By GINA KAUFMANN, SYLVIA MARIA GROSS & MATTHEW LONG-MIDDLETON
Many Kansas Citians have heard of the Union Station Massacre or the River Quay explosion — two of the more infamous episodes in KC's mobster history. But what about the lesser-known mob landmarks?
Gary Jenkins, a retired KCMO police officer, created a new app that reveals the history behind all of those spots. He talked to Central Standard's Gina Kaufmann about Kansas City Mob Tour.
Here is Jenkins's list of the five little-known historic mob locations in town:
• Last Chance Saloon: Located near State Line Road and Southwest Boulevard (where the QuickTrip now stands). The Last Chance Saloon was run by a mobster named Goulding in the 1950s before there were zoning laws. Half of the club was on the Missouri side, and the other was on the Kansas side. Legend states that when cops would show up to the saloon, all of the staff and patrons would simply walk over to the other side of the saloon and therefore across the state line, thereby avoiding prosecution.
• First Ward Democratic Club: It stood at the corner of Truman and Charlotte (which is now a parking lot). On April 5, 1950, the "2 Charlies" — Charles Binaggio and his underboss, Charles "Mad Dog" Gargotta — left the Last Chance Saloon to meet some mob associates at another mob-run establishment, the First Ward Democratic Club. They told other mobsters at the Last Chance Saloon they would return in a few minutes. They never did. The next morning, employees of the First Ward Democratic Club found the bodies of the two Charlies in a pool of blood. Strangely, their bodies were lying below a large poster of a smiling Harry Truman. The crime remains unsolved.
• 1423 Baltimore: In the 1950s, the building was home to the Downtown "Bridge” Club. Bridge was not played there — illegal gambling was. It was a notorious mobster hotspot run by Nick Civella, who would later go on to be a mob boss.
• The Coates House Hotel: Now Quality Hill Apartments, located on the southeast corner of 10th and Broadway. The Coates House Hotel was a hotspot of mob activity in the 1940s and 1950s. There was a convenience store that sold newspapers, tobacco, bubble gum etc. out of the first floor lobby that was a front for mob activities.
• Tallman's Grill: Now the popular jazz club the Phoenix, located at 8th and Central. Tallman’s Grill was the place to eat for mobsters in the 1930s and 1940s. It also was where mobsters would get their race results.
Other interesting locations, according to Jenkins:
• The Trap (or Northview Social Club) at 5th and Troost. All the mob guys socialized in its card room.
• Villa Capri: The most important spot in the 1970s. Part of the block has been torn down, including the actual address of the Villa.This was a nightclub where plans were discussed to murder people and to skim money from Las Vegas. The famous scene in the film Casino showed a guy talking about the Vegas skim in the back of a store.The actual conversation took place at the Villa Capri.
• The Virginia Inn at the corner of Admiral and Virginia. This building is gone, but this is where three masked men entered the crowded tavern and shot the three Spero brothers (Mike was killed; Joe and Carl were wounded).
• The Park Central apartment at 300 East Armour is where mob boss Johnny Lazia was killed in the 1930s.
Ed. note: The name of prominent Kansas City mobster Nick Civella was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER AP Economics Writer
The U.S. Treasury Department says it has taken action against a major affiliate of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest and most prominent "yakuza" crime syndicate.
Treasury says it has targeted the Kodo-kai and its chairman Teruaki Takeuchi, with designations as "significant transnational criminal operations." The designation freezes any assets held in the United States by the organization and its chairman. It also prohibits U.S. firms and individuals from doing business with them.
John E. Smith, the acting director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, says the new sanctions build on the agency's efforts to undermine the yakuza financially and protect the U.S. financial system from the crime syndicate's illicit activities.
President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2011 targeting the yakuza and authorizing sanctions against members and supporters.
By Tokyo Reporter o
A Yamaguchi-gumi allegedly demanded payment from a restaurant's street tout
TOKYO (TR) – Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Saturday announced the arrest of an organized crimemember for extorting a restaurant in Shibuya Ward, reports TV Asahi (April 11).
Officers took Motohiko Suzuki, a 32-year-old member of the Yamaguchi-gumi, into custody for demanding payment — specifically mikajimeryo, or protection money — from a tout for the establishment’s street tout in a business district near the Shibuya Mark City complex on Thursday evening.
According to police, Suzuki had previously to offer “problem-solving” services for the restaurant.
Suzuki has reportedly denied the allegations. “I didn’t make a verbal request for money,” the suspect is quoted by police.
