Reputed Kansas City mafia enforcer, hit man and arsonist Joseph (Joey Rags) Ragusa died of natural causes back in the spring at 78 years old. Despite being considered by authorities one of the more menacing and lethal gangland figures in Missouri in his mob heyday, Ragusa was beloved and revered in K.C. mafia circles.

The pallbearers and honorary pallbearers at Ragusa’s March funeral included a who’s who of current Civella crime family brass, including alleged boss John (Johnny Joe) Sciortino, alleged underboss Peter (Las Vegas Pete) Simone, respected advisor Frank DeLuna and reputed capos Joseph (Joe Pete) Simone and William (Little Willie) Cammisano.

“Joey Rags” Ragusa made a name for himself in the local underworld fighting on the frontlines of the River Quay War in the 1970s, a wild two-year conflict for control of the city’s trendy entertainment center pitting the sitting Civella clan administration versus a breakoff street faction led by soldier David Bonadonna and his muscle, the renegade Spero brothers. The war ravished the recently-remodeled River Quay district with earthshaking bombings, multiple brazen mob murders and overall mayhem for two years, capped by the May 1978 Virginian Tavern Massacre, killing Mike Spero, wounding Joe Spero and paralyzing faction boss Carl Spero.

Confidential FBI informants named Ragusa and his frequent mob running buddy Charlie Moretina as prime suspects in more than half of the eight slayings attributed directly to the warfare. One informant fingered Ragusa and Moretina (died peacefully in 2005) as two of the shooters in the attack on the Spero brothers at their Virginian Tavern headquarters. Another informant told the FBI that Ragusa helped execute David Bonadonna to kick-off the spree of rampant violent in July 1976 and manufactured and planted the car bomb that killed Spero faction enforcer Gary (Thunderbird T) Parker in the summer of 1977.

Ragusa did almost a decade in federal prison in the 1980s for an attempted arson of a private residence in 1979. He walked free in September 1987.

According to experts and current and former law enforcement familiar with mob affairs in Kansas City, the modern-day Civella crime family is a small, quiet syndicate focused on gambling and loansharking and dabbling in narcotics through a string of intermediaries. The Family’s namesake and longtime Godfather Nick Civella died of lung cancer in 1983. Joe Spero was killed in a 1980 explosives incident and Carl Spero was blown away in a 1984 bombing on his used-car lot.

Joey Ragusa


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