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Will trial in Boston spur FBI?

Published: Sun, June 16, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

James “Whitey” Bulger, who had shared top billing on America’s most-wanted list with the world’s leading terrorist Osama bin Laden, is on trial in Boston for 19 murders and a slew of other federal criminal charges.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also in the dock.

During his two decades-plus as head of the Irish-American organized crime gang in South Boston known as the Winter Hill Gang, Bulger was secretly one of the biggest informants for the FBI, prosecutors say. He provided information about the Italian Mafia, which was the federal government’s main focus, and was permitted to conduct his business of murder and mayhem without fear of arrest.

Indeed, it was Bulger’s longtime FBI handler, Special Agent John Connolly, who tipped off the crime boss in 1994 that federal charges of racketeering were imminent. Bulger disappeared and was on the lam until 2011 when he was captured in California.


Connolly is serving 50 years in the federal pen for crimes linked to the Irish mob, including murder.

The FBI agent’s supervisor in the Boston office, John Morris, admitted that he accepted cash from Bulger. He received immunity from prosecution after he agreed to testify against Connolly and the crime boss.

So, as the trial of one of the most colorful characters in the history of organized crime in America unfolds in Boston, the role the FBI played in aiding and abetting him will also take center stage.

The federal agency can’t relish the idea of being dragged through the mud.

How, then, does it limit the damage?

In the Mahoning Valley, where agents were once accused by the notorious crooked politician James A. Traficant Jr. of being in the pocket of the Mafia, the agency can come clean with any and all information its has on the so-called Oakhill Renaissance controversy.

The FBI office in Youngstown and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland can also put to rest all the speculation surrounding former Mahoning County Treasurer Lisa Antonini, who pleaded guilty in June 2011 to taking money from a businessman and not declaring it.

U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi, who accepted Antonini’s guilty plea, did not sentence her. However, the former chairwoman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, will receive a reduced sentence if she fully cooperates with any federal, state or local investigations or prosecutions.

Two years later, there is still no word from the feds as to how much help she has been in their crackdown on government corruption in the region.

The FBI is also being tight-lipped about the 2,000 hours of recordings from wiretaps and other surveillance that pertain to its government- corruption investigation.

Federal agents admitted to a crossover of sorts between their surveillance and the seven individuals criminally charged by the state in the Oakhill investigation.

But the charges against Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., retired president of the Cafaro Co., John A. McNally IV, a county commissioner at the time, Auditor Michael Sciortino, former Treasurer John Reardon, former Job and Family Services Director John Zachariah, the Cafaro Co. and two of its affiliates were dismissed after the FBI refused to hand over the tapes or transcripts.

The FBI’s role in bringing the state’s case to a screeching halt because of its refusal to hand over information pertaining to some of the defendants has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many area residents who are tired of prominent individuals in the community willing to peddle their influence and of public officials eager to be bribed.

FBI’s intransigence

The decision by the state to drop the charges against Cafaro et al. was not triggered by a lack of evidence, but by the FBI’s intransigence.

As the Boston trial of Whitey Bulger will show, the mob boss was able to infiltrate the agency and sow the seeds of public distrust in law enforcement that remain in South Boston to this day.

The people of the Mahoning Valley have thus far retained their trust in the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office. But their patience is wearing thin.

Federal agents and prosecutors have won high praise from law-abiding residents for their crack down on government corruption and organized crime in this region. It’s time to tie up the loose ends in the Lisa Antonini case and the Oakhill Renaissance scandal.


1Nom_De_Plume(60 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Same old drivel, Bert. I await your column in which you finally admit that Gains and Tablack sold you and the public a bill of goods. You were (are) so blinded by your hatefulness that you wished and continue to wish there was something to these allegations. Keep wishing. Each day that passes decreases the likelihood that anything significant will come of this investigation. Quit wasting ink - the Feds will never cave to your demands.

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2AtownAugie(892 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

A separate news item mentions FBI agents have a "new lead" on where Jimmy Hoffa's remains might be. I bet "when" the FBI finds Mr Hoffa's body, they also will find the "evidence" Mr de Souza so fervently hopes (prays?) exists in his quixotic obsession with the "Oakhill Renaissance controversy." (Dear reader, please note "when" in this instance is never. And Sancho Panza? Please call the Vindy -- seems a new windmill has been sighted.)

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3TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Hey Berger, didn't you say in a comment you made last summer that felt bad for Antonini because in your opinion she was being made a scapegoat for the entire, politically motivated by Gains and Tablack Oakhill debacle. You must have felt so bad you continued to talk about a scenario that the entire area has grown bored with? Ya know, you don't have to, but would you respond to one simple question? Do you think that economically the acquisition of the old Southside hospital has proven to be beneficial? Try to be objective. I am truly curious. Again, just wondering if you feel the County has benefitted financially from occupying that structure? No politics just facts and objectivity. Maybe I'm wrong and you can make me understand why someone like George Tablack, whom I bet you worshipped, would be so dumb. Tell you why, he wanted to injure the parties on the other political side and in doing so he sacrificed the best interests of the taxpayers. MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!!!

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41970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

What about the many people like me who originally thought the Oak Hill Bldg was a good idea, but now see it as a bad idea?

I agree that if Gains or Tablack did anything improper they should have to answer for that.

I just don't see that those indicted were indicted for political reasons. They were being prosecuted by people from outside this area. They did not have any political ax to grind with Sciortino/McNally/ etc.

Until Antonini is sentenced or charges are dismissed, this case is not over.

Bertram's point about the Boston FBI seems to be saying there are two possibilities here: the investigation is still ongoing, or something is wrong with the feds.

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5jmagaratz(189 comments)posted 3 years ago

Bert....get off the ego trip....Youngstown corruption (or corruption as you perceive it) is small potatoes compared to the rest of the country.....FBI Agents assigned here probably see it as a great "retirement job"--terrific restaurants, easy environment and understanding politicians....

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