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Part Eight

Strawman

‘Mobbed Up’ podcast: ‘Strawman — Part 8’

Updated July 7, 2020 - 9:04 am

Giuseppe Nicoli "Nick" Civella was the boss of the Kansas City Crime Family for much of the 20t ...
Giuseppe Nicoli "Nick" Civella was the boss of the Kansas City Crime Family for much of the 20th century. (File Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Portrait of Kansas City mob associate Joe Agosto speaking into a microphone. Location is unknow ...
Portrait of Kansas City mob associate Joe Agosto speaking into a microphone. Location is unknown. (File Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The FBI’s Organized Crime Squad in Kansas City was hoping to learn about a recent string of local murders. Instead, it started picking up information about casino skimming operations in Las Vegas.

“Las Vegas was the last thing on our mind,” recalled Bill Ouseley, the squad’s supervisor. “But when they sat down that night, they talked about Las Vegas.”

Ouseley was referring to an electronic surveillance operation started in the spring of 1978. His team had placed microphones at the back table of a mob-connected restaurant, the Villa Capri, in the Northeast neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri.

When agents sat down to listen to conversations picked up on those microphones, they realized they had stumbled across something far bigger than they had anticipated.

Those initial recorded conversations would spark a yearslong FBI investigation into the mob’s skimming operations at Las Vegas casinos.

The investigation would become known as the ‘Strawman’ investigation, named after ‘strawmen’ casino owners such as the Stardust’s Allen Glick, who would prove to be serving as a front for organized crime interests.

Las Vegas was the last thing on our mind.

Bill Ouseley, Squad’s supervisor

The cast of "Folies Bergere" pose under the marquee of the Tropicana hotel-casino Oct. 17, 1975 ...
The cast of "Folies Bergere" pose under the marquee of the Tropicana hotel-casino Oct. 17, 1975. (File Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

‘Mobbed Up — Part 8: Strawman’

Part 8 of “Mobbed Up” chronicles the start of the FBI’s Strawman investigation, through electronic surveillance audio and interviews with former members of law enforcement in Kansas City.

In addition to information regarding the mob’s casino skimming operations, the wiretaps played on this episode reveal ongoing frustrations within the Kansas City crime family regarding the actions of Chicago mob associate Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, providing one possible explanation for the attempted assassination of Rosenthal in 1982 via car-bombing.

Where and how to listen

“Mobbed Up: The Fight for Las Vegas” is available for free on all major podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more.

Search for “Mobbed Up” on your preferred mobile podcasting app and tap “subscribe” or “follow,” or click here to listen to the series on the Review-Journal website.

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