A former drug dealer who said he raked in millions of dollars selling marijuana told a federal jury Wednesday that James “Whitey” Bulger threatened him at gunpoint that “he’d cut my head off” if he refused to pay “rent,” or a fee to continue conducting his drug business.
“He told me if I didn’t do this some other people would come along and try to snatch me,” said William David Lindholm, 62, who grew up in Milton. “He was yelling.”
Lindholm said he was confronted by Bulger and three other men at the Marconi Club in Roxbury in 1983, and one of them put a gun loaded with only one bullet against his head and pulled the trigger, “Russian roulette” style.
“I was just glad to get myself out of there,” Lindholm said.
Testifying in Bulger’s racketeering trial, Lindholm said Bulger originally demanded $1 million during that encounter, but he was able to downplay the scale of his operation and bluffed Bulger down to a $250,000 payoff.
“He seemed satisfied,” said Lindholm.
Lindholm said the shakedown came shortly after he and his partner smuggled 125 tons of marijuana into Louisiana from Colombia, then sold it for a profit of about $32 million.
Lindholm, who is slated to resume testifying Thursday, was the latest in a line of former drug dealers and bookmakers to testify against Bulger, saying that the gangster extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars, totaling millions, from them with threats of violence.
Prosecutors say Bulger was able to run a criminal enterprise from the 1970s into the 1990s because he was secretly cooperating as an FBI informant and was being protected by corrupt handlers.
So far, 56 people have testified over 23 days in his trial, and prosecutors have said they could wrap up their case next week.
On Wednesday, Donald DeFago, 64, a retired US Customs Service agent, testified that one of Bulger’s alleged murder victims had been cooperating in drug smuggling and gun running investigations when he abruptly disappeared.
DeFago, who investigated organized crime and illegal smuggling through Boston Harbor, said John McIntyre began cooperating after a drunken driving arrest and told authorities he was a crew member on the Valhalla, a Gloucester trawler that had delivered 7 tons of weapons to a ship off the coast of Ireland in September 1984.
The weapons were seized from the ship before they could be delivered to the Irish Republican Army.
DeFago said information provided by McIntyre led to the seizure of 36 tons of marijuana from another vessel, the Ramsland, outside Boston Harbor.
After that seizure, McIntyre told DeFago that a Bulger associate asked him to invest $20,000 in a future deal, the special agent testified.
McIntyre was given the money by authorities, and after he gave it to Bulger’s associate, Pat Nee, he was not heard from again.
Kevin Weeks, Bulger’s former protégé, testified earlier in the trial that the $20,000 investment was a ruse: He said Bulger, suspicious that someone was informing, concocted the idea to see if McIntyre, who had few assets, could come up with the money. If he could, Bulger figured, he was probably the culprit.
Weeks testified that Bulger shot McIntyre in the head. They buried his body in the basement of a South Boston home and later transferred the remains to a shallow grave in Dorchester.
Weeks led investigators to the remains of McIntyre, 32, of Quincy, and two other murder victims in 2000.
Also Wednesday, the daughter of an Oklahoma businessman testified that her father was slain in 1981, as he was trying to sell his business, World Jai Alai.
Pam Wheeler, a lawyer, said her father, Roger Wheeler, wanted to sell his World Jai Alai business because it was not performing as he had hoped.
Bulger is accused of giving approval to his associate to kill Wheeler on behalf of a Boston businessman who had been skimming money from the company and was afraid of being caught.