Judge postpones hearing for ex-FBI agent Paul Rico accused in mob killings

Friday, October 31st 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) -- A judge postponed Friday an extradition hearing until Nov. 14 for a former FBI agent charged in Oklahoma with his one-time informants in a mob murder.

Senior Circuit Judge Gerald Klein delayed H. Paul Rico's hearing because of the former agent's health problems. He is being treated at the prison wing of Jackson Memorial Hospital, where his blood pressure dropped to "extremely low" levels Friday, said one of his attorneys, Gavin Isaacs.

"We need to know that he's able to travel safely and be able to endure the rigors of a trial," Isaacs said.

Assistant State Attorney Barbara Pineiro wanted the hearing delayed by a week. She said she would do independent tests of Rico's health.

Another judge denied an emergency motion last week for a medical furlough so Rico could be taken to the Miami Heart Institute on Miami Beach to be examined by his doctor.

Rico, who retired from the FBI in 1975, was security chief for Roger Wheeler's World Jai Alai when Wheeler was shot to death at a Tulsa, Okla., country club May 27, 1981.

Investigators say Wheeler suspected money was being skimmed from the Miami jai alai business by Boston's Winter Hill gang, an Irish mob that fed information to Rico on its rival New England Mafia.

Wheeler's confessed hit man, John Martorano, implicated Rico in the killing. Rico was arrested after informant Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi did the same and pleaded guilty to federal charges last week with admissions in the killing of Wheeler and nine others.

Rico's arrest Oct. 9 is the latest wrinkle in a corruption scandal over the cozy relationship between the FBI's organized crime unit and murderous underworld informants in Boston in the 1960s and 1970s.

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