The Chicago Syndicate: Reputed Former Mob Leader 'Tony Ripe' Civella Dead

Monday, February 20, 2006

Reputed Former Mob Leader 'Tony Ripe' Civella Dead

Friends of ours: Anthony "Tony Ripe" Civella, Nick Civella, Carl "Cork" Civella, Joseph Auippa

Anthony Civella, said by federal investigators to have headed organized crime in Kansas City in the late 1980s and 1990s, is dead at 75.

Passantino Brothers Funeral Home said Thursday that it was handling arrangements and that rites for Civella were pending, but that it did not have information on when he died or on his survivors. There was no phone listing for a Civella in the Kansas City area, and the city's vital statistics office said it had not yet received a death certificate for him.

Civella once told a judge he had undergone seven heart bypass operations. Civella, whose nickname was "Tony Ripe," was the nephew of Nick Civella, the reputed leader of the Kansas City mob at a time when it allegedly worked with other organized crime families in Chicago, Milwaukee and Cleveland in schemes to skim money from Las Vegas casinos.

Tropicana Hotel and Casino Las VegasAfter Nick Civella's death in 1983, leadership was said to have passed to his brother, Carl "Cork" Civella, father of Anthony. Nick Civella died while under indictment as one of 12 people accused in a skimming case involving the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Subsequently, his brother Carl was among those charged in another Las Vegas skimming case involving the Argent Corp., which owned the Stardust and Fremont casinos. Carl Civella was one of five who pleaded guilty in that case. Five other defendants, including Joseph Aiuppa, described by the government as head of the Chicago mob, were convicted at a trial in Kansas City.

That trial included testimony from Roy Lee Williams, former president of the Teamsters Union, who said Nick Civella paid him $1,500 a month from late 1974 to mid-1981. He said the money was in return for his vote as a trustee of the union's Central States Pension Fund for a $62.75 million loan that enabled Argent Corp. to buy the two casinos.

Anthony Civella was convicted of bookmaking in the 1970s and served 3 1/2 years in prison. He had business interests that included automobile sales, restaurants, insurance and property ownership.

After his father and other reputed Kansas City mobsters went to prison, Civella was reported to have moved up to the leadership. In 1991, he and two associates were convicted on eight counts of fraud related to the resale of prescription drugs. They were accused of having brought more than $1 million worth of drugs at deep discounts, claiming they were intended for nursing homes, then re-selling them to wholesalers on the West Coast.

After his release from prison in 1996, Civella was barred from entering casinos in Missouri and Nevada. Gaming commissions cited his convictions, which included driving a vehicle without the owner's consent in 1964, conspiring to run interstate gambling in 1975 and running a sports bookmaking operation and continuing criminal business in 1984.

In his 1984 plea, Civella signed a statement acknowledging that prosecutors could prove his role in other crimes, including casino skimming, stealing from charity bingo games and setting up front companies to hide his ownership. He also acknowledged prosecutors could prove he conspired to commit murders and other violence to punish underlings, silence government witnesses and eliminate competing mob factions.

"His death reflects a passing of an era in Kansas City's colorful history," said David Helfrey, a St. Louis attorney who headed the Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force at Kansas City during the casino skimming trials.

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