Boston • A businessman testifying in the racketeering trial of reputed gangster James "Whitey" Bulger on Tuesday described terrifying moments in 1982 when, he said, Bulger shoved a revolver in his face and threatened to kill him if he didn't pay him $400,000.
Michael Solimando, a construction contractor, said a friend of his, John Callahan, had asked him in early 1982 to invest in a building renovation project in Boston.
Several months later, Callahan was killed. Three weeks after Callahan's death, Solimando said he got a call from Bulger's partner, whom he had known casually years earlier, asking to meet at a bar.
When Solimando arrived, he was ushered upstairs to a room with the shades drawn where Bulger and an enforcer were waiting. Solimando said Bulger immediately pulled out a revolver and stuck it in his face.
"He said, 'We want our money,' and I said, 'What money?'"
"According to Mr. Bulger, John Callahan had invested their funds in the building, and all they wanted was their money back now that he was dead," Solimando said.
He said he told Bulger that he did not have any business with any of them and that Callahan had not invested anywhere near $400,000 in the building. "I was sufficiently scared, I'll tell you that. It was very scary at the time," he said.
Solimando said Bulger then warned him not to go to the FBI, state police or Boston police. He said Bulger told him: "We're going to know the minute you open your mouth."
Solimando said Bulger said that if he went into the witness protection program, he would kill his sister and his brother-in-law.
After making two payments of $20,000 each to Bulger, Solimando said he and his brother-in-law sold jewelry, cars, stocks and other items, and got some money Callahan had stashed in Switzerland. Solimando said he paid a Bulger associate the remaining $360,000.
"It was either that or get killed," he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly told Judge Denise Casper that prosecutors expect to wrap up their case next week. Bulger's lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., said the defense case could go through August.