Extradition hearing of former agent charged in murder postponed


Friday, October 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6




MIAMI (AP) _ The extradition hearing of a former FBI agent charged in the 1981 murder of an Oklahoma businessman was postponed Friday because the man is ill, according to his attorneys.

H. Paul Rico is facing charges in the death of Roger Wheeler, a Tulsa businessman who owned World Jai Alai in Miami. Authorities allege Rico provided a hit man with Wheeler's description, whereabouts and the make, model and license plate number of his car.

Senior County Court Judge Gerald Klein rescheduled the hearing for Tuesday morning. He ordered that Rico be taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital for treatment ``until it is medically determined that he is fit to return to the county jail.''

Rico's attorney, William P. Cagney III, said his client has heart problems, hypertension and has been experiencing fainting spells. Rico, 78, has been living for many years in a small condominium in Miami Shores and has denied having any involvement in Wheeler's death.

Rico's wife and son, who were present at Friday's brief hearing, refused comment afterward.

FBI mob informant Stephen ``The Rifleman'' Flemmi pleaded guilty to racketeering charges Tuesday, accepting a plea deal allowing him to avoid the death penalty for killings in Florida and Oklahoma and instead serve life in prison.

Flemmi was a leader of the Winter Hill Gang that ran loan-sharking, drug and gambling rackets in the Boston area. Rico had brought Flemmi on as an FBI informant in the 1960s, and the two men became good friends, according to investigators.

It was Flemmi who provided key information that led to Rico's arrest earlier this month.

U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan called Flemmi's time with the gang ``one of the darkest chapters in the history of law enforcement.''

He said investigators believe Flemmi may provide them with information that could lead to additional indictments, possibly against other FBI agents or police officers.