Mobster Monday: Nick Spero- The Hippy Mobster


In 1970, FBI agents installed a wiretap on the telephone inside the Columbus Park Social Club located at 5th and Troost. This club was deep in the heart of what most K.C. residents called “Little Italy.” After the western District of Missouri U.S. Attorney obtained an indictment on the boss Nick Civella, the mob learned a couple of big bettors were going to be called as witnesses. One of these bettors was a Chevrolet dealer named Lester Moore. A mob associate named Carl Spero had introduced Moore into the Civella gambling ring, and Nick held him responsible for Moore.

Nick Civella sent word that Lester Moore was to be “taken care of.” By this time, Kansas authorities had convicted Carl Spero of a large warehouse theft, and he was incarcerated. The duty to handle this witness fell to the eldest Spero brother, Nick Spero. After consulting with Carl Spero and his other brothers, Mike and Joe Spero, Nick sent word back that this was not their job and refused to murder Moore.

Nick Spero grew up in what was known as “The North End” or “Little Italy” during World War II. He came from a large family with three brothers and two sisters. The Spero bothers, and their cousins ran the streets like the Gopher boys of New York City. Nick, being the oldest, was always the leader. The North End looked like the Mulberry street neighborhood in Manhattan, complete with two mafia social clubs, several small Italian restaurants, and a corner store ran by a part-time gambler called Cheebay. Nobody knew his real name. The homes were townhomes built out of red brick in the 19th or early 20th Century Federal style. They were very narrow with two or three floors above ground, and many had two floors below the street level. A few had tunnels under the street to a relative’s house. They used these tunnels to transport alcohol during prohibition. Some homes looked more like storefront businesses than residences. The Spero brothers and their cousins knew the back alleys and streets between Little Italy, the City Market, and downtown. They often got work helping produce vendors unload vegetables. They were all enthralled with the older gangsters at the Northview Social Club, where men like brothers Nick and Carl Civella held court out front on the sidewalk on warm days. They saw these men had respect and power, and they wanted to be part of that mysterious thing that scared most other men.

Nick got his first jobs with trucking companies in the East Bottoms just a few blocks away. He was a natural leader, and soon, he had a crew of other Teamsters stealing small appliances, cigarettes, watches, film, booze, and other desired items from the parked trailers. He graduated to holding up drivers on the road. He knew the schedule and could tell his gang exactly how to intercept a truck loaded with easy to sell merchandise. The drivers knew better than to resist, so they just took a small payoff and reported it as a robbery to their superiors.

Nick was not just an ordinary thief. He wanted more power inside the Teamsters Union and hatched a plot to increase his value to the freight line, Yellow Freight. First, he had his crew steal a load of liquor, and then he went to his bosses and told them he could recover the load. When he returned the load, minus a few cases of bourbon, they promoted Nick to a supervisor’s job. Of course, thefts increased after this promotion. In the end, they offered Nick Spero a cash settlement to just quit.

During these years, as Nick Spero matured into his 30s, FBI agents started making observations that he was a frequent visitor to the Columbus Park Social club. They witnessed him having conversations with the local crime bosses, Nick and Carl Civella. Nick Civella was the leader, while Carl was more likely to deal with people like Nick Spero. Nick Spero was running a crew who burglarized jewelry and fur stores, clothing warehouses and robbing Yellow Freight and other truck lines during this time. Nick Spero was a rising young mobster, but the generation gap caught him in a bind.

Nick Spero was of an age that he wanted to dress like his hippy peers with bell bottoms and flower printed shirts. Spero grew his hair long and had facial hair. But the boss, Nick Civella, had a few ironclad rules for his made guys and all associates. The dress code included conservative shirts and slacks, clean cut hairstyles, and no facial hair. Nick Spero rebelled on all accounts. Nick Spero grew his hair out to almost shoulder length and sported a long Fu Manchu beard.

An FBI informant told his controller, “What the…? This guy dresses like a f^&*@ hippy.”

Despite his rebellious nature, Nick Spero was a good thief and had a successful crew, so he continued to operate as an associate. When Nick Civella ordered a man named Sam Palma killed, someone in the hit team got Nick Spero to help set up a scene where the murder would appear as a suicide. The next day Palma’s body and the murder weapon were found lying across the grave of his father. While this did not fool the authorities, the murdered mobster’s family bought the story.

