Washington DC hearings focus on Tulsa mob killing

Monday, February 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A federal investigation into FBI misconduct and the 1981 mob killing of a Tulsa businessman has hit a snag.

The House Committee on Government Reform in Washington is discussing the murder of Roger Wheeler as it investigates alleged misconduct among FBI agents who worked New England mob cases.

The investigation hit a hurdle last week when the Justice Department refused to turn over subpoenaed documents, including records of a 1982 meeting of Oklahoma, Florida, Connecticut and Massachusetts law officers in Tulsa. Justice Department officials cited executive privilege.

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., who chairs the committee, said the group is trying to find answers in what he called ``the greatest failing in federal law enforcement history.''

James Wilson, chief council for the committee, told the Tulsa World the committee is investigating several decades of Boston FBI dealings with the mob.

``Probably the number one issue on our plate for investigation right now is what happened in New England during the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s,'' Wilson said.

Wheeler's murder is crucial to the inquiry, Burton said.

The 55-year-old chairman of Tulsa-based Telex Corp. was shot in the head after playing a round of golf at Southern Hills Country Club on May 27, 1981.

Investigators believe the killing was ordered by Boston-area ``Winter Hill'' gangsters. They said the slaying was linked to Wheeler's purchase of the Florida-based World Jai Alai _ a sport in which betting is involved _ and his suspicion that money was being skimmed from the company.

The committee launched the inquiry into the FBI's handling of confidential informants and government witnesses last spring.

Authorities want to know if FBI agents blocked efforts to investigate unsolved murders, including Wheeler's, committed by reputed mobsters.

Meanwhile, Tulsa police are seeking additional charges in the murder.

The police department submitted an affidavit seeking charges against former FBI Agent H. Paul Rico and mobsters James Joseph ``Whitey'' Bulger, Stephen ``The Rifleman'' Flemmi and John V. Martorano.

First-degree murder charges were filed against the mobsters, but Rico was not charged.

Police say new evidence has been uncovered and they plan to re-submit an affidavit this month.

Rico specialized in organized crime cases in Boston in the 1960s and 1970s and cultivated Flemmi as an informant in 1965.He worked as head of security at World Jai Alai at the time of the Wheeler slaying.

He now lives in Florida and has denied any involvement in Wheeler's death.