||Kansas City| Charles Binaggio
Birth: January 12, 1909
Death: April 5, 1950
Charles Binaggio rose quietly to prominence within the Mafia family in Kansas City, Missouri. He moved to KC at an early age with his family and grew up in the city's North Side, which was heavily populated at the time by Sicilian and Italian immigrants. It isn't known when Binaggio fell in with the mob, however his first known arrest came in December of 1930 in Denver, Colorado when he was 21 years old.
He was arrested along with Tony Gizzo and Tony Casciola, two well known Kansas City Mafiosi, during a raid on an apartment building in that city. Police found a mini-cache of firearms in the apartment and arrested the trio, along with two other mobsters, for weapons charges. The charges were later reduced to vagrancy and Binaggio was released on bond. It appears that Binaggio was part of a team of Kansas City mobsters sent to Denver by then KC boss John Lazia, to aid the Denver crime family in a "war" with the crime family from Pueblo, Colorado, where he would be arrested again in Denver in 1931.
Despite the fact that Binaggio was dispatched to Denver to help in a mob war, it appears that he made his name within the KC crime family for his involvement with liquor and gambling and his ability to earn a lot of money for the crime family in these endeavors. Binaggio would be arrested shortly after his return to Kansas City following a bloody shootout in a mob-run flower shop that left a Federal Prohibition agent and two others dead. This occurred on July 20, 1931 at the Lusco-Noto Flower Shop at 1039 E. Independence Avenue in Kansas City. Prohibition agents and local police raided the shop looking for evidence in a recent "spot" killing. A shootout and fire ensued. Binaggio, who was in the building at the time (the building was the headquarters of Joe Lusco, a lieutenant of mob boss John Lazia), was arrested and taken in for questioning. He had taken no part in the shootout and was released after being charged with vagrancy.
Rise to power
Following his arrest at the Lusco-Noto shootout scene, Binaggio was taken under the wing of John Lazia, who had established a political club (the North Side Democratic Club) in order to increase his mob's power. This led to Binaggio's involvement with the local and State political scene that would last until his death in 1950.
John Lazia was assassinated in 1934 and his underboss Charles V. "Charley the Wop" Carollo ascended to the crime throne. At some point it is believed that Binaggio became Carollo's underboss. In 1939, Carollo was caught up in a citywide clean-up campaign and he was sent to prison for income tax evasion. This led to the rise of Binaggio to the position of the city's mob boss in October of 1939.
The Kansas City family had a violent reputation that extended back to the turn of the century when the Black Hand version of the Mafia terrorized the city's North Side. The violence had reached a peak during and immediately following the reign of John Lazia (1928-1934), but things had remained relatively quiet under Carollo's rule. This would change under Binaggio, as there were several unsolved mob slayings which occurred on his watch. In November 1941, Binaggio would be involved in a fatality car accident. He had been speeding down Broadway near his apartment on Armour Boulevard when he struck a 50 year old man who was crossing the street. Binaggio was arrested and charged with manslaughter, but the charges were quickly dropped. Following this incident, Binaggio was always accompanied by his driver, Nick Penna.
Binaggio and the local mob continued to increase their wealth through their gambling and liquor interests, as well as through a nationwide narcotics ring that had begun in the 1930's and had continued into Binaggio's reign, until it was broken up by a major Bureau of Narcotics investigation that netted mafiosi in Kansas City, St. Louis and Tampa, Florida, as well as other cities. Binaggio escaped being linked to this drug ring, but one of his main lieutenants, Joe DeLuca, was sent to prison when a low-level member of the ring, Carl Caramusa, turned state's evidence. Caramusa was later tracked down and killed on a Chicago street in 1945.
Binaggio and the Pendergast Machine
Binaggio had formed his own political club, the First Ward Democratic Club, in the early 1940's. He slowly began to take over wards in and near the city's North Side, becoming a major rival of Jim Pendergast (former KC political boss Tom Pendergast's nephew) and his Democratic faction. Binaggio's goal was to get one of his candidates elected Missouri Governor.
He failed in 1944 when the candidate backed by his organization was defeated in the primary by the candidate backed by the Pendergast faction. In 1948, Binaggio backed Forrest Smith as the Democratic candidate to defeat the Republican encumbant. Binaggio used his mob connections to win the election. In turn for his promise to the National Commission of La Cosa Nostra that if Smith won, Missouri would be opened up to gambling, Binaggio received a loan rumored to have been anywhere between $200,000 and $2,000,000 to use to win the election. The money was reportedly given to Binaggio at the home of Charles Fischetti, a major Chicago Mafioso (Kansas City was subservient to Chicago in the mob hierarchy). Using the money, and manpower provided by other crime families, Binaggio managed to get Smith elected Governor.
Decline & Downfall
Binaggio's master plan seems to have been to gain control over the police departments in Kansas City and St. Louis through the control the governor held over those departments. In the late 1930's both departments had been taken over by the State due to mass corruption within the ranks. The departments were ruled by separate Boards of Police Commissioners that were appointed by the Governor. By controlling the Governor, Binaggio hoped to get candidates of his choosing appointed to the Police Boards in each of the state's major cities. Smith, however balked. He made initial appointments to each Board, but refused to give a consensus to Binaggio's candidates. Subsequently the syndicate, which had already begun to move into the state and open new gambling establishments, were forced to cease their new activities.
Binaggio received several warnings from his bosses within the Mafia, but he was unable to rectify the situation, despite attempting to bribe one of the Kansas City police commissioners and threatening others. At some point, the decicion was made that Binaggio would pay for his failure to deliver on his promise to the Commission. On the night of April 5, 1950, Binaggio and his underboss, Charles "Mad Dog" Gargotta (a notorious enforcer within the KC family), were called to meet unknown persons at the First Ward Democratic Club at Truman and Holmes near downtown Kansas City. The two left from a tavern that the mob had recently taken over after intimidating and killing the operators. Binaggio told his driver/bodyguard Nick Penna, to wait for him at the tavern, and that he would be back in a few minutes. The boss and underboss then left in a car borrowed from another mobster that was at the club.
Shortly after eight PM, residents in apartments above the political club heard several shots. Eight hours later, a cab driver going to a nearby cafe, noticed the door of the club open and heard water running inside the building. The police were called to investigate and the bodies of the two gangsters were discovered inside (the running water had come from a broken toilet that was unrelated to the murders). Binaggio was seated at a desk and had been shot four times in the head with a .32 caliber revolver. Gargotta was found lying inide the front door of the club, he had also been shot four times in the head by a separate .32 revolver. It appeared that he had realized what was coming and had attempted to flee the club when he was brought down by a shot to the back of the head. Theories abounded that the pair were killed by mobsters sent from St. Louis or Chicago, but in all likelihood they were killed by members of their own crime family that had been ordered to make the hit by the Commission. The most likely organizer of the hit was Tony Gizzo, who was given the leadership of the Kansas City family following the demise of Binaggio.
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