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Former Boston drug dealers recall threats from 'Whitey' Bulger

BOSTON (Reuters) - Two former Boston drug dealers on Friday described how James “Whitey” Bulger controlled the narcotics trade in his neighborhood, wrapping up the fifth week of the former mob boss’s murder and racketeering trial with testimony about threats and shootings.

Former mob boss and fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger, who was arrested in Santa Monica, California on June 22, 2011 along with his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig, is seen in a booking mug photo released to Reuters on August 1, 2011. REUTERS/U.S. Marshals Service/U.S. Department of Justice/Handout

Bulger, accused of murdering or ordering the killing of 19 people in the 1970s and 1980s while he ran South Boston’s feared “Winter Hill” gang, demanded payment from drug dealers and imposed rules on their business, the witnesses said.

Anthony Attardo, 55, told jurors he had been dealing cocaine in South Boston for six years when members of Bulger’s gang approached him in 1985, asking him to buy cocaine from them. When he refused, they demanded $100,000 in tribute, he said.

Attardo, a former boxer, said he tried to deceive Bulger, saying he had gotten out of the drug trade.

“He said, ‘Don’t lie to me. The money’s so good the only time you’re going to quit is when you go to jail,’ Attardo recalled. “And he was right about that.”

Not wanting to pay the feared mobster, Attardo tried to avoid him, until his 17-year-old brother was shot.

“Mr. Bulger said to me, ‘You’re next if I don’t get my money.’ And I said, ‘I’ll meet you down at the liquor store,’” Attardo said. “I grew up in Southie all my life. Everybody knew his reputation. Very dangerous, he meant what he said.”

Bulger, who faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted on charges that include racketeering and drug dealing, has pleaded not guilty. His lead attorney, J.W. Carney of the Boston law firm Carney & Bassil, admitted in opening statements that Bulger was an extortionist, loan shark and drug dealer and earlier this week described Bulger as an “organized criminal.”


Another former drug dealer who worked the neighborhood, said Bulger had imposed rules on the trade.

Paul Moore, 63, who testified against Bulger in the 1990s and then went into the witness protection program, said he sold marijuana and cocaine under the protection of the “Winter Hill” gang but that other drugs were forbidden.

“You never sold drugs to children, did you?” defense attorney Carney asked Moore, who replied, “You’d get hurt if you did anything like that.”

While Bulger’s gang accepted thousands of dollars a week in tribute for his sales of cocaine and marijuana, Moore said the gang prohibited him from selling heroin and “angel dust,” a form of marijuana laced with other drugs believed more dangerous.

Bulger fled Boston after a 1994 tip from corrupt FBI agent John Connolly. He evaded arrest for 16 years before the FBI caught up with him when he was hiding in an apartment in Santa Monica, California.

After Bulger fled the city, Attardo said he tried to take a page from the Winter Hill playbook when a friend told him that people who he believed to be drug dealers from the Dominican Republic were selling drugs in the neighborhood.

“I decided with him that maybe we should pull a Whitey Bulger and extort them,” Attardo said.

As it turned out, the so-called drug dealers were undercover police officers.

“So that didn’t work out to well for you?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Hafer asked Attardo.

“No, it did not,” replied Attardo, who was later sentenced to 9-1/2 years in prison for drug offenses.

Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Paul Thomasch and David Gregorio