Widow of mob victim testifies in lawsuit against US

By Shelley Murphy
Globe Staff / June 11, 2009
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Notorious gangsters and longtime FBI informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi orchestrated the 1976 slaying of Revere nightclub owner Richard J. Castucci. But his life was not enough; they wanted his money, too.

Taking the stand yesterday in her wrongful death suit against the government, Castucci's widow described being caught in a terrifying web as her husband's killers - members of the Winter Hill Gang - and the New England Mafia both vied for control of her husband's interest in The Squire, a popular and highly profitable strip club.

"I was scared," said 72-year-old Sandra Castucci, recounting how Flemmi, a stranger to her, showed up unexpectedly at her Revere Beach home after her husband's killing, asking about her financial interest in the club and suggesting he should handle it for her.

She was frightened by the visit and immediately alerted the businessman who co-owned The Squire with her husband. Then the Mafia got involved.

The widow, who was relying on weekly payments from The Squire to support her and her two teenage children, testified that a friend of her husband's drove her to a store in Providence, where she was led into a back room and a face-to-face meeting with then New England Mafia boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca.

"He said that my husband owed him money and that the money I was getting I guess I wasn't going to get anymore," said Castucci, adding that Patriarca told her that she no longer owned any interest in The Squire.

"I was frightened," said Castucci, wiping away tears as she recounted the meeting, which occurred about a year after husband's slaying. It meant that the weekly payments from the club, which had already diminished from about $8,000 a week to only $1,000, stopped altogether.

During cross examination, Lawrence Eiser, a US Justice Department lawyer who is defending the government, asked: "You never phoned the police. Why not?"

"Because I was more frightened of the people who asked me to go there," said Castucci, referring to Patriarca and his associates.

What Castucci did not know then was that the FBI had been told in 1977 that Bulger and Flemmi were suspected in her husband's death and were trying to extort money from her, according to FBI memos filed in prior court proceedings. Yet the FBI took no action against the gangsters, who were both informants at the time.

Flemmi, who is serving a life sentence for killing 10 people, and hit man-turned-government witness John Martorano both provided chilling accounts of Castucci's killing when they testified last fall in the Miami trial of disgraced former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. in a case involving another slaying.

Flemmi testified that Connolly warned him and Bulger in 1976 that Castucci was an informant and had told the FBI where two fugitive members of the Winter Hill Gang were hiding in New York. Flemmi said they decided to kill Castucci, who also was a bookmaker.

Martorano testified that he shot 48-year-old Castucci in the head as he sat in a Somerville apartment counting money that he collected for a New York bookmaker, then Bulger and Flemmi disposed of his body, which was found in the trunk of his car in a Revere parking lot on Dec. 30, 1976.

Thomas J. Daly, the retired FBI agent who was Castucci's handler, testified during Connolly's trial that informants told the FBI that the Winter Hill Gang was suspected in Castucci's death and that Flemmi later tried to extort money from Sandra Castucci. He acknowledged that the FBI did not investigate Castucci's death or the alleged extortion.

Connolly was convicted last year of plotting with Bulger and Flemmi to kill a Boston businessman in Florida in 1982 and sentenced to 40 years in prison, to be served after he finishes a 10-year prison term for a 2002 conviction on federal racketeering charges.

Bulger, a fugitive since 1995, is wanted in 19 murders.

US District Judge Reginald C. Lindsay, who died in March, ruled last year that the government was liable for Castucci's death because of the FBI's negligent handling of Bulger and Flemmi.

US District Judge William G. Young, who took over the case, is presiding over the nonjury trial and will determine how much the government should pay to Castucci's widow and his four children.