By Jake Adelstein
For months, people have seen photos circulating online that allegedly show Japan Olympic Committee Vice Chairman Hidetoshi Tanaka hobnobbing with Japanese yakuza bosses. But on Tuesday, Japan saw its first significant official response to the photos.
At a House of Representatives committee hearing, Diet member Yoshio Maki demanded an independent investigation into the allegations surrounding Tanaka. Maki did so while displaying paper copies of several news reports, including a story published by VICE News in November. That story marked the first time the above photo was published, showing a smiling Tanaka sitting to the right of Shinobu Tsukasa, the head of Japan's largest yakuza syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi.
Tanaka also serves as the chairman of the board of directors of Japan University [Nihon Daigaku], which has reportedly received more than $100 million in subsidies from the Japanese government. The 2020 Olympics are under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, as is Japan University. But Minister of Education Hakubun Shimomura told Maki at the committee meeting that he had been unaware of the problem.
Despite making several attempts, VICE News was unable to reach Tanaka after the meeting.
Last September, reporters for the Keiten Newspaper obtained the photo of Tanaka and the Yamaguchi-gumi supreme boss. But before the newspaper could publish the photo, its reporters were attacked and severely injured. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Organized Crime Control Division is still investigating the case, and no arrests have been made yet. (VICE News obtained the photo independently.)
Related: This may be the most dangerous — and most costly — photo in Japan
Yakuza is a term encapsulating Japan's 21 organized crime groups that boast an estimated 60,000 members. They exist as semi-legal entities with offices, business cards, and fan magazines, and make their money from racketeering, loan sharking, fraud, extortion, stock market manipulation, adult entertainment, and construction.
The estimated cost of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is more than $50 billion, which means there's a lot of money to be made in building and refurbishing Olympic facilities. The yakuza are said to collect about 5 percent of all construction revenue in Japan.
Maki holds up a January VICE News story about Tanaka at the committee meeting on Tuesday.
At Tuesday's meeting, Maki addressed his concerns about Tanaka and questioned the Ministry of Education about its response to the articles in the English press.
"We asked the JOC (Japan Olympic Committee) and the university about these allegations," a ministry official said, "and were told that there was no problem."
Maki called the ministry's response "extremely lax," and said that when he spoke to "key figures" at Japan University, they told him that they were aware of Tanaka's ties to the yakuza — and afraid for their lives if they went public.
When contacted by VICE News last year, a spokesperson at Japan University said: "The university received these photos of Tanaka with the head of the Yamaguchi-gumi along with a written threat in early September and have filed a report with the police on charges of intimidation. Mr. Tanaka has no memory of ever meeting these individuals, and we consider the photos to be fakes."
Several sources, including police, told VICE News that the photos are authentic.
At the committee meeting, Maki asked a National Police Agency official to clarify whether a criminal complaint had been filed or not, but the police official twice refused to comment.
After he finished his questioning, Maki told VICE News: "I have spoken to officials at the university who said that they were shown the photographs of Tanaka with a yakuza boss by Tanaka himself, who used the photos to intimidate them and warn them of the consequences of opposing him. They are very afraid for their lives and afraid to oppose Tanaka for fear of what will happen to them. I believe the photos are real."
Maki suggested at the meeting that the Ministry of Education create an independent investigation committee and look into the matter.
"This is the first time I've heard of the problem," Shimomura told Maki. "We will consider creating an investigative panel in the ministry or having the university create a third-party investigative committee. I personally would like to conduct an inquiry."
It was a surprisingly enthusiastic answer from Shimomura, who has received donations from a Yamaguchi-gumi front company and has recently been under scrutiny for his alleged association with a Yamaguchi-gumi associate named Masahiro Toyokawa, who donated money to Shimomura and helped create a political support group for him.
The US Government has blacklisted two of the yakuza bosses allegedly photographed with Tanaka and forbidden association with them and their organization. Under an executive order from President Barak Obama, the Department of Treasury has frozen about $55,000 of yakuza holdings, according to Bloomberg. It is illegal in Japan to pay off the yakuza or work with them.
Tanaka, according to a university spokesman, has admitted to meeting Yamaguchi-gumi consigliere Kyo Eichu in the late 1990s, but said that it was not a close relationship. The meeting was reportedly to seek help in getting Sumo made an official Olympic sport.
