|Bulger Trial: Hit Man Was 'Vigilante'|
|By MICHELE McPHEE||Jun 18, 2013, 4:15 PM|
Nightclub owner Richard Castucci had made a lot of mistakes in his life, but his biggest would prove to be too trusting of an FBI agent who grew up in South Boston.
Castucci was 48 and a father of four when he went to the FBI and said he had information on accused Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger's alleged criminal activities. Castucci's information made its way to FBI agent John Connolly, who had been nicknamed "Zip" by Bulger and his Winter Hill gang because the lawman shared the same South Boston zip code as the Bulger clan.
"Whitey came and told us Zip Connolly told him Richie was in there," John Martorano told the court today in his second day of testimony in Bulger's federal trial on 19 murders. Monday was the first time Martorano saw Bulger since 1982. He told the court that he was once so close to Bulger that he named his youngest son after him.
Bulger told Martorano and another Winter Hill gang associate, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, that Castucci had to go, Martorano testified today. "We decided to take Richie out," he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak asked Martorano to clarify. "You decided to murder Mr. Castucci?"
"Yeah," Martorano answered. "Once we made the decision we called Richie up and told him to come over."
Castucci was driven to the Somerville, Mass., garage that acted as the Winter Hill gang's headquarters, Martorano told the court. There, Castucci and Bulger sat at a table "counting money."
Martorano came into the kitchen and pulled his favorite gun, a snub-nose .38 revolver, from his pocket. He told the court he liked to carry a snub-nose .38 because he could easily slip it in and out of his pocket.
Castucci never saw it coming. "I walked around to the side of Mr. Castucci," Martorano told the court. He then pointed his finger at his forehead and continued. "I shot him in the temple. Stevie and Whitey cleaned it up."
The cleanup involved stuffing Castucci's body into a sleeping bag which was then put in the trunk of his own Cadillac which was abandoned behind an apartment complex not far from the nightclub the victim owned, he testified. It was winter, 1976 and by the time Castucci's car was finally discovered it was buried in nearly four feet of snow. And his body was frozen solid.
An evidence photo of Castucci's icy remains in the trunk of his car with the sleeping bag zipped up to his chin was entered into evidence along with another picture of hole in the victim's right temple.
"I shot the guy," Martorano told the court. "Whitey was with me."
Bulger's relationship with John "Zip" Connolly helped the Winter Hill gang more than once, Martorano testified. "We were told things."
In 1982, Bulger warned Martorano about a pending indictment connected to fixing horse races. Martorano decided he "was going to go away for six months and have a vacation," he testified.
That conversation would be Martorano's last face-to-face contact with Bulger until his testimony this week in a South Boston federal courthouse. But even if Martorano and Bulger didn't see each other, Martorano said he would still kill for his boss.
"I didn't enjoy killing anybody. I enjoyed helping a friend if I could," Martorano told the court.
'Whitey' Bulger Trial Is Litany of Murders
"I would rather be considered a vigilante than a serial killer," Martorano told the court. "I was always taught to take care of my family and my friends. Family and friends come first. My father always taught me that. The priests and the nuns I grew up with taught me that…Judas is the worst person in the world.''
It wouldn't be until 1994 that Martorano would discover his friends, "my partners in crime, my children's godfathers,'' he said one the stand Monday, were cooperating with the Boston FBI. That news "broke my heart,'' Martorano said.
Before that, Martorano continued to kill for the Winter Hill gang, especially when "Mr. Bulger insisted on it," he said. Bulger would insist on a number of murders in the 1980s, and Martorano admitted to committing three on Bulger's orders on the stand, he testified.
"We were up to our necks in murders," he testified.
One of those murders was of John B. Callahan, a successful Boston businessman and longtime Martorano ally.
Callahan was from Winchester, Mass., and worked at some of Boston's most prestigious accounting firms. But, Martorano testified, Callahan was also a "wannabe gangster."
"In those days he was a high-priced accountant,'' Martorano told the court. "At night he liked to put on a leather jacket and hang out with rogues.''
Callahan had been the president of World Jai Lai, a sports betting outfit, but he was forced out in the late 1970s after Connecticut State Police troopers saw him in the company of known gangsters at the Playboy Club.
One of those gangsters was Martorano. By then, Callahan had been siphoning money from the business, Martorano said. Callahan had lost his license to run a sports betting parlor, and he knew an internal audit by the new World Jai Lai President, Roger Wheeler, would lead to criminal charges.
Callahan told Martorano there was only two ways out:: buy Wheeler off or have him killed, according to Martorano.
"Originally he [Callahan] was going to try to buy World Jai Lai. He was going to make an offer to Mr. Wheeler, 60, 80 million. He figured that would stop the investigation,'' Martorano told the court.
