Ex-officer finds relief in Bulger case indictment
By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff, 11/12/2000
Frank Dewan had given up. After years of chasing South Boston gangster
James "Whitey" Bulger and battling forces within his own department, Dewan
abruptly resigned in 1995, turning in his Boston police badge after nearly 25
years on the job.
The former sergeant detective went shopping for a home on Florida's Gulf
Coast. Somebody else would have to track down the elusive Bulger and bring him
and his longtime cohort Stephen Flemmi to justice.
But as Dewan receded into retirement, he was dragged back into the Bulger
saga in 1997 by an anonymous letter to a federal judge that branded him
corrupt and accused him of fabricating informants in an obsessive quest to
"get" Bulger and Flemmi.
He had withdrawn from the fight, he said, and the forces against him still
would not leave him alone.
Last month, a federal grand jury indicted former FBI agent John J. Connolly
Jr. on charges that he wrote the phony letter in an effort to dupe the judge
who was presiding over the racketeering case against Connolly's longtime
informants, Bulger and Flemmi.
For Dewan and his supporters, the obstruction of justice charges against
Connolly confirmed what they long suspected: that for years as Dewan
relentlessly pursued Bulger, Connolly was working to sabotage his efforts by
portraying him as an unstable, rogue cop.
The news came as sweet vindication for Dewan, 60, who now makes a living
as a substitute teacher. "I'm down here in Forida enjoying life and he's up
there worrying about going to jail for the rest of his life," Dewan said in a
telephone interview. "I knew there were lies and rumors being spread and now
the public knows."
Dewan argues that any chance he had of catching Bulger was thwarted by
Connolly's behind-the-scenes whisper campaign to turn even his own department
against him. His career was ruined, he said.
And it had been a promising one.
Leonard Henson, the former prosecutor who ran the Suffolk County organized
crime unit that Dewan served on, compared Dewan to Frank Serpico. Made famous
by Al Pacino in a 1973 movie, Serpico was the New York City police officer who
was vilified by his department after exposing police corruption there during
"People were saying, `If you can't prove it, don't say it,' and he on the
other hand was a good policeman who wanted to do things the right way," said
Henson, adding that Dewan always played by the rules and would aggressively
pursue any hint of wrongdoing.
"Frank is a good, decent guy and I think he got a raw deal," Henson said.
"It's a shame his career had to end the way it did."
Dewan grew up in Roxbury and joined the Boston Police Department in 1971,
graduating from the academy with Commissioner Paul F. Evans. He developed a
reputation as a tenacious investigator adept at building long-term,
But he also was known around the department as someone who would not bend
the rules - or allow anyone else to bend them.
During a three-year investigation by the US Drug Enforcement
Administration and the Suffolk district attorney's organized crime unit, an
undercover DEA agent bought cocaine from a South Boston dealer. The dealer
confided that Bulger "controlled everything" in South Boston and that if you
sold drugs "you had to pay Bulger a percentage, or you didn't deal drugs, or
you ended up dead."
In 1990, the case ended with indictments against 51 people on cocaine
charges. Bulger remained uncharged, but not unscathed.
"The myth in South Boston was that Whitey was keeping the drugs out," Dewan
said. "Our case not only exposed his involvement in drugs, but also in liquor,
gaming, and everything else going on over there."
The case also embarrassed the FBI. When investigators raided the South
Boston Liquor Mart and neighboring variety store that served as Bulger's
headquarters, they found a $205 receipt for liquor sold to FBI Agent Dick
Baker and a piece of paper with the notation, "Dick Baker, friend of John
The incriminating paperwork revealed that the liquor that the FBI gave away
as door prizes at its 1989 Christmas party had been purchased at Bulger's
store. Last year, Bulger was charged with forcing a local couple to sell him
the store, and Connolly was charged with failing to intervene, despite a plea
for help from a relative of the couple.
During a 1998 interview with the Globe, Connolly accused Dewan of planting
the slip of paper with his name on it, saying, "He tried to frame me."
But Kenneth Beers, a retired Boston Police detective who worked on the
Bulger case and participated in the raids, called Connolly's claim "baloney."
"Frank wasn't there when we found the liquor slip," Beers said. "Frank did
it the right way and he was uncorruptible and maybe it bothered people."
Assistant US Attorney George Vien, who handled the federal prosecution,
said, "More than anyone else, Frank Dewan was responsible for the success of
the investigation and prosecution of the 51 defendants in the South Boston
But not everybody was happy with the indictments alleging that Bulger got
a percentage of every drug deal in South Boston.
While Dewan was targeting Bulger, he said, he repeatedly found wood screws
in his car tires that caused them to go flat slowly. Anonymous, harassing
phone calls were made to his home.
The atmosphere within the Police Department was often no better for Dewan.
Other police officers complained that he was targeting Bulger because he hated
South Boston. Dewan began to suspect that Bulger had friends in the department
who were trying to undermine the investigation.
