Mob targeted; Bulger and Salemme sought
Confidante Flemmi is arrested in extortion case
By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff, 1/06/1995
More than a decade after federal authorities decimated the hierarchy of
the New England Mafia, officials last night were poised to take out those in
the Irish and Italian underworld who have filled the void.
James J. (Whitey) Bulger Jr., who has eluded law enforcement for years
while allegedly maintaining a stranglehold on illegal rackets from South
Boston to Cape Cod, faces federal extortion charges and was being sought last
night, sources said.
Reputed New England Mafia boss Francis P. (Cadillac Frank) Salemme, 60, who
allegedly assumed control of the remnants of the family in 1991 after his two
predecessors were convicted of racketeering, was also being sought last night
on federal charges, according to sources.
Another alleged underworld figure, Stephen (The Rifleman) Flemmi, 60, who
is a trusted confidante and associate of both Bulger and Salemme, was arrested
last night on federal extortion charges.
"These charges will break the back of the underworld," said one law
enforcement official, who requested anonymity.
The three men are among the most enduring and chronicled major underworld
figures remaining in New England, after a decade in which the region's leading
Mafiosi have been decimated by federal indictments and lengthy prison terms.
The charges mark the end of a long-running lucky streak for Bulger, 65, of
South Boston, who won the state lottery in 1991 and has eluded all criminal
charges over the past three decades, despite repeated efforts by law
enforcement to expose his alleged illegal activities.
The federal charges culminate a lengthy investigation by the State Police
Special Services organized crime unit and the FBI into allegations of murder,
extortion, bookmaking, illegal gambling and other racketeering activities.
Sources said federal prosecutors are poised to seek racketeering
indictments from a federal grand jury against the trio and a number of
But fearing a leak about the indictment might cause the men to flee the
country prompted federal officials to first seek criminal complaints, which
require only approval from a magistrate judge.
Investigators became anxious last night as news of Flemmi's arrest spread
and Bulger and Salemme, 61, remained at large.
Sources said investigators had planned to arrest all three men
simultaneously, but feared Flemmi was going to flee and arrested him when he
was spotted at a closed, downtown restaurant.
Flemmi, 60, was arrested when he arrived at Schooner's, a High Street
restaurant on the outskirts of Faneuil Hall Marketplace that is undergoing
Flemmi was whisked into the FBI headquarters at One Center Plaza for
booking and fingerprinting. The charges against him will be unsealed today
when he is brought before a federal magistrate judge.
Flemmi has allegedly kept Bulger insulated by representing him on the
street, shaking down bookmakers and collecting tribute, according to sources.
But the crack that could rip Bulger's organization wide open came when two
high-level bookmakers turned informants. Burton (Chico) Krantz and Jimmy Katz
have admitted giving a share of their illegal gambling profits to Flemmi. They
believed the gambling profits were destined for Bulger, according to sources
and court testimony.
The bookmakers, now in the Federal Witness Protection Program, have also
implicated Salemme and contend that every bookie in the city is forced to pay
''rent" to the Italian or Irish mob.
Krantz, 57, formerly of Newton, has detailed "rent" payments routinely
paid by independent bookmakers from throughout Greater Boston to Salemme,
Bulger and Flemmi, sources said.
Krantz has alleged he personally delivered a portion of his illegal
gambling profits to Flemmi on several occasions, sources said.
Reputed bookmaker George Kaufman was identified by Krantz as a middleman,
who collects rents from other bookmakers for Salemme.
In March 1991, Krantz was indicted and 10 other people in Middlesex
Superior Court on charges of running a gambling ring that grossed more than $1
million a week.
Faced with the prospect of a lengthy prison term, Krantz, who has
lymphocytic leukemia, turned State Police informant.
Bulger's knack for discovering law enforcement bugs in his cars and
apartments and his uncanny knack for evading surveillance has frustrated State
Police, Boston police and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Some state and law enforcement officers who have dogged Bulger
unsuccessfully for years allege he's been protected by the FBI while serving
as an informant for it.
Bulger, a convicted bank robber and brother of Senate President William
Bulger, has been linked to the mob in the past, according to FBI tapes played
at the 1985-86 racketeering trial of then Boston mob boss Gennaro (Jerry)
In a 1981 conversation played at the trial, Angiulo's top lieutenant,
Ilario Zannino, boasted that Bulger and Flemmi were "with us."
"These are nice people," Zannino said. "These are the kind of (expletive)
people who straighten a thing out. If I called these guys right now, they'd
kill anybody we tell 'em to."
This story ran on page 1 of the Boston Globe on 1/06/1995.
© Copyright 1995 Globe Newspaper Company.