BOSTON (AP) _ The family of an Oklahoma millionaire has filed an $860 million wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. government, claiming it allowed Boston crime bosses James ``Whitey'' Bulger and Stephen Flemmi to murder with impunity.
Roger Wheeler was shot to death in May 1981 outside a Tulsa country club by confessed underworld hit man John Martorano, who has since become a government witness.
Martorano has said he committed the crime on orders from Bulger and Flemmi, who thought Wheeler was going to uncover one of their money-making schemes.
Wheeler's holdings in technology, minerals, and energy businesses were worth tens of millions of dollars at his death, the lawsuit states, and would have expanded exponentially if he had participated in the recent economic boom.
``The figure is extraordinary because the man was extraordinary,'' attorney Frank Libby, who is representing the family, told The Boston Globe.
Libby said the lawsuit was more about holding the government accountable than collecting the money.
The suit lists about two dozen other murders that Bulger and Flemmi allegedly were involved in and claims that former FBI agent John Connolly allowed the mob bosses to remain free despite knowledge of the crimes.
``They had these mad dogs on a leash and they let them run,'' Libby, a formal federal prosecutor, told the Globe.
Besides the U.S. government, the lawsuit lists as defendants Connolly, Bulger, Flemmi, and six former FBI agents and supervisors.
Prosecutors have alleged that Connolly protected Bulger and Flemmi from prosecution when they were FBI informants. Connolly is scheduled to go to trial on criminal racketeering charges in May.
His attorney, Tracey Miner, did not immediately return calls Friday afternoon. Samantha Martin, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, would not comment on the civil suit.