Former Boston bar owner, 'money man': Bulger 'wasn't a guy to fool with'

by Matthew DeLuca, Staff Writer, NBC News /  / Updated 

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A former Boston bar owner who pleaded guilty in 2004 to working with James “Whitey” Bulger said he kept the no-show gangster on the payroll because he “wasn’t a guy to fool with.”

Kevin O’Neil, 64, said in federal court on Thursday that he “didn’t think it was smart” to not pay Bulger, the Boston Globe reported. O’Neil used to own the Triple O’s bar, which was frequented by Bulger and his Winter Hill Gang.

O'Neil spent a year in jail for his association with Bulger. Thursday was the first time he has testified publicly against the former South Boston gangster, on trial for racketeering and 19 murders.

O'Neil said he continued to make payments to Bulger's account for three years, even after Bulger went on the run, eluding authorities for 16 years before his arrest in 2011.

Asked why, O'Neil said, “I thought he was coming back."

Also on Friday, an ex-henchman who says he spent most of two decades with the aging Bulger, used some of his last of six days on the stand to gripe about his jailhouse grub.

Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who confessed to 10 murders a decade ago and is set to spend the rest of his life in prison, got heated when Bulger’s defense team said he was kept in “The Club Med of Prisons.”

“If I gave that food to my dog, he’d bite me,” Flemmi said when Bulger’s attorneys asked about the dining options in prison.

The offerings at a prison Fourth of July cookout were not up to par for the confessed killer, either.

“You know something, the hotdogs were burnt, the hamburgers were burnt,” Flemmi said.

Flemmi’s testimony on Thursday capped nearly a week on the stand during which he described in gruesome detail a life of crime spent in Bulger’s company as leaders of the Winter Hill Gang.

His testimony made Bulger out as a man who strangled two women with his bare hands, including Flemmi’s girlfriend, and divulged gangland details to crooked FBI agent John Connolly – all anathema to Bulger’s supposed Irish gangster ethic.

On Tuesday, Flemmi accused Bulger of taking a 16-year-old lover on a trip to Mexico while being questioned about his own sexual relationship with Deborah Hussey.

“You want to talk about pedophilia, right over there at that table,” Flemmi said as he pointed at Bulger, according to the Boston Globe.

The defense team has picked apart the accounts of murders Flemmi says he carried out with Bulger, causing the Rifleman to admit that some of his statements have had inconsistencies over numerous tellings.

“Why are your facts about what happened changing?” Bulger lawyer Hank Brennan asked on Wednesday, according to the Globe.

“I was present on all those occasions,” Flemmi responded.

Flemmi’s dramatic testimony wound down on Thursday as a funeral was held for Stephen “Stippo” Rakes, a would-be witness who was cut from the prosecution’s list before his body was found on the side of the road in a Boston suburb. Authorities have said an autopsy failed to reveal the cause of Rakes’ death, and are awaiting the results of a toxicology report.

His funeral was due to take place at a South Boston funeral home on Thursday morning, the Boston Herald reported.

Rakes, 59, had recounted many times over the years how an armed Bulger, along with Flemmi and accomplice Kevin Weeks, allegedly forced him to hand over his liquor store at a fire sale price in 1984.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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