Nick Spero grew in power among his fellow Teamsters. He bought an R.C. Cola and Nehi Soda soft drink dealership and hired several salespeople and drivers. When a storeowner did not want to install a soda machine or buy his brands, Nick Spero made a personal visit, and usually, they became customers.

In the early 1970s, Civella ordered the Spero brothers to take care of Lester Moore. Because of his position as a trusted Civella Family associate, Nick Spero was expected to carry out this order. But, Spero was building his power base within the Kansas City Local of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union and the criminal community, so he refused. He sent word that Lester Moore was a Civella problem and not a Spero problem.

Later the FBI asked Spero why he hadn’t officially joined the Civella organization. His reply was, “I ain’t no jock strap and don’t want to be one. They use you until your stretch is all gone, then forget about you. I’ve always been my own man. The only man I listen to is my father, and he is dead”.

On April 11, 1973, a patrol car will find Nick Spero’s jockstrap yellow Cadillac convertible parked on a back road in a suburban neighborhood. The officers open the trunk to find the body of Nick Spero. He was dressed in combat boots, a silky patterned shirt, and bright green with yellow flower-patterned trousers. The autopsy stated someone shot Nick Spero twice in the body and once in the head.

The police or FBI will never solve this murder. They cannot get an informant to finger any specific person. Nick Civella forgot one thing, “When you set out to kill one brother, you had better kill them all.” This hit would be the start of the bloody Civella-Spero mob war in Kansas City.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


Further Reading:

Gangland Wire Podcast


Recommended Works:

Brothers against Brothers: The Civella-Spero War
Nick Civella: The Kansas City Mafia and the Teamsters Union

About our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Gary Jenkins retired from the Kansas City Police Department in 1996. He served 25 years with 12 years in the Intelligence Unit investigating the mob. Jenkins attended the University of Missouri School of Law and was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 2000. He produced and released four documentary films. The most recent documentaries were Gangland Wire and Brothers against Brothers: The Civella Spero War. He wrote Leaving Vegas: The True Story of How FBI Wiretaps Ended Mob Domination of Las Vegas Casinos. This book recounts the inside story of the 1970s investigation into skimming from Las Vegas casinos. He created a Mob Tour app titled the Kansas City Mob Tour. He produces and hosts a mob-oriented podcast called Gangland Wire Crime Stories. The podcast can be found on all the usual podcast apps and at his website https://ganglandwire.com/

He can be reached at 

ganglandwire@gmail.com

Facebook @Ganglandwire


Mobster Monday – The Public Assignation of Wolf Rimann

wolf rimann

After shooting down a prominent businessman, the killer looked up and gazed at the people in the factory windows. Why would a hitman do this? Was he confident, arrogant, or was he backed by the Mafia and knew he was untouchable? Whatever the case, Wolf Rimann lay dying in his car, and the killer got away. Seventy years later we have a full description of the killer, but no arrests.


Wolf Rimann, 43 was a marked man. He had been warned. Perhaps he thought he was too powerful in Kansas City to be taken out so easily. Rimann was a Deputy Sherriff in Jackson County. He was neck deep in corruption and thrived. Rimann was a golf professional and the manager of the Hillcrest Country Club. He also owned the Western Speciality Company which supplied jukeboxes and pinball machines to area businesses. Rimann was known to slip a few strategically placed slot machines in as well. It was a well-known fact that Rimann would use his badge to force tavern owners to install his slot machines. If the bar owner refused, Rimann would decide to enforce the county’s
“dry” laws and shut the bar down. At one point there were four other officers on Rimann’s payroll for this sole purpose.


The local Mafia kingpin, John Blando had exclusive rights to the Schenley Liquor products and was making a boat-load of money on the deal. Rimann decided he wanted a piece of the action and bypassed Blando. He went directly to New York and was given permission to sell Schenley liquor. This obviously upset Blando, so he sent word for Rimann to back off, but Rimann refused and continued to stock a warehouse full of the product.

