none of his men shall have facial hair and they all dress in dress shirts and slacks with a snap brim hat or fedora, exactly like Nick and Cork Civella.  Informants start reporting that Nick Civella does not like or trust Nick Spero because of his dress but more importantly his demeanor. He is loud, flamboyant and is seen as a leader among his peers in the criminal underworld. These attributes are all great for the boss if he can control the man, but in this case Nick Spero once made the following statement when asked about joining the Civella organization rather than operating on his own and paying a tribute.

“I ain’t no jock strap, they use you up until the stretch is all gone and then they throw you away. I have always been my own man. i don’t listen to anybody but my father and he is dead.”

This just the first few minutes. This story goes on the describe a war to the death from two opposing factions in the Kansas City underworld. The mob dictates that Nick Spero be murdered. He leaves three brothers, and one of them, Carl Spero, is exactly like his older brother Nick, loud, flamboyant, aggressive and a charismatic leader of other mob associates. I will take the viewer on a trip that exposes this mob war from the inside. I was assigned on a surveillance team that stayed in the middle trying to stop any more murders and catch any folks trying to commit murder. If you would like to contribute in any way to this documentary hit me up.

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2 comments on “Last Brother Standing

  1. Sharon Snyder Aug 14, 2019

    Toni LanFranca was Cork Civella’s girlfriend before she married Carl Spero. Cork helped her buy a house in Northeast. When she got pregnant by Frank ? who owned the Virginia Tavern who was a best friend of Frank. He eventually adopted that child who ended up with Irene Gilliland/Cornejo/Shepherd (Gene Shepherd’s girlfriend). I don’t know if this relationship had anything to do with the mob war between Cork and Carl. Toni was Irene’s daughter.

    • Gary Jenkins Aug 17, 2019

      Thank you for that inside knowledge of these relationships. This is a complicated story. What you said then add in the bombing of Jack Anderson’s car by Gene Shepherd and Mike Ruffalo. Then Ruffalo starts working with the FBI. Then Cork plots the murder of Carl. Then the hit on the Spero brothers at Todaro’s Virginia Tavern. Then I hear that another Spero got arrested in a bombing attempt on Todaro. Then someone kills Mike and cripples Carl. Then Joe gets convicted for attempting to bomb DeLuna. Then Joe gets killed by a bomb. Then Carl finds a bomb at his house. Finally Carl gets killed by a bomb at his car lot. I would really like to get an on camera interview with someone who knew the Spero brothers on a personal level to show the family side. Right now all I have are cops and agents. Like for example, I hear Joe had a toupee and he liked to lift it up when he met a friend and said hello.

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