May 5, 2021 – Kansas City mob figure Peter (P.J.) Ribaste died of natural causes earlier this spring. The 66-year old Ribaste was a club owner, reputed bookie and alleged bag man for K.C. mafia payoffs in the final years of the crime family’s heyday. He succumbed to a bout with COVID-19, according to sources connected to Ribaste, and didn’t want an obituary nor a traditional funeral
Despite his reputation as the consummate wiseguy, Ribaste knew how to avoid damaging trouble with the law. The best Uncle Sam could do was nail him for mail fraud and tax evasion and send him to federal prison for less than a year.
In 1996, FBI informants linked Ribaste to reported Kanas City mob underboss Peter (Las Vegas Pete) Simone, then a captain in the Civella crime family. Both Ribaste and Simone have spent substantial amounts of time in Nevada, specifically, Las Vegas, in the past.
Ribaste owned owned a number of bars, nightclubs and strip clubs in the Kansas City area. When he moved to Las Vegas on a full-time basis for a few years in the 1990s, he owned car dealerships and ran around with the Binion brothers of The Horseshoe Casino empire, among other unsavory folks and known mobsters visiting from different parts of the country, according to federal authorities.
The FBI stated in affidavits filed with the Las Vegas Gaming Control Board that he ran one of the biggest bookmaking operations in Missouri in the 1980s, interacting frequently with Kansas City mob chief Carl (Corky) Civella and his son and future crime family boss Anthony (Tony Ripe) Civella and passing messages to and from gangland figures in prison for skimming Las Vegas casinos in the famous Operation Strawman case. Corky Civella died behind bars in 1994. Tony Ripe dropped dead of a heart attack on the golf course in 2006.
The mafia in Kansas City today is a small clique made up mostly of old-school gambling bosses and shylocks. Per sources in federal law enforcement, the FBI doesn’t consider the crime family much of a priority these days.
Ribaste was placed in Nevada’s Black Book, barring him from entering any of the state’s casinos, in 1999, citing his four felony convictions. Once he was persona non grata in Las Vegas gambling establishments, Ribaste returned him to Kansas City and continued his close contact with Tony Ripe and Pete Simone, per federal informants.
Retired K.C. mob buster Gary Jenkins (who runs the Gangland Wire multi-media platform website) recalls Ribaste being one smooth criminal.
“That son of a bitch was tough to follow, tough to keep tabs on,” said Jenkins with a chuckle. “He drove a BMW. He’d be going 120, 130 miles per hour in that thing and then he’d slow down to a crawl or pull over to the side of the rode and watch us fly by him. We were always looking to tie him into government and police corruption but we never got that done.”