The Blurry Blue Line

Cops and crooks in cahoots


Retired G-man H. Paul Rico made headlines in October when he was arrested for his alleged role in the 1981 murder of businessman Roger Wheeler. Before leaving the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1975, Rico had been one of the driving forces behind the FBI's mob informant program, which has mired the bureau's Boston office in scandal for several years.

To cultivate their informants, particularly James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen Flemmi, agents in the Boston Organized Crime Squad shielded the gangsters while they continued to run their loan sharking, drug running, and other operations. Meanwhile, feeding information to the FBI turned out to be a good way for the informants to remove rivals from play. After a new group of investigators began building a case against Bulger in 1994, one of the old agents, John Connolly, allegedly tipped off the target.

It might not have been the first time the cop had served as an informant to his informants. In 2000 Connolly was charged with leaking information that led to the murders of two men, a lower-level snitch in 1976 and a potential witness in 1982. The jury found him innocent, but Flemmi, who confessed in October to both murders and eight others, now says Connolly was guilty as charged.

As for Rico, when he left the FBI he became head of security for a company that sponsored jai alai games—and employed both Bulger and Flemmi. When Wheeler purchased the business and began to suspect the duo was skimming money, Rico allegedly provided Wheeler's schedule to a hit man, allowing him to be killed. (Rico denies the charges.)

In Black Mass, reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill's book on the case, Bulger tells agents, "We're all good guys. You're the good good guys. We're the bad good guys." It's no surprise that a mobster might have a hard time telling good from evil, but it's a bit more alarming when policemen run into the same trouble.