Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. Gary tells stories about the Black Mafia in Kansas City, from their early days when they dominated the Heroin market to the murder of a prominent Black politician, Leon Jordon, to the epic war between Sam Haley and Aaron Gant. Finally, he ends with a disturbing story about a drug house robbery. The primary connection between the La Cosa Nostra Mafia and the Black Mafia appeared to be between a fence named Jimmy Ciarelli and a black liquor store owner called Baby Face Norris and one of the suspects in the Leon Jordan murder named Jimmy Willis.
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GARY JENKINS 00:00
Hey, all you Wiretappers out there. Good to be back here in the studio Gangland Wire. I’ve got a story of the Black Mafia in Kansas City. Now, I’ve often been asked what connections did the Italian Mafia have with professional black criminals or African American criminals. And there was some. And it all revolves around drugs and politics. So let’s go back to some of the early days in the late 60s and early 70s. What we had in Kansas City there, the heroin racket, back in the day, blacks had heroin, and the Italians got the heroin and sold it to the blacks go all the way back to the French Connection days and Carmine Galante in New York. Now, by the late 60s, early 70s. Our local African American guys got a connection in Los Angeles to get heroin now it was seemed like it was peckerwoods out there. It wasn’t Italians. Anyhow, they got that but they were kicking up a little bit to the Italians, and they needed to coexist with the Italians at the time. And so it’s kind of started this ongoing relationship that neither party really ever acknowledged to anybody. But it started coming out in little bits and pieces. Because I guess we really go back to the old 18th and Vine, the Kansas City song Wilbert Harrison, Kansas City song about being a 12th. And bind goes way back. But 18th and Vine, by the late 50s and 60s, was the place and it’s all black clubs and jazz clubs and everything were there and there was a corner liquor store owned by a guy named Joe Centimano, Cokie Joe or Crazy Joe, they called him
and he was a connection with the blacks because he was in the black community. Now he was connected primarily because of politics. It was late 60s, there formed a black political organization named freedom Incorporated. And there were other black, political, smaller black political organizations. And Joe was the mom’s contact with those people. There’s a guy down the street that had a liquor store called a blueprint liquor store, a guy named maybe face north and they called him babyface north and he continued to be that for years and years really until he died up until I don’t know the 80s there was a mob guy named Jimmy Cirelli that would show up talking to one of our Capos Willie the rat Cammisano. He was a professional thief and offense and he would be down at Baby Faces Blue Front liquors every day. Now, back in the day, when I first came on the police department, baby face was always good for couple of six packs. If you’re getting off of work and you want some beer of our if we had the central patrol picnic, because he was in Central Patrol, somebody would go buy Baby Faces and get two or three cases of beer for that. So it’s kind of all part of the day in the life on the streets of the city down there. But but there was this gang called the 31st street gang and there was a couple of guys that probably came out of that named Doc Dearborn and Eugene Richardson, and they got a connection and they created what really would become the first iteration or the main group that would become known as the Black Mafia in Kansas City. They had a white guy named Eddie Cox, who always was like the brain. He was the brain. He was a guy that helped him with the organization and connections because Eddie Cox had connections all over the United States. He was connected to the mob. He was connected through the penitentiary system to other criminal organizations throughout the entire United States because he was like a great prison lawyer. He is so good that he just got out on a compassionate release recently from a couple of life sentences that he had and he helped another guy named John Mandacina get out on a compassionate release, who was down for a contract murder and had a life sentence himself. So he’s still operating. He’s still out there.
