Top FBI supervisors held a meeting at the bureau’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., in May 1982 to decide what to do after the killing of a cooperating witness who had implicated James “Whitey” Bulger and his partner in an Oklahoma murder, according to testimony in Bulger’s racketeering trial in federal court Monday.
Retired FBI agent Gerald J. Montanari told jurors that FBI agents from Boston, Miami, and Oklahoma met with supervisors to discuss “concerns that two high-level informants were suspects” in the Oklahoma murder of businessman Roger Wheeler. Moreover, retired FBI agent H. Paul Rico, who had still been working undercover for the bureau in a high-profile investigation, was also involved, the cooperating witness told authorities.
The meeting came two weeks after Bulger allegedly gunned down the witness, Edward “Brian” Halloran and Michael Donahue, after learning that Halloran had been giving the FBI information about the Oklahoma murder. Donahue was an innocent bystander who was giving Halloran a ride home.
Montanari testified Monday that he wanted the meeting “to bring the supervisors in Washington up to date” with his concerns that Bulger, a top informant in Boston, had just killed Halloran.
But even after Montanari raised his concerns, the FBI continued to use the gangster and his partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi as top-
echelon informants, according to Montanari’s testimony Monday.
“It was recommended that informants remain open in the Boston Division until substantiated information is received indicating that they should be closed,” Robert Fitzpatrick, an assistant special agent in charge in Boston, wrote to his supervisor after the meeting on May 25, 1982.
The Washington meeting was attended by top supervisors including Sean McWeeney, who was in charge of the bureau’s organized crime section. After the meeting, FBI supervisors ordered Boston agents to share Halloran’s account of Wheeler’s killing with Oklahoma investigators, who had been asking for assistance.
Montanari’s testimony provided an overview of Halloran’s cooperation with the FBI, which prosecutors say ultimately led to his death.
Bulger’s former associate, Kevin Weeks, who said he served as lookout in the murder of Halloran, has testified that Bulger told him that he killed Halloran after he learned from his FBI handler, John J. Connolly Jr., that Halloran was talking to the FBI.
Halloran, a Winter Hill Gang associate, began cooperating in January 1982 after he was charged in state court with the slaying of George Pappas inside the Four Seas Restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown.
Seeking a deal in his case, Halloran offered to provide information and testify against Bulger and Flemmi for their crimes, including the killing of Wheeler. He told the FBI that his close friend John Callahan, a Boston businessman who fraternized with organized crime figures and was a former president of World Jai Alai, had asked him to help Bulger, Flemmi, and John Martorano kill Wheeler, but that he did not want to get involved. Halloran told the FBI that Callahan later told him that Bulger’s crew had done the killing.
Martorano testified earlier that Callahan asked him to kill Wheeler because he feared Wheeler would learn he was skimming profits from World Jai Alai, and that Bulger and Flemmi sanctioned the hit. Callahan also had a plan to take over the business and had promised payments to the Winter Hill Gang.
According to Halloran’s account, Callahan told him that Rico would help them set up the murder. Rico was charged in 2003 in Wheeler’s death but died while awaiting trial.
Montanari said Halloran offered to wear a wire, to see if he could get Callahan to talk about the killing. Montanari said that Halloran began “waffling” and refused to take a polygraph. He also did not want to go into the Witness Protection Program, though he had said he feared for his safety.
“He said if either Bulger or Flemmi had any indication he was cooperating, they would go to the extreme, even if it meant killing innocent bystanders or his family,” he said.
Also Monday, Martorano’s former girlfriend testified that she received money from Bulger’s crew while she and Martorano were living in Florida while he was a fugitive.
Patricia (Lytle) Carlson, 52, originally from Somerville, said she was 18 when she fled in the 1970s with Martorano, 20 years her senior. She said she initially thought they were going on vacation, though she stayed with him during his 16 years in hiding, and had a son with him.
Martorano was arrested in Florida in January 1995. The next year, while he was in jail awaiting trial, according to Carlson, an associate of Flemmi’s dropped $10,000 off at her mother’s house, which Carlson used for living expenses. Former Bulger associate Kevin Weeks testified earlier that the money came from Bulger.
During cross-examination by Bulger’s lawyer, Hank Brennan, Carlson admitted that she helped Martorano while he was a fugitive, and lied to a grand jury in 1995, yet never faced any charges, unlike Bulger’s girlfriend, Catherine Greig, who is serving eight years in prison for helping him evade capture for 16 years.