Somerville

Gang Boss Howie Winter Arrested for Extortion

By The Associated Press   |   Friday, June 8, 2012
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June 7, 2012

Howie Winter
Howie Winter, undated mug shot. (Wikipedia)


BOSTON — Massachusetts prosecutors have announced the arrest of 83-year-old former Boston-area gang boss Howie Winter, a predecessor of James "Whitey" Bulger as head of the Winter Hill Gang in the 1960s and '70s, on attempted extortion and conspiracy charges.

The Middlesex District Attorney's office said Winter, of Milbury, and 70-year-old James Melvin of Braintree were arrested the night of June 7. They are accused of attempting to extort $35,000 from each of two individuals who had arranged a $100,000 business loan for a third man last fall.

Prosecutors said the alleged victims began getting threatening phone calls after the borrower stopped making payments in January. 

Winter and Melvin are charged with attempted extortion and conspiracy and are to be arraigned on June 8 in Somerville District Court. It was not immediately determined if they have attorneys.

> > More about the charges from our partners at Wicked Local

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press

Somerville Bar Moves to Serve Only Local Brews

Tuesday, May 15, 2012
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May 15, 2012

slumbrew

Some samples of "Flagraiser" and "Trekker Trippel" beers from Slumbrew. (Photo: Jeff Keating)

BOSTON — Johnny D’s Uptown Restaurant and Music Club in Somerville’s Davis Square boasts playing host to some of the best acts in the world, from jazz to rock, blues and folk. They are particularly keen on local acts, which may be why they’ve made a bold move to start offering only locally brewed beer to go with the show.

"Local beer is just better," said John Bonaccorso, general manager of Johnny D's, adding that there is definitely a growing demand for unique, well-crafted brew. "In the past, if you knew about wine you were considered well-educated and sophisticated. If you knew a lot about beer, you probably had a drinking problem. Now, I think that has changed."

But it's more than just an appeal to new trends in sophistication driving Bonaccorso's move to offer better beer. He acknowledged that the move is also a choice to do good business.

"Some [beers are expensive], but you're getting a better product." Bonaccorso said. "We are trying to run our business according to our own ethics and how we feel good about running a business. That includes things like supporting local businesses, and offering good local products, like ethically-raised meats and things like that."

In the micro-economy of starting up a local brewery, Jeff Leiter, co-founder of Slumbrew, said it's that kind of inclusive, responsible business decision that makes it possible for him to get his business off the ground. "That's a critical thing to any brewery starting up," he said.

While he's glad to have distribution partners like Johnny D's, Leiter said brewing is not as risky an enterprise as some other kinds of start-ups.

"At the end of the day, people will always buy beer, regardless of how the economy is," he said.

The Next Boxing Phenom? She's 16

By Toni Waterman   |   Friday, February 10, 2012
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Feb. 10, 2012

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — If you know anything about boxing, you know the Somerville Boxing Club. It first opened its doors in 1978 and produced some of the city’s best boxers, including a world heavyweight champion. A few years back, the club fell on hard times, couldn’t make the rent and closed, leaving a hole in the young, aspiring boxing community. But now the Somerville Boxing Club is back — with a secret weapon that could earn it another world title.
 
Step inside the newly reopened space and it’s like the boys' club of old: speed bags spinning, punching bags swaying and shirtless men jabbing at thin air.
 
But when one fighter takes the ring, the entire gym stands still. This isn’t just any fighter. She is 16-year-old Rashida Ellis and she’s taking the boxing world by storm. Undefeated, Ellis is snatching away titles from women twice her age and at the height of their careers.
 
“I won the USA New England Championship. I beat the number one girl in the U.S. The girl was 30 that I fought. Liz Leddy. She was 30,” said Ellis, laughing.


 

She said she’s always been a tomboy, playing football when she was younger and tagging along when her older brother took up boxing. But it was her behavior in school that landed her in the ring.
 
“My dad, he just saw me fighting in school and then he was like, you need to come to the gym. So he brought me and that’s how it started,” she said.
 
Every day, Ellis travels from Lynn to train at the Somerville Boxing Club in the basement of the Edgerly School. Over the years, the club's location has often changed, but it’s always been a safe haven for inner-city youth, including one famed boxer, John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz.
 
“We had taken this kid from Somerville Boxing Club all the way to the heavyweight championship of the world, which is an unbelievable feat in itself to get that — the ultimate prize,” said Ruiz’s long-time manager and trainer Norman “Stoney” Stone. He now runs the boxing club and said when he looks at Ellis, he sees history repeating itself.
 
