Boston-area gangsters were plotting to use violence to push aside Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 25 president George W. Cashman in the mid-1990s and seize control of lucrative movie contracts, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Admin. agent said in an affidavit filed Feb. 11 in federal court. John “Mick” Murray, a Local 25 member and an alleged associate of fugitive organized crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, was “not pleased with the management of Local 25 by . . . Cashman,” Agent Joseph W. Desmond said in his affidavit. Murray and Phil Myers, another Local 25 member who was arrested in 1998 on drug charges and is now cooperating with authorities, were allegedly “part of a conspiracy to take charge of Local 25’s movie crews through the use of force and violence,” he said. The two men plotted to “confront Cashman with a weapon and force Cashman to make changes in the management of the movie crews,” Desmond said, adding that they went so far as to track the union president’s movements before Myers was arrested and the plan was abandoned.
The allegations surfaced during Murray’s bail hearing and mark the first time that federal law enforcement officials have publicly released information about Local 25’s attempts to strong-arm movie producers operating in New England. Cashman was arrested Jan. 16, at the same time as Murray and several Local 25 officials and associates. Cashman pled not guilty to charges of embezzling from the local’s health care fund. Murray pled not guilty to a 12-count indictment charging fraud, extortion, and theft. Murray is accused of receiving $35,000 in unearned health benefits, stealing computer shipments from a UPS facility in Chelmsford, Mass., and shaking down a bookmaker and Airborne Express truck driver.
Desmond’s affidavit offers a detailed look of the operations of the “Charlestown group,” described by the agent as a loosely knit association active in murder, drug trafficking, bank robbery, extortion, and truck hijacking since the 1960s. Murray used his connections with Local 25, Bulger, and the Charlestown group in an attempt to take over Boston-area rackets after federal crackdowns on organized crime in the 1990s, the affidavit alleges. Along with two other men, the affidavit says, Murray “had designs of expanding the influence of the Charlestown group, based upon the power vacuum” resulting from the 1995 arrests of mob figures Frank Salemme and Stephen Flemmi and Bulger’s flight.
“It’s the government’s position this criminal organization – though now weakened – is still alive and well in Charlestown,” said Asst. U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak told U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings.
Arguing to keep Murray behind bars, Wyshak said he also took part in a “heinous extortion” in 1994. Wyshak said Murray, a convicted bank robber, joined Bulger lieutenant Kevin Weeks in hauling a bookie into a South Boston basement for a lesson in the consequences of withholding Bulger’s “rent.” The men allegedly outfitted the room for an execution. Plastic covered the floor. Freezers stood nearby and a single stool was placed under a glaring light. Wearing knuckle-baring gloves and showing off a gun in his waistband, Weeks – who became a government witness in 1999 – berated bookie Kevin Hayes and ordered him to strip in case he was wearing a wire, according to the government. Another man present allegedly insisted Weeks kill Hayes. Eventually Hayes promised to fork over a $ 50,000 “fine.” He paid $ 10,000 in a first installment, the government said, eventually pleading that $1,000-a-week was too much. He then paid Murray monthly, and continued until 1997, the affidavit states.
Prosecutors also alleged that Murray extorted Local 25 member Paul Kupchaunis, a delivery driver, by instructing him to hand over a UPS master key to cancel a $50,000 contract on his life. That key allegedly opened up a $1 million theft ring involving mostly high-end electronics.
Finally, prosecutors argued Murray’s contacts with organized crime in Montreal and the Irish Republican Army make him a flight risk. A pretrial services report recommends releasing him on $10,000 bond. Collings did not making an immediate ruling. [Boston Globe; Boston Herald 2/12/02]