John J. Coleman, the former special agent-in-charge of the DEA's Boston
office, said Dewan was "as honest as the day is long." But, he said, Dewan
"wasn't comfortable at the time working in his own department because working
in Southie and working on organized crime just wasn't a popular thing for any
cop to be doing in Boston. It was a career-ender for a lot of cops unless you
were on the right side of the Bulger gang."
When Connolly retired in December 1990, the FBI dropped Bulger and Flemmi
as informants and began targeting them.
Dewan continued working organized crime cases until 1994, when he demanded
a transfer to a new unit after raising allegations of corruption against a
Evans acknowledged that Dewan had a reputation as an "outstanding"
"The problem I had," Evans said, "and it was a persistent problem with
Frank, was that he made allegations [against colleagues], but he never
substantiated those allegations." The commissioner said all of Dewan's
allegations of internal corruption were "vigorously pursued," but none were
But William Johnston, a retired Boston police deputy superintendent, said
the police department failed Dewan. "Every time he pointed his finger at
corruption, instead of going after the people he pointed at, they went after
In January 1995, Dewan celebrated the racketeering indictment of Bulger and
Flemmi. But by that summer, Dewan stood accused of failing to turn over
information to a homicide detective in a high-profile murder case.
As a homeless man was about to stand trial for the 1992 murder of a drug
dealer, the FBI turned over a report that implicated two other men in the
slaying - men linked to Bulger's organization.
The FBI report was based on informant material from Dewan, who claimed he
gave the same information to Sergeant Detective Paul Barnicle. But Barnicle
accused Dewan of lying.
"I think that at some point in Frank's career something went wrong in that
Frank felt he couldn't trust anybody," Barnicle said."He became Diogenes, the
lone Boston police officer walking through the dark with a lantern of truth,"
he added, referring to the Greek philosopher who searched for an honest man.
Dewan wrote an angry resignation letter, criticizing Evans and his command
staff and claiming he was being targeted for going after Bulger and exposing
corruption in the police ranks.
"I was personally deeply offended by his attack on my integrity," Evans
Dewan was out of the picture until 1997, when the anonymous letter landed
on the desk of US District Judge Mark L. Wolf.
The letter, written on Boston Police stationery and purporting to be
written by three officers, alleged that Dewan was corrupt and "has privately
alluded to planting both information and evidence in order to `get' Bulger and
Attorney Tracy Miner, who represents Connolly, said, "He's pled not guilty
to the charge involving this letter and that's all we're going to say about
But now that Connolly is charged with obstruction of justice for writing
the letter, Dewan says, "I feel vindicated."
Back in the spotlight
Before he retired as Boston police sergeant detective, Frank Dewan spent
years relentlessly pursuing James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman"
Flemmi. An anonymous letter in 1997, along with recent indictments that charge
the FBI's John J. Connolly Jr. with sending it, have put the focus back on
Aug. 10, 1990: Federal indictments charge 51 people with operating South
Boston-based cocaine rings that allegedly gave Bulger a cut of every drug
deal. Bulger isn't charged, but it marks the first time he is publicly linked
to drug trafficking. The arrests follow a three-year investigation by the
Suffolk County Organized Crime Squad, which included Dewan, and the federal
Drug Enforcement Administration.
December 1990: Connolly, FBI special agent and longtime handler of Bulger
and Flemmi, retires.
January 1995: A 37-count federal indictment charges Bulger, Flemmi, and
leaders of the New England Mafia with racketeering, extortion, and
loan-sharking. Bulger flees.
August 1995: Dewan retires. New charges allege that Bulger was forcing
drug dealers who did business around South Boston between 1981 and 1991 to pay
him a cut of their profits.
March 27, 1997: An anonymous letter typed on Boston police stationery and
purporting to be from three police officers is sent to US District Judge Mark
L. Wolf, attacking the character of Dewan, three FBI agents, and a former
State Police colonel who targeted Bulger and Flemmi. It alleges that
investigators fabricated information to get the gangsters and urges the judge
June 1997: The FBI acknowledges that Bulger and Flemmi were longtime
informants. Flemmi contends that the FBI gave them permission to commit
crimes, as long as they provided information on their rivals in the Mafia.
Dec. 22, 1999: Connolly, Bulger, and Flemmi are indicted on racketeering
charges. Connolly is accused of protecting Bulger and Flemmi from prosecution,
tipping them to cases, delivering bribes from the gangsters to a corrupt FBI
supervisor, and warning Bulger to flee on the eve of his 1995 indictment.
September 2000: A federal indictment charges Bulger with 18 murders and
Flemmi with 10.
Oct. 11, 2000: Connolly is charged with leaking information to Bulger and
Flemmi in 1976 and 1982 that prompted them to kill two FBI informants and a
potential witness against them. The indictment also charges Connolly with
obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to "dupe" the court by writing the
anonymous letter to Wolf about Dewan and the others.
This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 11/12/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.