Former Winter Hill gang leader arrested in extortion case
SOMERVILLE, Mass. (WHDH) -- Former head of the Winter Hill gang Howard Winter pleaded not guilty to extortion charges in court Friday.
Howie Winter, 83, the former head of the gang before reputed mobster Whitey Bulger took over decades ago, appeared in Somerville District Court following his arrest on trying to extort thousands of dollars to alleged victims in their 40s.
Winter was arrested along with alleged accomplice 70-year-old James Melvin of Braintree.
“Mr. Melvin -- he’s a 70-year-old man that’s looking forward to defending himself. He’s presumed innocent,” said Martin Weinberg, defense attorney.
Prosecutors say it began in Feb. 2012. The pair met with the alleged victims several times at the Sons of Italy in Medford, demanding they each pay Winter $35000.
“Mr. Melvin told the first victim that he would need to pay Melvin and Winter $5000 per month until the $35000 figure per person was paid in full,” said Stephen Kilpatric, prosecutor.
The alleged victims went to police, who then set up a sting with the exchange of money, which was caught on surveillance cameras.
“They are a couple of benevolent, innocuous grandfathers. And the government is trying to extort guys who are extortionists and loan sharks who are half their age,” said Peter Mullane, defense attorney.
Both men posted $2500 cash bail and were released after being fitted with GPS monitoring bracelets.
The suspects have been ordered to stay away from the alleged victims. They are due back in court next month.