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Bulger extortion alleged by US

By Shelley Murphy
Globe Staff / September 30, 2000
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A month after one of his closest friends was gunned down in Miami, a Boston restaurateur was allegedly menaced by South Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger and his longtime sidekick Stephen Flemmi as the pair extorted money from him.

Michael Solimando Jr., of Milton, a real estate developer and part-owner of Durgin Park restaurant at Faneuil Hall marketplace, was among a half-dozen businessmen who were forced to pay "fines" to Bulger and Flemmi during the 1980s, according to a federal racketeering indictment that was unsealed Thursday against the reputed gangsters.

The indictment accuses Bulger of killing 18 people, while Flemmi was an accomplice in 10 of the murders, including the Aug. 1, 1982 slaying of Solimando's close friend, John Callahan, a Boston businessman whose bullet-riddled body was found in the trunk of a car at Miami International Airport.

Callahan was one of three men who were allegedly killed by Bulger and Flemmi as a result of an effort by their Winter Hill gang to take over World Jai Alai, a parimutuel gambling company.

The indictment alleges Bulger and Flemmi ordered the May 27, 1981 murder of Roger Wheeler, chairman of Telex Corp. and owner of World Jai Alai because he suspected Bulger's gang of skimming from his company. When gang associate Brian Halloran told the FBI that Bulger and Flemmi were involved in Wheeler's slaying, Bulger allegedly gunned Halloran down outside a Boston restaurant in May 1982, also killing Michael Donahue, who was giving Halloran a ride home, the indictment says.

Bulger and Flemmi hired two associates to kill Callahan, a former Jai Alai executive who allegedly laundered money for Bulger's gang, because they feared he'd implicate them in Wheeler's slaying, according to the indictment.

The month after Callahan's murder, in September 1981, Bulger and Flemmi confronted Solimando and extorted an undisclosed amount of cash from him over the next six months, according to the indictment.

Solimando declined to comment yesterday when contacted by The Globe.

But according to sources familiar with the case, Bulger and Flemmi pressured Solimando to help them locate money that they suspected Callahan had stashed in various bank accounts. Callahan routinely traveled to Zurich and investigators suspected he had been funneling money into various Swiss accounts, sources said.

Solimando had been interviewed by the FBI after Callahan's murder because he frequently traveled to Florida with Callahan, who owned a condo in Fort Lauderdale and was one of the last people to see him before he caught a plane to Florida and was killed upon his arrival there.

The indictment says Solimando was one of a half-dozen businessmen extorted by Bulger and Flemmi, including South Boston realtor Raymond Slinger and local developer Richard Buccheri.

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