This is the first episode of a three part episode discussing how the Midwest Mob families obtained influence over the Central States Teamsters Pension Fund. I am a member of the Board for the Kansas City Police Pension Fund. We have 800 Million dollars invested. If 5 Board members were to agree to make a multi-million dollar loan to an individual to buy a casino, we could do that. That is exactly what happened to the Central States Teamster’s Pension Fund.
By the time Prohibition ended, every major city from Kansas City east to New York City had politically powerful criminal organizations known as La Cosa Nostra, The Mob, The Mafia, the Syndicate, The Outfit, the Clique or in general “This Thing Of Ours.”
The Teamsters Union was one of the most powerful and corrupt unions in the United States by this time. In 1953 the long time president Daniel Tobin retired and his handpicked successor Dave Beck was elected. Beck was notoriously corrupt and he took steps to ensure he was Teamsters president for life. James R. “Jimmy” Hoffa was an up and comer and in 1956 he conspired with a New York gangster named Johnny Dio to rig the next Teamster’s president’s election. At this time, in Kansas City, we had an up and comer in Local 41, named Roy Lee Williams.
Roy Lee Williams started driving trucks in 1935. As with most able bodied men in 1941, Williams went to war. He came back a war hero with a Silver Star. The first known contact between Hoffa and Williams was around 1950 when Hoffa appointed Williams as a Trustee to a Local in Wichita, Kansas. By 1952, Williams was appointed to a Joint Council that supervised all Locals in Western Missouri and Kansas. He soon became the President of Local 41 in Kansas City, MO.
As Williams and Hoffa rose in the ranks of the Teamster’s Union, they both sought the assistance of the Mob. Retired FBI agent Bill Ouseley relates the first known contact between Nick Civella and Roy Lee Williams. They were both on a Jackson County Democratic Party committee. The committee’s purpose was to recommend candidates for various city and County offices. Just like Hoffa and Dio, Williams and Civella found they could use each other’s talents to ensure better contracts for Teamsters and provide work for the Mafia.
Civella came up with a plan to provide a special medical insurance for Kansas City Teamsters. He had a local doctor who would provide all Teamster’s members office visits. Williams was to charge each member $1.00 monthly. This would be about $4,000.00 per month. Williams would pay this to the doctor and the doctor would “take care” of Civella. Williams resisted this unnecessary medical plan (they already had health insurance). A mob guy named Thomas “Highway” Simone confronted Willams and threatened to kill Williams’ wife and children and then kill Williams. The plan was adopted.
Bill Ouseley reports in his book, Mobsters in Our Midst that the Teamsters started a drive to take control of the Firefighters Local 42 In Kansas City. The Fire Fighter’s president was a Battalion Captain named Stanton Gladden. He resisted the Teamster efforts. A politically appointed “Fire Chief” named Edgar Grass offered a promotion to a popular Fire Captain to support the Teamster’s Union among the rank and file. Gladden threatened to expose this offer. Nick Civella’s brother, Cork Civella, asked Gladden to meet and discuss this issue. Civella offered his influence on the city council to get Gladden promoted to Fire Chief while Chief Grass would be given a position as “Director” of the Fire Department. In return, Gladden had to stop exposing the Teamsters influence over the promotional process and the existing fire chief. Gladden declined this offer and subsequently released an affidavit proving this allegations of improper influence over the promotional process by Teamster’s advocates. Shortly after that Gladden started his car and a bomb exploded. He was severely injured. This bombing created so much publicity that then Attorney General Robert Kennedy opened an investigation into these activities and the local F.B.I. started their years of investigation into mob influence over the Teamsters union.
Listen below for more exciting details.