"He asked me to take out Roger Wheeler," Martorano told the court. "I told him I couldn't do that. I had partners. This guy is a legitimate guy. I couldn't do that without everybody else on board…Whitey and Stevie (Flemmi)."
Bulger and Flemmi knew that Callahan's thievery would eventually line their pockets so it didn't take much convincing to get them on board, Martorano testified.
It was 1981. Roger Wheeler would be dead by May.
Martorano got a hand-scrawled list of Wheeler's daily activities; his addresses at home and work; the make and model of his car; and a physical description that included height, weight, hair color and went as far to add, "ruddy face."
There was a titter in the court when Martorano admitted "ruddy face" tipped him off that Rico scribbled the list himself. "Ruddy face…I never heard it before except for an FBI term."
The Wheeler hit would not be easy. Martorano and another man, Joe McDonald, flew into Tulsa under assumed names. Flemmi filled a suitcase full of guns and put it on a bus headed from Fort Lauderdale to Oklahoma City. After picking up the guns, Martorano rented a car and also obtained a "boiler," or stolen car, and headed for Wheeler's home in Tulsa.
When they finally spotted Wheeler pulling into his driveway, or a parking spot at work, there were cameras. "We were driving around and around, circling for him."
But then Rico came through with a golf tee time Wheeler had booked for a Saturday afternoon at a country club. It was there that Martorano waited, wearing a fake beard, sunglasses and a hat.
Wyshak asked the witness why he had on the beard and Martorano answered: "It was a disguise."
When Wheeler slipped behind the wheel of his car, Martorano approached, testifying: "I opened the door and shot him…between the eyes."
The Wheeler hit brought problems for Martorano. A short time later a young Boston thug named Brian Halloran had told the Boston FBI that Callahan told him all about the Wheeler hit and had named names.
"His friend Zip told him,'' Martorano testified.
Bulger told Martorano that he would take care of the problem by killing Halloran himself, the witness testified.
Martorano's testimony about the Halloran hit was the first time since Bulger's trial in connection with a 32-count indictment that charges the Boston mob boss with 19 murders began with open arguments last Wednesday that he was accused of committing the murder himself.
"Whitey said he killed Halloran,'' Martorano told the court. "He did it for me."
In exchange, Bulger told Martorano that Callahan needed to die too. And because Martorano was so close to him and had the most to lose if Callahan folded and talked to law enforcement, he had to pull the trigger himself.
"I didn't want to kill Callahan,'' Martorano told the court.
Bulger "insisted," and Flemmi had also ordered the killing,'' Martorano testified, adding, "Eventually they convinced me. It was two against one…I finally agreed. If it has to be done, it has to be done."
Martorano picked his friend up at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. He had a gun hidden under a towel in his van, which had been converted into a luxury vehicle complete with a captain's chair for the driver. To avoid bloodstains, Martorano said, he lined the vehicle with plastic and towels.
"I shot him in the back of the head,'' Martorano told the court.
Then he and Joe McDonald drove the body to the Callahan's Florida home. As they transferred Callahan's body from Martorano's van to Callahan's own car, there was "a groan."
"Joe heard a moan. Thought he was still alive. Shot him a couple more times,'' Martorano testified.
Convinced he was now dead, Callahan's car with his body inside was abandoned at Miami International Airport where it was recovered in August 1982.
That, Martorano told the court, was his last murder.
It had taken two days of testimony to cover the murders the government's star witness against Bulger had committed. The prosecutor, Wyshak, finished his questioning with this:
"Mr. Martorano do you regret your life of crime?"
Martorano answered, "Who wouldn't?"
Then it was Bulger's defense attorneys' turn to question Martorano. Attorney Hank Brennan began by peppering Martorano with questions.
"You've killed for friends?"
"Yes." Martorano answered.
"You've killed for family?" Brennan asked.
Brennan went on asking, "You have killed strangers? You have killed innocent people?" Martorano answered correct two more times.
Then came a question that seemed to stun Martorano.
"Did you say hi to your friend before you were going to murder him, did you look him in the eye?" Brennan asked.
Martorano hesitated slightly then answered: "Yes I did."
He is expected to take the stand again Wednesday for additional cross-examination by Bulger's attorneys, who continue to depict him as a liar willing to do anything to save his own neck and profit from his crimes.
Martorano said Monday that he received $250,000 in a movie deal and made another $50,000 collaborating on the book, Hitman, by Boston newspaperman Howie Carr. The FBI had also given him $20,000 when he got out of jail.
Connolly is now serving a life sentence in connection with Callahan's murder after he was accused of providing information for the hit. Martorano testified against him.