BOSTON — A former drug dealer testified Wednesday that James “Whitey” Bulger once tried to scare him into paying $1 million by having an associate spin a loaded gun on a table, point it at him, then pull the trigger.
William David Lindholm, testifying in Bulger’s racketeering trial, said Bulger’s associate played a “Russian Roulette”-like game with him in 1983. He said the associate first fired the gun and a bullet went by his head. Then, he spun the gun on the table and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not go off, Lindholm said.
“I was just glad to get out of there,” he said.
Lindholm said he and his partner were major marijuana smugglers who distributed about 85 tons of the drug that summer — without Bulger’s permission. Shortly after that, Lindholm said he was asked to go to a nightclub where he found Bulger and three other men in a small room upstairs.
Lindholm said Bulger pulled two guns out and demanded $1 million. He said he negotiated with Bulger to get the amount down to $250,000 and agreed to pay in installments.
Afterward, he said, Bulger shook his hand and told him he had handled himself well, but also told him what he’d do if he tried to sell drugs on his own again.
“He’d cut my head off,” Lindholm said.
Lindholm was the latest in a string of former drug dealers and bookmakers who have testified that Bulger used threats and intimidation to extort them by demanding lump sum payments or regular “tribute” payments so they could stay in business.
Bulger, now 83, is accused in a 32-count racketeering indictment of playing a role in 19 killings in the 1970s and ‘80s while he allegedly led the Winter Hill Gang. He is also charged with money laundering and extortion.
Bulger’s alleged partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, is scheduled to testify Thursday — nearly 20 years after they last saw each other.
Their former FBI handler, John Connolly, was convicted of tipping off both men in late 1994 that they were about to be indicted. Bulger fled Boston and was one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives until he was captured in SantaMonica, Calif., in 2011. Flemmi stayed, was arrested and later pleaded guilty to 10 killings. He is now serving a life sentence.
Bulger’s lawyers have strongly denied the prosecution contention that their client was an informant who ratted on the New England Mafia and other criminals. They say he paid FBI agents to tip him off to investigations and upcoming indictments.
In other testimony Wednesday, a former U.S. customs agent said a man Bulger is accused of killing was cooperating with law enforcement just before he disappeared in 1984.
Bulger is charged with fatally shooting John McIntyre, a fisherman from Quincy, after learning that he was talking to authorities.
Former customs agent Donald DeFago testified that McIntyre described drug smuggling and other activities, including a failed attempt to ship weapons to the Irish Republican Army.
Bulger associate Kevin Weeks testified earlier that Bulger interrogated and killed McIntyre while he was chained to a chair. Weeks said Bulger tried to strangle him, but when the rope caused him to vomit, he asked McIntyre if he wanted a bullet in the head.
Weeks said McIntyre replied, “Yes, please” and Bulger shot him.
The daughter of Roger Wheeler, a Tulsa, Okla., businessman prosecutors say was killed by Bulger’s gang, also testified. Pamela Wheeler said that in the months before her father was killed in 1981, he wanted to sell one of his businesses, World Jai Alai, a legal sports betting operation.
Pamela Wheeler said her father had bought the business less than two years earlier, but was disappointed in its financial performance and had been trying to sell it just before he was killed.
Convicted hit man John Martorano testified earlier in the trial that he shot Wheeler between the eyes after the executive finished a round of golf at a Tulsa country club. Wheeler was killed after John Callahan, the former president of World Jai Alai, said he was concerned that Wheeler had figured out he had been skimming profits.
Martorano testified that Callahan asked him to kill Wheeler, a hit Martorano said was sanctioned by Bulger after Callahan said he would make payments to Bulger and Flemmi.