GARY JENKINS 04:07
He was a dangerous man, a dangerous dangerous man. So Eddie Cox and Eugene Richardson and Doc Dearbon formed the Black Mafia and it was a heroin drug operation. They were providing all the heroin in the old drug abuse law enforcement or DALE, just before the DEA, and the Kansas City Police narcotics formed a task force I can I want to say 70, early 70 started working on these guys and started making small heroin buys as you do and started working their way up the chain and doing surveillances and they eventually got to wiretap because Eddie Cox will file all kinds of motions once he gets convicted. He’ll find all kinds of file all kinds of motions about this wiretap and eventually gets part of the evidence thrown out now wasn’t good enough to keep him out. He eventually got out again, but he was a great prison lawyer. So these guys are their rules. In the streets, they own what we call the east side, which was African American community, east of Troost. South of Truman road and east of Troost out to about, I want to say at that time at about 75th Street, maybe 63rd. These guys, they had like out south. They had a couple of three guys, and I never was familiar with because during that time, I was a street policeman and I was working in and around the projects and the guys, for them that were kind of controlling the projects were the Denmon brothers, Mario, and then I remember the other Ken, I think, Denmon. And then a guy named Aaron Gant had an organization, he had two or three relatives, so they were like the crew under the Black Mafia. They also had the 31st street gang was still going a guy named Maynard Cooper ran it and they use them for enforcement activities. And these guys, they were murderers. They were vicious if somebody tried to cheat them on the heroin or on the money or they felt like somebody was getting in on their deal incursion into their territory. They did end up dead I mean, these guys are bad. So as a result of these wiretaps. They also had a little bank robbery crew working for him. A couple of brothers name Hill. And last name was Kelton had a couple of brothers, Jerry and Terry Kelton last one of them is still in the penitentiary for a series of bank robberies and the other one died. Terry died and I think Jerry still up here, Leavenworth I had a guy get ahold of me what No, he wanted to talk to Jerry and try to tell the Kelton story which they have a whole story in themselves. They got a pretty wide swath. There’s a couple of bank robbers in Kansas City. chased after them myself. I almost got Jerry one time and after bank robbery probably a good thing I didn’t he was a killer. He probably would have killed me. But we had little car chase and he got away. It was an interesting story about that. He ran into an apartment building. I don’t know what happened to him in there. He had some people in there that he knew. But we ended up searching their apartment and we couldn’t find him in there. He was gone. But he dropped a whole pile of money from the bank robbery out in front of the apartment building. And we found out later that the postman was walking along about the time he ran in and saw the money and took the money and kept it. some neighbor ratted him out by the dropped a dime on him, made a call. We go see the postman and he cops do it right away. So one of the stories on the streets, but the Black Mafia and going this is a later going back to the 70s I digressed. They run these wiretaps they get this bank robbery crew they get a bunch of search warrants and they pop everybody there was a shootout with Doug Dearborn. Al Lomax, who was a narcotics Kansas City police narcotics detective had a shootout with him got wounded in the leg. I don’t know they didn’t shoot Doc Dearbon. But he must have given up or something. I don’t know exactly what happened down there hours gone. So I don’t know exactly what happened to the details of that. But there was a shootout, put them all in jail all kinds of headlines about the Black Mafia and putting them in jail. But during this time, there was a politician of black politician named Leon Jordan. And here’s where the Black Mafia again intersects with the mob. And this Joe Centimano, hard name to pronounce.
Leon Jordan had been a Kansas City Missouri Police officer had been promoted to Lieutenant had got a leave of absence, went to Liberia and help organize a national police force over there, came back, worked on the PD for a little bit and realized that being a black man in the Kansas City Police Department in 1968 69, he was never going anywhere to be Lieutenant they we made him a lieutenant but then he gave him a small crew of black policemen and the black neighborhood and he was never gone any further than that. And he was a bright guy. And he had aspirations. So he quit and went into politics and had a political organization. Part of Freedom Incorporated helped found this Freedom Incorporated and they would back certain black candidates. And if you got the approval of Freedom Incorporated, then whoever you were in this city, you were probably going to get elected because every black person that voted would vote for whoever freedom incorporated wanted you to vote for him. So there was some he had a confrontation with an Italian politician, down at the state capitol. They wanted him to do something and he wouldn’t do it and it’s reported that maybe even they had a physical altercation. We don’t know.
All sudden, Leon Jordan is out and the Green Duck tavern he had bought a tavern was like a center for politicians and they were had people and drug dealers and everybody and everybody went to the Green Duck and one
Night Leon Jordan walks out of the Green Duck to get his brown Pontiac. And two men can run it down the street with shotguns and blow him away.
