The earliest history of Italian-American organized crime can be traced back to the DiGiovanni brothers, Joseph DiGiovanni and Peter DiGiovanni, two Sicilian mafiosi who fled Sicily and arrived in Kansas City in 1912. It wasn't long before they began making money from a variety of rackets.
Their fortunes improved greatly with the introduction of Prohibition. His gang became the sole bootleggers in Kansas City. Their rackets at this time were controlled by John Lazia. He would soon become the top man in the now much larger and more powerful organization. The gang was given virtually free hand to operate by "Boss" Tom Pendergast, head of the "Pendergast Machine" that controlled Kansas City's government at the time. Under Pendergast, Kansas City became a "wide-open" town, with absolutely no alcohol-related arrests being made in Kansas City city limits during the entirety of Prohibition. The DiGiovanni family directly benefited from this non-existent law enforcement.
When Prohibition ended in 1933 the family, although already involved in various order rackets, began extorting the now-legal bars. On July 10, 1934 Lazia was assassinated, probably on the orders of his Underboss, Charles Carollo who ruled as Boss until his arrest in 1939 for tax evasion. His Underboss Charles Binaggio now became the new boss and expanded the family's areas of labor racketeering. He also became involved in politics and planned to challenge the Pendergast machine by having his candidate elected for the Missouri Governorship. He succeeded and Forrest Smith was elected. He also thought up a bold plan to control Kansas City's Police Department. The plan failed when Smith refused to go along with this. Now seeing Binaggio as a liability, the Mafia's nationwide Commission decided Binaggio must go. He too was gunned down on April 6, 1950. His successor, Anthony Gizzo, would not last long. He died in 1953.
The new boss was now Nicholas Civella. He expanded the family's rackets greatly and forged alliances with families from other cities making it a very powerful organization. He also used the Teamsters to fund casinos in Las Vegas. In 1975 Civella was imprisoned on gambling charges for betting on that year's Super Bowl. Around this time there was a war in the family over control of the River Quay entertainment district in which three buildings were bombed and several gangsters were killed. In 1980 Civella was convicted of bribery. Released in 1983, he died shortly after. His brother became the new boss but was imprisoned a year later.
The Kansas City FBI, suspecting mob involvement at the Tropicana, set up a broad investigation, known as Operation Strawman, with wiretaps on the phones of reputed mobsters and their associates in Kansas City. From the evidence collected by taps and other eavesdropping in the late 1970s, the FBI discovered a conspiracy to skim money from the Tropicana's casino.
Operation Strawman learned that Joe Agosto, head of the Tropicana's Folies Bergere show controlled the skimming in the Tropicana. Agosto was secretly sending cash from the casino to Kansas City organized crime chief Nick Civella and Joseph Aiuppa of Chicago as well as Cleveland and Milwaukee mobsters.
In 1981, a grand jury in Kansas City indicted Agosto, Kansas City mob boss Nick Civella, Civella's brother Carl Civella, mob member Carl DeLuna, and Carl Thomas, who had directed the illegal skimming of cash at the Tropicana with two others. The defendants were convicted in 1983.
William "Willie the Rat" Cammisano Sr. became the family's next boss. He died in 1995. Anthony Civella became the new boss. He died in 2006.
The current boss of the family is believed to be John Joseph Sorrentino, also known as "Johnny Joe", godson of Anthony Civella. The current underboss is believed to be Peter Simone. The Kansas City family has an estimated 25 made members as of the late 1990s according to the FBI.
On July 21, 2008 Carl "Tuffy" DeLuna, former underboss to Nick Civella and brother-in-law to the Anthony Civella, died.
In August, 2008, Retired F.B.I. Agent William Ouseley publishes his history of the KC Crime Family from 1900-1950 in a book titled Open City.
On March 20, 2009, Blackhand Strawman, a documentary of Kansas City's organized crime history was released in theaters in Kansas City.
On March 11, 2010, the FBI indicted Gerlarmo Cammisano, James Moretina, Michael Lombardo and James DiCapo for allegedly operating a "multi-million-dollar internet gambling scheme".
Gerlarmo Cammisano, son of William "Willie the Rat" Cammisano, served as the "master agent" of the sports bookmaking operation which was based in the Kansas City area. Gerlarmo Cammisano's brother, William D. Cammisano Jr., pled guilty for his role in the sports bookmaking operation. As for Moretina, in January 1992, he pled guilty to a federal money laundering charge and was sentenced to 37 months. Moretina served as president of a firm that distributed illegal video gambling machines. He and his business partner, purported mob underboss Peter J. Simone, operated the Be Amused Vending and Amusement Co. Moretina is the son of Charles Moretina, who was convicted in the 1980s for skimming Las Vegas casino gambling receipts.
Prior to the indictment six individuals pleaded guilty in connection with the investigation including three — Vincent Civella and brothers Michael and Anthony Sansone — who are the son and grandsons of former Kansas City boss Anthony 'Tony Ripe' Civella.
In July, 2011, Retired F.B.I. Agent William Ouseley publishes his second book about the KC Mob. This book is titled Mobsters in our Midst - The Kansas City Crime Family. Mr Ouseley uses his F.B.I. career experiences to tell the story of the KC Crime Family from the 1960s until the successful prosecution in the Las Vegas skim case code named Strawman and the death of KC godfather, Nick Civella.
- John Lazia (1931–1934)
- Charles "Charlie the Wop" Carrollo (1934–1939)
- Charles Binaggio (1939–1950)
- Anthony Gizzo (1950–1953)
- Nicholas Civella (1953–1983)
- Carl "Corky" Civella (1983–1984)
- William "Willie the Rat" Cammisano (1984–1995)
- Anthony "Tony Ripe" Civella (1995–2006)
- John "Johnny Joe" Sciortino (2006–present)
- AmericanMafia.com - 26 Mafia cities - Kansas City
- Crime Magazine - The History of the Kansas City Family
- - Prohibition: Kansas City Style