The American Mafia

Crime Bosses
of Kansas City


Kansas City, MO

The Kansas City family has a strong historic link to St. Louis. However, the Kansas City organization grew far more powerful than its cousin on the eastern side of Missouri. Its influence could be felt as far south as Texas. The family also secured gambling interests in Las Vegas by coordinating a westward push with crime families from Cleveland and Chicago.

Kansas City territory

Map approximates the territory of the KC family.

Joseph DiGiovanni

1915 - Joseph "Scarface" DiGiovanni (April 23, 1888, to Aug. 1971). Also known as "Joe Church." With his brother Pietro, the Sicilian (Chiusa Sclafani) born DiGiovanni engaged in Black Hand extortion within the Sicilian and Italian communities in Kansas City. A botched attempt at insurance fraud - the firebombing of a building - left Joseph permanently scarred. During the Great War, Joseph and Pietro, with their two other brothers, Paolo and Vincenzo, ran a wholesale grocery business while also engaging in black market ventures.

1920 - After the First World War, Joseph and Paolo DiGiovanni entered into a bootlegging partnership with James Balestrere and later founded a wholesale liquor business. Paolo, the oldest of the DiGiovanni brothers, died apparently of natural causes in August 1929 at the age of 54.

1925 - Frank DeMayo (April 6, 1885, to Aug. 1949). Some sources believe Sicily-born restaurateur DeMayo rose to lead the K.C. Mafia clan during the later 1920s, but this seems unlikely given the power and prestige of others in the city during the period. DeMayo was jailed in 1927 after being caught selling whiskey (he sold it to federal agents) and tampering with a jury. He was later ordered deported but there is evidence that he died in Kansas City in 1949.

Binaggio

1934 - Charles Binaggio (1909 to April 6, 1950). Binaggio, a Texas native and an operative of the Pendergast political machine, also served in the DiGiovanni bootlegging racket and ran his own race-wire gambling operation. He was actively engaged in political efforts to legalize all forms of gambling within Missouri. He appears to have inherited a level of leadership in K.C. after North End political boss Johnny Lazia was killed in 1934. (Anthony Gizzo, later a power within the city Mafia, was also a lieutenant under Lazia.)

1940 - Binaggio is clearly the most powerful underworld figure in Kansas City. Gambler Charles Carollo might have hidden that fact between 1936 and 1940 by serving as a front man. In 1940, Carollo was imprisoned for tax evasion and other offenses.

1950 - James Balestrere (June 24, 1891, to c. 1952). Binaggio and his chief lieutenant Charles "Mad Dog" Gargotta were murdered on April 6, 1950, at a political headquarters building (the Jackson County Democratic Club at 720 Truman Road). Binaggio took four bullets to the head. His murder was never solved. Palermo-born Balestrere, who had been a partner in the old DiGiovanni organization, looks to have been the senior member of a leadership group that included Thomas "Tano" Lococo, Charles Carollo and Anthony Gizzo. Some sources state that Gizzo, not Balestrere, was the supreme boss in Kansas City after Binaggio's death. The Kefauver Committee decided that Balestrere ruled the K.C. mob alongside Mafia elder statesman Joseph DiGiovanni.

Anthony Gizzo

1950-52 - Anthony Gizzo (Aug. 4, 1902, to April 1, 1953). Depending on the source, Gizzo might have been boss of Kansas City's Mafia organization between one and three years until his April 1953 death in Dallas from a heart attack. Gizzo was a close friend of Charles Binaggio. The two were arrested on a minor charge together in Denver, CO, on Jan. 18, 1930. The arrest is viewed by some as evidence that the K.C. mob was attempting to move west as early as 1930.

Nick Civella

1953 - Nick Civella (March 19, 1912, to March 1983). During Nick Civella's reign, the KC mob moved aggressively into Las Vegas casinos and reportedly had large interests in the Stardust (opened in 1955), the Fremont (opened in 1956) and later the Landmark Hotel (opened in 1969). The move west was done in concert with Mafia families from Cleveland and Chicago. Kansas City-born Civella was closely tied to the Teamsters Union during Jimmy Hoffa's presidency and the later presidency of Roy Williams (1915-1988) and appears to have had access to the Teamster pension fund. (After the mob boss's death, Roy Williams told authorities that he was intimidated into doing Civella's bidding.) Civella earned an early place on the Nevada Gaming Commission's Exclusion List. He, his brother Carl and nine others were the first to be named on the list in 1960. Nick Civella is believed to have been an attendee at the 1957 Apalachin, NY, crime convention, but he was able to escape Joseph Barbara's estate without being noticed by authorities.

c. 1977 - Carl "Cork" Civella (Jan. 28, 1910, to Oct. 2, 1994). Carl took over day to day activities of the Kansas City operation as his brother Nick faced increased scrutiny from law enforcement. Carl became full boss upon his brother Nick's death. He did not last long in the post, as he was sent off to a 10 to 30-year sentence in prison in September of 1984. Another 10-year sentence was added through another matter.

Anthony Civella in 1990

1984 - Anthony Thomas "Ripe Tony" Civella (Feb. 17, 1930, to Feb. 16?, 2006). Anthony Civella began to move into the KC leadership as authorities moved his father Carl into prison. Anthony was also convicted in the same case, but he was sentenced to just five years. During his imprisonment, some believe he worked through acting boss William Cammisano. Like his father and his uncle, Anthony Civella was at home in gambling rackets. In 1991, three years after his early release from prison,he strayed from the "family business" and involved himself in the reselling of fraudulently obtained prescription drugs on the West Coast. The endeavor resulted in an extended jail term beginning in summer of 1992. During Civella's imprisonment, his father passed away. Civella was released from prison early in 1997. Due to a criminal history that dated back to 1952, he was placed on the Exclusion List of the Nevada Gaming Commission in February of 1997. Civella died in February 2006.