Nevertheless, neither Japan's Olympic Committee nor the body that oversees it, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), appear to be especially troubled by the allegations. In an email, an IOC spokesman told VICE News that it not their job to keep criminal elements out of the Japan 2020 Olympics, and that the IOC has not investigated.
"The IOC, as a sports organization, does not have any law enforcement power or jurisdiction," the spokesman said. "If there is any proof or evidence of an individual's involvement in criminal activities, it would be up to the Japanese public prosecution and criminal court to prosecute and to sanction such an individual."
The administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which made the successful bid for the 2020 Olympics, has been dogged by allegations of organized crime connections. Eriko Yamatani, whom Abe appointed to be the head of the Public Safety Commission — it oversees the National Police Agency — had a history of association with the yakuza-backed right wing group Zaitokukai. The group has been labeled a public security risk by the National Police Agency. According to police sources, the group was created with the backing of the Yamaguchi-gumi and until recently also had close ties to the Sumiyoshi-kai, Japan's 2nd largest crime group.
Prime Minister Abe himself has been photographed with a major financier of the Yamaguchi-gumi and members of the Zaitokukai, but has denied knowing them.
The alleged yakuza ties are not the only scandal plaguing Tanaka. According to an article published in February in the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper, Tanaka allegedly received a kickback of about $42,000 related to a construction project connected to the university.
Follow Jake Adelstein on Twitter: @jakeadelstein
Domenico Rancadore, known as "The Professor", spent two decades hiding out in Britain before his arrest.
A mafia gangster who was due to be extradited to Italy from the UK has been told he no longer has to serve his sentence.
Domenico Rancadore, known as "The Professor", hid out in Britain for more than 20 years until he was discovered living in west London in 2013.
Italian authorities wanted the 65-year-old returned to his native country because they said should spend time in jail for being head of an organised crime group.
He lost his battle against extradition in February but it emerged on Wednesday that the punishment he was due to serve has been "extinguished" since last October.
His solicitor Karen Todner said: "Domenico Rancadore's sentence in Italy extinguished due to age of conviction.
"I have sent a consent order for the discharge of Rancadore to the Crown Prosecution Service to sign."
Before his arrest, Rancadore was living in Uxbridge with his family under the name Marc Skinner.
After a year-and-a-half long extradition battle, the Sicilian was told he must return to Italy to serve his seven-year sentence.
He was never convicted of murder but was tried in his absence in 1999 for "association with the Mafia" because he was a member of the Cosa Nostra.
The mobster claimed he came to England out of fear in 1995 as he wanted to give his "children a good life" and that he felt "their life wasn't secure" in Italy.
He was first arrested on a European arrest warrant at his semi-detached London home in August 2013.
His lawyers initially defeated an attempt to extradite him on human rights grounds in March 2014 but they failed at a second attempt this year.
It is understood that under Italian law, although a conviction stands, a sentence expires once a period of more than double the time of the penalty has passed.
With a seven-year sentence, the 14-year period would have elapsed some time last year.
Staff report 1
A Florham Park resident was sentenced Wednesday to 28 months in prison for his role in the affairs of the Genovese organized crime family.
Nunzio LaGrasso, 64, engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity by extorting tribute payments at Christmas time from members of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), according to a press release from New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.
LaGrasso, who had been vice president of ILA Local 1478, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court to racketeering conspiracy. LaGrasso admitted to conspiracy to commit extortion and extortion.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Since at least 2005, co-defendant Stephen Depiro, 59, of Kenilworth, has managed the Genovese family’s control over the New Jersey waterfront—including the nearly three-decades-long extortion of port workers in local unions.
Members of the Genovese family, including Depiro, are charged with conspiring to collect tribute payments from New Jersey port workers at Christmas each year through their corrupt influence over union officials, including the last three presidents of Local 1235 and vice president of ILA Local 1478.
During their guilty plea proceedings, LaGrasso, Depiro and co-defendant Albert Cernadas, 79, of Union, former president of ILA Local 1235 and former ILA executive vice president, admitted their involvement in the Genovese family, including conspiring to compel tribute payments from ILA union members, who made the payments based on actual and threatened force, violence and fear.
LaGrasso and Cernadas admitted to carrying out multiple extortions of dockworkers. The timing of the extortions typically coincided with the receipt by certain ILA members of “Container Royalty Fund” checks, a form of year-end compensation.
In addition to the prison term, Cecchi sentenced LaGrasso to two years of supervised release and fined him $25,000. Cernadas was previously sentenced to probation and DePiro is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.