News Column

Whitey Bulger Didn't Extort Stippo Rakes, Says Weeks

July 8, 2013

The tale of how mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger acquired a South Boston packy in 1984 for his Winter Hill Gang's "legitimate" headquarters took a twist today when Bulger's former guy Friday Kevin Weeks claimed in testimony that it was alleged extortion victim Stephen "Stippo" Rakes who tried to shake them down -- and almost got his little girl shot for daring to cross the notorious underworld crew.

"We didn't go to him to buy the store, he came to us," Weeks said. "So, it wasn't like regular extortion."

When Rakes approached Bulger, now 83, and Weeks, 57, in January 1984 about buying Stippo's Liquor Mart on Old Colony Avenue he'd opened just three weeks earlier, Weeks said he warned Bulger, "I don't trust this kid. He's a piece of garbage. Before we go for it, I want to see the books.

"I don't like Stippo," Weeks frequently reiterated in present tense under direct examination by assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly.

The testimony sets up a potential conflict between prosecution witnesses in Bulger's blockbuster mass murder and racketeering trial, as Rakes, who has said he was forced to sell against his will, also is due to testify.

Rakes, allowed to sit in court as a Bulger victim although he is also a witness, reddened as he listened with his arms folded.

Afterwards. Rakes said Weeks is having his day in court. Soon, he'll have his, too.

"Kevin continues to lie, as usual," Rakes said. "Dislike me if you will, but that's why we're here today. My liquor store was never for sale. Never, ever. Too bad, Kevin. You're not on my favorite list, either."

Rakes has maintained for years that Bulger and Weeks handed him a paper bag containing $67,000 cash and placed a loaded gun on his kitchen table to make their point. But Weeks forcefully insisted today, "It wasn't $67,000, it was $100,000. It was money we made from extortion, drug business, whatever.

"We gave him the money and told him to count it. He had two little girls running around. Jim had one on his lap, bouncing her. Beautiful little girl," Weeks recalled. "He (Rakes) was looking to shake us down. Wasn't going to happen, so I pulled a gun and put it on the table. The little girl reached for the gun. That's when Jim said, 'Put it away.' "

Weeks said he was concerned that if they waited a day to take over the store Rakes would clean out the inventory.

"We immediately took the keys off him and took over the liquor store," he said.

Weeks, a former bar bouncer and track repairman for the MBTA who devoted more than 20 years of his life protecting Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi from law enforcement and rivals, said Bulger thought the store they renamed Rotary Liquors "would be a good source of income -- legitimate income. The store just opened and he (Rakes) was doing pretty good business."

Weeks noted with some amusement that he, Bulger and Flemmi started off working in earnest at Rotary Liquors to put on a good show, "but basically it became a no-show job."

Weeks served five years in prison -- roughly half the time prosecutors wanted him to do -- for pleading guilty to racketeering, extortion and aiding and abetting five murders. He said today a portion of the profits from his autobiography "Brutal" have benefitted the Winter Hill Gang's victims.

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Source: Copyright Boston Herald (MA) 2013