On March 24, 1949, Wolf Rimann was walking towards his car on the corner of 14th & Chestnut when a black Ford peeled around the corner. One man stepped out and stood as a century. Another man stepped out firing a pistol. Rimann was riddled with bullets as he opened the car door. He slumped across the front seat of his car as the shooter approached. The hitman’s final bullet met its mark in Rimann’s skull. Then the killer did something very odd. He turned and looked at the factory windows full of witnesses exposing his face to the crowd. If this were a Hollywood film, he probably would have tipped his hat. After the strange moment passed, the two men jumped back into the Ford and raced away.

wolf rimann 2

The sketch above says the Ford was parked, but early reporting of this case say the Ford never stopped and the two men who exited the car had to jog to catch back up to it. The getaway car was found ten blocks north of the crime scene. The vehicle was traced back to a St. Louis car dealership. It was recently purchased by an Italian man claiming to be from Denver. He paid with cash and asked to borrow a couple of license plates. He never picked up the car title. He apparently had other plans for the car. The mysterious Italian was never found.

After his death, Rimann’s illegal business dealings came to light and exposed how deep the corruption had become in Kansas City. Although the case was never solved, the Kansas City Crime Commission was formed because of the murder of Wolf Rimann. Everyone knows the mob killed Rimann, but the triggerman was never found, and the crime boss of K.C. was never convicted of hiring the hit.

More Info:

Synova’s Youtube Video:

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Kansas City Star

All photos used in this article are from the Kansas City archives. I do not own the copyright on any of these and no infringement is intended. This article is for informational purposes only,All photos used in this article are from the Kansas City archives. I do not own the copyright on any of these and no infringement is intended. This article is for informational purposes only,

All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. ©2017-2019. All rights reserved.

Don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter and receive her Grim Justice ebook for FREE.

ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


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Mobster Monday: Nick Civella

Photo Courtesy of Mafia Wikia

The FBI initially thought Kansas City was a minor satellite Mafia family with ties to the Chicago Outfit. By the time former FBI agent William Ouseley retired, he had claimed the Kansas City connection was some of the most violent mobsters in the nation. At the helm of the chaos was a polite, very conservative man named Nick Civella, but be forewarned, looks can be deceiving.


Guiseppe Nicoli Civella was born on March 19, 1912, to immigrant parents in Kansas City. His first arrest came at the age of ten, and by the age of twenty, he had amassed quite a rap sheet. In the early 1940’s Civella was a precinct worker for the Democratic Party on the north side of Kansas City. It was here that Nick would befriend the local mob boss, Charles Binaggio.

When Binaggio was killed on April 5, 1950, Civella was the man to step up and take his place as boss. For the next twenty-seven years, the Kansas City political machine was infiltrated by the Civella Crime Family. The gangsters worked for the politicians and bought some protection.

In 1959, this protection scheme became obvious when Civella was summoned before a grand jury and eventually convicted of tax evasion. Although he was convicted, Civella received a fine of $150 for one case, and the other case was dropped completely. This type of power brought on more violence in the streets.


The local political machine might protect Nick Civella from tax evasion charges, but it couldn’t protect him from the FBI. On November 14, 1957, mobsters from around the United States gathered at the home of Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara in Apalachin, New York. They were there to discuss various aspects of mob business, and Civella was one of two representatives from Kansas City.


This infamous raid not only ended up in over sixty high ranking mobsters being detained, but it also confirmed the existence of an otherwise secret organization. Up until this event, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had vehemently denied the existence of the Italian Mafia.


Although he was on the FBI’s radar, it would take another twenty years before the boss was brought down. In 1977, Civella was caught by wiretaps. During the Super Bowl, the police now had recordings of his illegal gambling operations. He would be sent to prison this time, and although he didn’t receive a life sentence from a judge, it would turn out to be just that.

Clipped from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Nick Civella was released from the Federal Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri, on February 28, 1983. He died on Saturday, March 12, 1983. He was seventy years old. Civella was one of the few mobsters to die of natural causes.

For more information on the Kansas City Mafia, check out fellow crime writer Gary Jenkins and his Gangland Wire Podcast.

