A retired Miami police sergeant testified in federal court Wednesday that he found the wallet and license of businessman and murder victim John B. Callahan in a Cuban neighborhood of Miami, corroborating testimony that James “Whitey” Bulger wanted to make it look like Callahan was killed by Cubans in a deal that had gone bad.
All along, prosecutors allege, it was Bulger and his crew who killed Callahan, whose bullet-riddled body was stuffed in the trunk of his Cadillac in 1982 in a parking lot at Miami International Airport.
The testimony by Celso Perez, a retired Miami police sergeant, was used to support testimony by John Martorano, a former Bulger associate who has cooperated with authorities.
Martorano, who has admitted to 20 killings but agreed to testify in a deal with authorities, testified last week that Bulger and their crew wanted to kill Callahan out of fear he would inform on them in the killing in Oklahoma a year earlier of Roger Wheeler, who owned World Jai Alai. The millionaire had suspected Callahan, former president of World Jai Alai, of skimming money.
Martorano said he and Bulger wanted to make it look like Callahan was killed in a deal that went sour.
Also Wednesday, Robert Yerton, a forensic lab technician from the Oklahoma Police Department, testified that he responded to the scene of Wheeler’s murder at the Southern Hills Country Club in May, 1981.
Wheeler had been shot, and “his head was lying on a gym bag on the front seat of the passenger side of the Cadillac.”
Callahan and Wheeler are two of Bulger’s 19 alleged murder victims, and the murder charges are part of a sweeping federal racketeering indictment that also accuses him extortion, loansharking, and money laundering.
Bulger, 83, was once one of America’s Most Wanted until his arrest in June, 2011, after more than 16 years on the lam.
Prosecutors say he was able to carry out his crimes for decades because he was secretly working as an informant for a corrupt FBI handler who protected him from his crimes in exchange for information about his cohorts and members of the Mafia.
Lawyers for Bulger say he was no informant, but that he paid the corrupt handler for information. They allege the handler, John J. Connolly Jr., created a false file in Bulger’s name and put false information in the file to make it appear that he had a high-level informant on the Mafia.
Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, Bulger lawyer Hank Brennan peppered witness James Marra, an agent with the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General, with suggestions that Connolly was indeed putting false statements in Bulger’s informant file.
Milton Valencia can be reached at email@example.com.