Kansas City, MO

Historic Kansas City mobsters Charles Binaggio and Charles “Mad Dog” Gargotta

CJ Coombs

Having recently toured the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, which was both interesting and amazing, I’ve developed more of an interest in past mob activity in Kansas City. There’s also interesting information posted in a blog on the Mob Museum's called The Kansas City Connection.

First Ward Democratic Club

This club used to be located at Truman Road and Charlotte Street. It’s now a parking lot. This club was run by the mob for the purpose of illegal gambling. In the 1950s, the building was allegedly home to a bridge club, however, it was more focused on illegal gambling than bridge. It was also a notorious mobster hotspot run by Nick Civella, who would later go on to be a mob boss.

On April 5, 1950, Charles Binaggio and Charles “Mad Dog” Gargotta were going to the club in a borrowed vehicle to meet some other contacts. They had just left what used to be called the Last Chance Saloon and were supposed to return there. Binaggio’s bodyguard, Nick Penna, was left at the saloon. They never returned to the saloon.

On the following day, people working at the First Ward Democratic Club found both men lying in blood. They had been shot to death at close range in a gangland-style execution. People who lived in apartments above the club could hear shots being fired around 8:00 p.m. In the very early morning hours, a cab driver saw the door was open to the club and he heard running water inside. The police were called. The bodies of Binagio and Gargotta were found inside the club. They were both shot in the head four times by separate .32 caliber revolvers. The police believed that since Gargotta was shot in the back of the head, he must have been trying to escape. The running water heard by the cab driver had nothing to do with the shooting—it was just a broken toilet.

Binaggio’s murder stunned the city and the reaction traveled to Washington, D.C., which caused a special committee to be appointed by Congress to investigate organized crime. Despite investigations by five law enforcement agencies, the murders of Binaggio and Gargotta were never solved.

It was speculated that they were either killed by gunmen out of St. Louis or hitmen from Chicago. However, it’s believed that members of their crime ring carried out the murders from the Mafia Commission in New York. It’s believed that mobster Anthony Gizzo arranged for the hit.

Charles Binaggio (b. Jan. 12, 1909, d. Apr. 6, 1950).Find a Grave

Binaggio had worked his way up to the top of the criminal ladder. He had ties to the Tom Pendergast political machine and Johnny Lazia. As Pendergast was falling from power in the late 1930s, Binaggio was emerging as Kansas City’s new leader. Binaggio had political ties and hoped to have control through the ranks. His hope was to have control over the police departments in Kansas City and St. Louis, which would help his desire to reopen Kansas City to gambling, but a grand jury investigating organized crime put pressure on Binaggio.

Charles Garzotta (b. Dec. 13, 1900, d. Apr. 6, 1950).Find a Grave

Garzotta was a top enforcer for the Kansas City crime family. Both he and Binaggio as close working associates were heavily involved with illegal gambling. Garzotta had ties to the legal community and law enforcement so he was either having charges dropped against him or he was being acquitted for attempted murder. It could be that the hit was ordered on Garzotta because of his February 1950 federal court testimony concerning his criminal activities.

Last Chance SaloonWhat Was There?

Last Chance Saloon

The Last Chance Saloon used to be located close to State Line Road and Southwest Boulevard and a Quik Trip sits there now. The Last Chance Saloon was run by a mobster named Goulding in the 1950s before zoning laws were in place. Interestingly, part of the club was in Missouri and the other part was in Kansas. As stories go, when police would show up, people and employees inside would just cross over to the other side of the saloon that was on the opposite side of the state line to avoid arrest. This is also the last place where Binaggio and his wife were seen.

Resource: Kansas City with the Russian Accent

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Hello! I have 30 years of experience in the legal field, and a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. I am an incessant thinker, giver, and lover of life. Born into the service life of the Air Force in Louisiana, life has taken me to Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and ultimately to Missouri, I don't have that true concept of "home," but believe every living experience is tied to language. I applaud all writers who churn language into something artful, meaningful, and productive. I love my family, art, true crime, non-fiction, reading, travel, and red pinot.

Kansas City, MO

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