Gary Jenkins, former Intelligence Unit detective with the Kansas City Police Department has produced 4 documentary films, created the Kansas City Mob Tour app, authored 3 books and currently produces and co-hosts his own true crime podcast, titled Gangland Wire Crime Stories

Further Reading:

Wikia.org

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

KC Star

Wikipedia/Apalachin Meeting


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


Recommended Reading:


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


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“One of the few books written that gives the reader an insight into the criminal mind” – Retired FBI Agent Egelston Raised in a mob-controlled suburb of Chicago, Sidney Heard grew up wanting to be a gangster. He was on probation by the age of thirteen and continued building his criminal resume over the next half a century. He was a professional arsonist for nearly twenty years; escaped from jail twice; ran a gold scandal grossing over a quarter of a million dollars, and that’s just to name a few of his illegal escapades. To top it off, he played a role in one of the most important Supreme Court Decisions of all time (Gideon vs. Wainwright).Sidney’s underworld connections ran from the Chicago-based Italians to the Mexican Mafia. He even worked undercover for the Federal Government at one point in his life. However, all of Sidney’s so-called glory would come with a price. While working undercover for the F.B.I. D.E.A., Sidney became hooked on drugs. He soon found himself staring at 125 years of jail time , a massive criminal record, and pushing his fiftieth birthday. Can a career criminal change? Frank Abagnale’s criminal career lasted ten years and was featured in the movie Catch Me If You Can. Sidney Heard’s criminal career spanned five decades!
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Sit back and relax as Synova regales you with tales of master art thieves, bumbling criminals, and multi-million-dollar art heists from around the world. There will be stories of mafia-commissioned heists, of Daredevil art thieves, and of the brave men and women of the FBI Art team who are trying to stop this multi-billion-dollar industry of art crime. Enjoy.

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It’s a tale of two judges; one a well-liked defender of the law, and the other a cold-blooded manipulator. Judge C.E. Chillingworth was by all accounts a man of honor, so why were he and his wife taken from their home on June 15, 1955, in the wee hours of the morning, bound, gagged, weighted down, and thrown into the ocean?

When the Chillingworths disappear it would take nearly five years and one drunken hitman to finally uncover the truth behind West Palm Beach’s “crime of the century.”
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Shattered: behind every story is a shattered life

Every year Synova compiles the most popular blog post from the previous year into a case files book. In 2018, Synova Ink was filled with serial killer cases, cold cases, famous cases, and many obscure unsolved missing persons’ cases. Don’t miss this one.

Preorder your copy of Synova’s New Casefiles book HERE!


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K.C. Mob Hit – Unsolved Mystery of Sal Manzo

salvatore_benjamin_manzo_1Photo courtesey of The Charley Project

He was snatched by a monster leaving behind nothing but his clothes. It sounds like a fairytale straight from the Brothers Grimm, but in the case of Sal Manzo, the truth is scarier than fiction.


Salvatore Benjamin Manzo, 60 was a low level associate of the Civella Mob family out of Kansas City.

He owned the Sound Track Nightclub on Independence Ave. Although he’d had a few run-ins with law enforcement  FBI Agent William Ouseley would later say he wasn’t violent.  Why then was this grandfather targeted for such a hit?

On September 4, 1987, Sal Manzo attended a wake at the Passantino Funeral Home around 3:30 pm. The funeral home sat in the 2100 block of Independence Ave. Some reports say there was a possible dispute after the wake, but the rumor mill couldn’t provide substantial evidence of this. Whatever the case, Salvatore Manzo was never seen again.

An anonymous tip led the police to a dumpster near Cliff Dr. and Paseo Blvd. There the investigators found Sal’s clothes and shoes. His beige 1982 Oldsmobile Toronado was located near a grocery store on Independence Ave and Paseo Blvd. The body of Sal was never found, and unless he decided to flee the mob-controlled city naked, it is reasonable to assume he was murdered.

Manzo was on probation at the time of his disappearance. Four years earlier a federal judge opened an indictment charging fifteen people with conspiracy to skim $2 million from Las Vegas Casinos. Carl DeLuna, Carl Civella, and Sal Manzo were named among the conspirators. Was this the reason behind his murder?

It’s been nearly thirty-two years since this man disappeared and although everyone has a general idea of what happened, the family would still like to have some answers.  If you have any information about this unsolved disappearance of Salvatore Benjamin Manzo, please contact the Kansas City Police Department at 816-234-5136


The following links are for the benefit of Synova’s readers and are not an all inclusive source listing.

Further Reading:

UPI Archives 

The Charley Project 

KC Star


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. ©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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