Once there’s like a couple of witnesses to the set, and within the next few months, the Feds are going after a couple of guys that are connected to the Black Mafia, not Leon Jordan, not Doc Dearbon, Eugene Richardson, but Maynard Cooper. There’s a guy named Walter Fronibarger, who was a drug addict and in this operation that caught a case at that time and he dropped a dime on Maynard Cooper and another guy another tough out of the 31st street gang who also we have seen, ater this, over the years talking to Cork Civella down to City Market guy named Jimmy Willis and he was a bad dude. He was one tough dude. And they is willing to testify against him. So they went in and they had the first trial against Maynard Cooper with Fronibarger testified and he had like 30 felonies or something and he got a not guilty and they just dropped charges on Jimmy was never tried. So they walked on that pretty good idea that they had something to do with it. The Black Mafia did but nobody could prove anything beyond that. Eventually they will eventually the story’s gonna come out, but not the years and years later. These guys go go away to prison. Well, I mentioned in the projects there’s a guy named Aaron Gant and Aaron Gann called him Junebug. And he was ambitious, shall we say? And he started lining people up and he created what became known as the purple capsule gang, because they always put their heroin in purple capsules. And he kind of branched out into cocaine because it was starting to come in and get in popular. And so he owned the projects, but he was vicious and they caught him on like 20 Some murders they think, charged him with three and they ended up convicting him of one said he and a guy named Alan Hawkins. And a couple of these Denmon brothers brought this whole thing down. But there’s always somebody else to take up the slack guy named Sam Haley was a big rival of Aaron Gant at the time and when Aaron Gant went down on those murders and Sam Haley was able to move in and expand his territory, which will eventually they go to war over the next two or three years. Matter of fact, Sam Haley was a little bit scared of Aaron Gant because he got a case and he had to go to the penitentiary and he asked the judge in open court to not put him in Missouri State Penitentiary. I believe the one down at Moberly, maybe or maybe at Jefferson City, not put him in that one because Aaron Gant was in that penitentiary and he feared for his life and they sent him out of state ends up getting out and kind of forgot all about what happened to Sam Haley. He was a well known murderer and heroin dealer for a long time during these years and was in this ongoing battle there and gangs and gang goes away. 1985 I think have an interesting story about Aaron Gant caught this case for his blue capsule gang. In 1978 He skips out on his bond $25,000 Bond there’s a local bondsman that’s a heck of a character named Doug Sharpe. Doug Sharpe starts putting out money as matter of fact, one of his expenses was $300 to Sam Haley for information on Aaron Gan. So he’s on the hook for $25,000. Finally, he finds him out in California, and send somebody out and getting sat down and get him arrested and brought back. So then he goes in front of the judge, it says, Look, Judge, I spent like $12,000 in man hours I spent $9,000 in out of pocket expenses, which is where he laid out the expense $300 to sam Haley, I’ll need to get that bond money back. I got him back for you. So they’d already like
GARY JENKINS 13:54
executed if you will, on the bond. The state had already taken the $25,000 away from so they’ve refunded his bond money and he really kind of ended up breaking even he still lost the money. But it’s been out that money and expenses to get Aaron Gant back So Aaron Gant goes away for a few years arrogant, comes back out in 1983, gets home goes to his mom’s house, gets his brother, a woman of some kind and a couple other hangers on and they all go to the Piccolo club on 18th Street. and everything had changed. And by the 80s, cocaine had come in and we were getting these la boys bringing cocaine from Los Angeles, the Jamaicans and moved in with their cocaine outfits. And so Aaron Gant was a guy whose time had come and gone. So that’s kind of the story. I was talking to a kid about a little bit. He had a relative who’s one of these part of the Black Mafia, if you will.
And he said that his uncle whose name was they called him Radio, think his last name was Strother. They called him Radio and when Radio, got back out of the penitentiary, after about a three year bit. And he was there when he came home. And somebody out of the Gant operation brought him a briefcase full of money to get started again. So there was so much money they were predicting, they estimate the Black Mafia at their peak was making $100,000 a day off the heroin trade. That’s a bit of a stretch, but they did make a lot of money. They really were responsible for I think the very first federal wiretap, I think they were responsible for the very first legal federal wiretap in Kansas City, the one on Civella at the trap at the social club that brought Nick Civella down. That came about the same time maybe right after but that was the FBI wiretap, it was the DEA or DALE, drug abuse, law enforcement wiretap, it was really unheard of tapping a phone legally back in those days.
