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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 underlings.

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 renovations.

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) Angiulo.

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.

Whitey Bulger
Stephen Flemmi
Frank Salemme
Kevin Weeks
John Martorano
John Connolly
John Morris

Photo gallery
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1 9 8 8
The Bulger mystique
A look at Boston's famous brothers, William and Whitey.

1 9 9 5
The story of Whitey's fall
How investigators brought down the elusive criminal.

1 9 9 8
Whitey & the FBI
The relationship between Bulger and Boston's law men.

1 9 9 8
Whitey's life on the run
The fugitive mobster's relentless travels across the country.

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