Man held without bail as danger after charge of dropping cyanide in Stephen Rakes’s coffee

08/02/2013 CONCORD, MA William Camuti (cq) 69, of Sudbury, is arraigned for the attempted murder of Stephen Rakes (cq) in Concord District Court (cq). (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
William Camuti, 69, of Sudbury at an August court appearanceAram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

CONCORD — The man accused of murdering Stephen “Stippo” Rakes was ordered held without bail for 90 days after a judge determined today that he was a danger to society.

FILE - In this June 6, 2013 photo, Stephen Rakes smiles outside the liquor store he once owned in the South Boston neighborhood of Boston. Rakes, who said he had been extorted by James "Whitey" Bulger and hoped to testify at his trial, was given iced coffee laced with cyanide that killed him, authorities said Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, and that 69-year-old William Camuti, of Sudbury, is charged with attempted murder in his death. Rakes' body was found July 17 in the woods in suburban Boston the day after he learned he would not be called to testify. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
The late Stephen “Stippo” Rakes sought justice in the Bulger case. He was allegedly poisoned as a result of an unrelated business dispute.Michael Dwyer/AP

William Camuti is accused of first-degree murder for allegedly poisoning the 59-year-old Rakes with cyanide in his iced coffee when the two men met July 16 at a McDonald’s in Waltham.

District Court Judge Barbara Pearson ordered the 69-year-old Camuti held after a hearing this afternoon.

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Rakes was a former South Boston man who sought justice for years after he was extorted by notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. Prosecutors have said Camuti poisoned Rakes over an unrelated business dispute.

A State Police investigator testified today that Camuti confessed to the poisoning scheme but only after trying to commit suicide. Pressed by the investigator for a motive, Camuti allegedly said he “didn’t know why’’ he had put two teaspoons of potassium cyanide into Rakes’s drink.

Defense attorney Stanley Norkunas said his client was clearly under pressure. “They obviously put a great deal of stress on him,” Norkunas said.

Rakes drank the coffee and was overcome by the poison while sitting in Camuti’s car, Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan has said. After Rakes died, Camuti drove around the Waltham, Woburn, Burlington, and Lincoln area before allegedly dumping Rakes’s body near a footpath in a wooded section of Lincoln.

Rakes’s body was found July 17, and Camuti was charged in early August. He pleaded not guilty and has been held without bail since. Ryan has alleged that Camuti owed Rakes money after a series of business deals they did together went bust.

Rakes was victimized by Bulger nearly three decades ago. Bulger and his associates, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi and Kevin Weeks, were convicted of extorting a South Boston liquor store from him at gunpoint in 1984 while Rakes’s two young daughters were in the same room.

Rakes waited years for justice and was looking forward to telling his story at this summer’s high-profile trial of Bulger (which ended with the gangster’s conviction). But federal prosecutors dropped him off their witness list on the day he met with Camuti and was murdered.

The former owner of The Loan Depot, William Camuti was a familiar presence on television and on radio as pitchman for his company in the 1990s, which marketed so-called mortgage pools.

In 1993, a federal jury in Boston convicted him of 11 counts of mail fraud in connection with a program to market mortgage pools to 60 people who invested more than $3.8 million with Camuti or his companies, the Globe reported at the time.

A retired MBTA worker, Rakes was living in Quincy at the time of his death.

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