And some of the other guys were real colorful characters that moved into the breach. When Doc Dearbon and Eugene Richardson went down, and Aaron Gant came up and then he went down, there’s guy named Red Strong, who ended up converting to be a Muslim and took on a Muslim name. He had a house of shooting gallery on a street called Prospect. It’s kind of the main drag in the black community at a shooting gallery down there, it was just they’d be lined up their night. I was working Dogwatch and I drove by there’s like, what the heck. I mean, it was like Grand Central Station at two o’clock in the morning, went by about six o’clock in the morning, there was a big trash bag in front of his house that’s been over like kind of tore open and see what was in it and it was filled with used hypodermic syringes, I would not want to have been the trash man. I hope they pick that up with gloves. I know they’re pretty careful, especially if you’re out in the community like that and where there’s drug houses and stuff around so you have to be careful. Another guy that’s worth mentioning that came up was pretty flamboyant guy named Monk Johnson. Monk Johnson was connected to the Kelton brothers Kelton brothers were these two bank robbers. They also, the Kelton brothers had a cocaine organization going themselves based on after the demise of the Black Mafia, Dearborn Eugene Richardson and Aaron Gant. Then these Kelton brothers stepped in had their own organization going on. They were bank robbers also and then would get these little young kids to go out and rob banks, they’d set up the bank robbery and they were provided with the guns and the cars and then stick them on a bank and they actually ended up killing a man named, a policemen named Warren Jackman in a bank robbery. He was working off duty there. So these were big time professional criminals. And Terry was of more charismatic and the leader of the Terry and Jerry
GARY JENKINS 18:20
out of the penitentiary Terry starts, he makes a connection with a guy a mob associate named Jr. Bradley, who had a ton of connections in all the penitentiaries he would have been really good friends would have known Eddie Cox really well. And part of that kind of national subculture of federal penitentiary people which are a few that they call somebody if you’re like, I know Jr, he had a guy we run a wire on him and he had a father call him so he my son’s got some kind of a case. It wasn’t anything that we’d ever heard of. But he’s going up to Leavenworth and he said can you take help take care of him? He said yeah, I’ll make some calls and somebody will meet him inside. I know when a guy named Gaetano Badalamente went into penitentiary. Why guy that I know, Ggt a call from Jr. Bradley said hey Gaetana Badalamente, He’s coming in. He doesn’t speak English. Take care of him. Make sure he gets his commissary, right make sure nobody messes with him that people know who he is. And Gaetano Badalamente, he was like the Sicilian Godfather. In a way he was the Pizza Connection boss. He was the guy that really set up and ran everything in that Pizza Connection. Then fell for that and served out the rest of his life in the penitentiary. So Jr Bradley. Got some kind of a connection with Terry Kelton. And Terry was using Jr. Jr. was investing money in Terry’s operation through Terry’s wife. She did she ended up testified he would give her like a grocery we call the grocery bag one of those big brown grocery bags full of cash. And then he would go out and buy heroin or buy cocaine whichever it was or he actually dealt with both. And his organization would then sell it and he’d get the money back he paid Jr back plus his kick so in a way Jr was not involved in the drug game other than he was invested money in it and I’m sure really loan shark interest rates for the loan to make the bigger buys and keep everything flowing. Terry’s still in the penitentiary up there Leavenworth. Like I said, I’m trying to think what else is going on today? I don’t really know what’s going on today. This Leon Jordan, when he got killed.
Years later, I want to say back in around 2000 2001. May not it was even since then, more like 2007 or eight, a young guy who was a son of Cokie JOe or JOe Centimento, who had the liquor store down in Vine and had all the connections with the blacks and be right down the road from Baby Face Norris. That kid I think he got ahold of Kansas City Star reporter or somebody, and then they ended up covering it big time.
Let’s go back to the story of Leon Jordan, the politician who was killed if you remember I talked about Joe Centimanto , who had a liquor store and was kind of a contact for the black gangs and the policy blacks always ran policy. Babyface was always part of the policy game. And he had the connections with them. His son came forward to a Kansas City Star reporter and I want to say 2004 2005 and said this had been weighing on his mind. He remembered just before the murder of Leon Jordan. He knew that his dad had something to do with this. He didn’t know what. But he remembered he knew Doc Dearborn. Dearborn had come into the store a lot was friendly with his dad. We knew him and the kid would talk to Doc Dearbon or Eugene Richardson or some of their people. So they were in and out of the store a lot for some reason. And he remembered his dad one night there was some secret thing and his dad gave Leon Jordan. And his dad gave doc Durbin a shotgun.
