Witness paid Bulger because ‘it was either that or get killed’

bulger james whitey bulger boston
A 1983 mugshot of James “Whitey” Bulger taken at the Boston office of the FBI.
Credit: U.S. Attorney’s office

A South Shore man said he chose to sell his cars, jewelry, stocks and other possessions to pay off alleged mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger rather than risk his life. 

Michael Solimando, 64, took the witness stand Tuesday and told jurors about a gunpoint shakedown by the leaders of the Winter Hill Gang.

Solimando said he had come to know Winter Hill Gang member Stephen Flemmi when he started working as a general contractor in the Boston area in the late 1970s shortly after his graduation from Villanova. He hung out at a bar run by James Martorano, the brother of Winter Hill Gang member John Martorano.

After Solimando’s business partner John Callahan was killed, Solimando said he received a call from Flemmi to meet him at South Boston bar Triple O’s. While there, Bulger, Flemmi and Kevin Weeks asked Solimando to come upstairs.

Upstairs is where Bulger put a gun in his face, Solimando said. Bulger and his group demanded to know about $400,000 Callahan had invested in a building and wanted it back now that he was dead, Solimando said, adding that he had no idea about it.

He tried to reason with the group and that’s when Weeks handed Bulger a machine gun who then pointed it at Solimando’s midsection, he said. That’s when Bulger told him not to go to the authorities.

“He said, ‘If you think you’re going to go to law enforcement, we’re going to know the minute you walk into the … federal building. And if you think you’re going to go to state police, forget about it, we’re covered there. And if you’re going to go to the Boston police, forget it,’” Solimando said.

In a further threat, Bulger admitted that the group had killed Brian Halloran and that investigators didn’t know whether he “died of lead poisoning or if he was electrocuted because he had so many wires on him,” Solimando said.

Solimando eventually talked his way out of the situation and promised to pay the group.

Not knowing what to do, he went to his brother-in-law, who was also his business partner. They got together $20,000 for an initial payment.

Eventually, Solimando said he and his brother-in-law sold many of their possessions, and along with Callahan’s lawyer who accessed his Swiss bank accounts, they were able to pay Bulger and his group the $400,00 they demanded.

Asked by a prosecutor why he paid and didn’t go to the authorities, Solimando said he was afraid of Bulger and Flemmi.

“It was either that or get killed,” he said.

Solimando admitted to lying to a grand jury in Florida in 1983 on two occasions because of his fear of being killed and at the urging of James Martorano.

During the start of cross examination, Bugler attorney Hank Brennan began quizzing Solimando about the issues he lied about.

Solimando, whose testimony is setting the stage for Flemmi to take the witness stand on Thursday, will continue to be questioned on Wednesday.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Grimm choice: Tax fraud trial could dog NY…

Rep. Michael Grimm may be splitting his time between the campaign trail and a courtroom where he is due to face tax evasion charges.

Local

Met Opera, unions extend talks for 72 hours,…

Met Opera agreed to extend negotiations with its labor unions for 72 hours, preventing a threatened lockout, the organization said late Thursday.

Local

MAP: New York City street closures August 2…

Summer Streets, the NYC Triathlon, the Ecuadorian Parade and festivals will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on 'Calvary' and his very…

Brendan Gleeson discusses how "Calvary" began over drinks and how his priest character is the opposite of the officer he played in "The Guard."

Movies

Interview: Chris O'Dowd does funny and serious in…

Chris O'Dowd talks about "Calvary," an Irish comedy-drama about a priest (Brendan Gleeson) under fire.

Movies

'Alive Inside' and 'Code Black' are documentaries with…

Two new documentaries — "Alive Inside" and "Code Black" — portray different issues but suffer from the same problem.

Music

Caught a Ghost catches a soul/rap vibe

Jesse Nolan says Caught a Ghost's sound aims for two things everybody likes: soul music and '90s rap.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…