Police took it in for as evidence, of course, as you will. So when they reopened this case, they went to Kansas Police Department said Hey, where’s that shotgun, the evidence we want to reopen this case we had a cold case squad by then. So they started looking into it. They looked in they said, Well, let’s find the evidence. And they look at the evidence. And it’s in the property room it’s an unsolved murder. So they have to preserve all the evidence.
And the shotgun, they can’t find it but they find it was signed out to our supply unit. So they go to supply unit and they find it in a police car. Because it was a typical the Winchester shotgun that we use in our police cars to get back out of the police car, put it back into evidence, because who knows, maybe they’ll solve this thing. Or maybe they’ll file a charge on somebody. There’s no statute of limitations on murder. Plus, Leon Jordan after he died, took on kind of a cult status in the black community as a dead politician, that maybe the mob had something to do kill him. Maybe it was something to do with a black white conflict, that Jefferson City at the state capitol or maybe even in the city, and there was always suspicion of that. And it probably was some kind of a conflict. I don’t think it really had anything to do with race. I think it had more to do with somebody doing not doing what somebody else wanted them to do. But anyway, I just don’t leave the murder weapon out in a police car driving around every day. So that’s kind of the story of the Black Mafia and some of the major black dope dealers that we’ve had in Kansas City over the years. When I first watched a wire. I don’t know how many guys watch the wire. It was so realistic from my memory of those days. I couldn’t even believe it was just man. I mean, it was sad little after my time. It was set in a time when they had pagers, and they were more sophisticated. But the whole the makeup of somebody had the towers of the high rises and they had the low rises. Somebody had out in the neighborhood somebody had the South side of town within the black community for the sale and distribution of heroin was exactly how it was set up. And then all these different people that were involved, and we had our own Omar, the guy that go around and rob the drug dealers. If you remember I mentioned something about the Denman brothers, they were connected to the Gants down the projects and they’re always in around well, they had a
rather, I’ve beleive it was Ray Denmon and he was a bad dude. And he was going around robbing drug dealers. On the end they got caught and here’s what they found. He was outside there was like what we it was a safe house, there was a White House is what it was. And a guy named Bernard Wolfskill. He was long time, heroin addict and junkie and booster just had been around forever. He was in the Weight House with the younger guy who was running it and you know, whenever somebody had come need to be re up, why he would give it to him and then go on. It was in a primarily white neighborhood in the suburbs. The police get a call one day and they go to this weight house, that door has been kicked in. I go in and they find I think a woman and a man dead. It was shot in the head and murdered, places all torn apart. But there was another guy land there and on the floor that was groaning and they look down they saw one of the more Mcabre scenes that you might ever see as a police officer. He had a knife stuck clear through his throat and pinned him into the wood floor.
And Bernard Wolfskill was this tough old junkie lander squirming with that knife, painted him down to the floor and they pull the knife out, send him off the hospital and patch him up, goes back out and ends up died a natural death few years later. So that’s some of the many stories of the streets of that mafia and black narcotics in Kansas City. I’ve got one of my good solid supporters here in Kansas City, who has been after me, Greg, you know who you are. But after me to do something on these guys, I off into John Gotti, Al Capone and all these national mob figures. But we’ve got our own little pieces of action here in Kansas City. And then I did the whole Kansas City mob war did a movie on it also added the skim, Our Cosa Nostra family was all involved in that but our Black Mafia, which we had this black mafia family that coordinated with the Italian Mafia for a long time, after cocaine hit the Jamaicans came in, it all went to hell. It’s so different out there. Now there’s no organization to it, except for individual different drug organizations, and people are out ripping each other off. And I mean, there’s so many murders behind these dope deals anymore. I don’t even know I asked a young policeman once I said, Who is the drug kingpin in the black community day, but he didn’t know. He didn’t have any idea and I don’t know what’s different than it used to be. It was a lot more fun and seemed like a lot more genteel back in the old days, there was a lot of murders. But we knew who was who and we knew who were the kingpins and what they were doing and had some shot at taking them down.
GARY JENKINS 27:44
Anyhow, I like to ride motorcycles. So watch out for motorcycles, and you’re out there on the streets. And I know that you know that if you have a problem with PTSD, or a friend or relative and they were the service, go to the website of the VA and get that hotline. So like and subscribe. And if you look at my YouTube subscribers, I just went crazy over the last day, I started doing shorts and then went crazy. I mean, they just shot up. But I like people listen to the audio podcast do thanks a lot guys