“She’s unbelievable. She’s going to be a world champion,” said Stoney. “She’s going to be a world champion.”
 
She’ll have her chance to be national champion when she competes in Colorado at the end of February. If she wins, she’ll be the youngest female national champion ever and will head to China for the world championship. She was two months too young to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.
 
“I feel good that I can do this because I train with boys. That’s why I’m like this now,” said Ellis. 
 
With a punch that can level almost any opponent, Ellis and the Somerville Boxing Club could see another title come their way in the next few weeks.

Are Somerville’s Holiday Lights Growing Dim?

By Danielle Dreilinger   |   Friday, December 23, 2011
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Dec. 23, 2011

Somerville lights

Every year, the Mansfield family makes its Davis Square lights display bigger and brighter. (Courtesy of John Mansfield, 2011)


SOMERVILLE, Mass. — In Somerville, holiday lights are a big deal. Every year, the arts council puts on the Illuminations Tour, a fundraiser around the city to tour the brightest and blingiest houses. This month all 36 trolleys sold out a good week in advance.
 
Drive by the Mansfield house on Grove Street in Davis Square and you’ll see an entire inflatable Santa’s workshop. Santa is motorized, he plays golf and there are at least seven wreaths, a nativity scene, and snowmen bobbing their head in unison. Snoopy gets in on the action on a seesaw and a menorah fits in for that ecumenical touch. Last year, the city honored the lights with an official citation.  

Tina Sylvain, 26, has long known the family that puts on this display. She had brought her daughter, Lexie Sanchez, to see the show.
 

john and mary mansfield
Mary and John Mansfield.

“They were always the best house in the neighborhood — for Christmas, Halloween, always. The boys do [an] awesome job,” she said. “It’s always one thing you look forward to when the season comes around.”
 
It takes power to run a display like this. John Mansfield, 38, and his brothers took over the decorations for their mother Mary after their father Edward died in 1999.

“We start the lights right after Halloween. Last year I actually started in September and brought in the Nativity Scene, Santa Claus, and repainted all of them,” he said. This year the brothers added a complicated PVC piping system to hang even more lights on the house. John counted it up: Installing the show took 10 six- to seven-hour days.

Who decorates — and who doesn't

The future of this tradition, however, might fall dim due to Somerville’s changing demographics. In the last 20 years, the city has become a hot place to live… with fewer kids and more twenty-somethings. Many of them, it seems, aren’t putting lights on their houses at all. Though many tour blockbusters remain, many streets between them were awfully dark.

If you read the arts council's commemorative Illuminations booklet, you’ll see that the featured decorators come from a few countries — the mid-century wave of Somerville immigration. It’s them and their grown children, like John Mansfield.
 
“I think originally there was the Italian, Portuguese and then the Irish population that was here and mostly the Italians and the Portuguese would always have — at least my friends who were Italian or Portuguese — would do their houses up with Christmas lights,” he remembered.
 
WGBH News asked a number of Somerville newcomers whether or not they decorated their houses — and not one of them did. The reasons are plenty: It seems like too much trouble, some said, or they weren’t Christian. It’s not green. They visit their families out of state. The end of the semester gets too hectic. They rent. They didn’t grow up with it.

As old-timers leave, some festive houses go dark

Sylvain did grow up with the decoration tradition, just around the corner from the Mansfields on Winslow Ave.
 
“We always did it,” she said. “It’s not like we were in competition but we always had so much stuff also — everything. Always trying to add more stuff every year.”
 
Her family doesn’t decorate on Winslow Ave. anymore. They sold the house, Sylvain said, “and everyone went their own different ways.”
 
Committed to lighting up the dark

The Mansfield display, though, just keeps going and growing.

“Even though our mother says we go a little too far, I think she gets a little extra special Christmas feeling. And it’s almost something that’s expected,” John said. Every year, when the holidays start to come around, people ask the Mansfields about the design for this year’s lights. “There’s a certain amount of — in a good way — a certain amount of pressure.”
 
John, unexpectedly, may be part of the changing landscape himself. He too has left Somerville, for Watertown. And what does he have up to decorate his own home?
 
“Almost nothing,” he admitted. “I have a Christmas tree up. And I have — um, that’s about it.” He compared it to the guy who works in a pizza place but doesn’t eat pizza. He added, “Eventually, if I have children, I’m sure I’ll be the crazy guy in that neighborhood, wherever we end up.“
 
Until then, he’s adding a kilowatt of brightness to winter in Somerville… if not in Watertown.
 



The question of energy and expense
 
When asked about the dimming of Christmas and Hanukkah lights in Somerville, several people offered a theory that makes perfect sense in our strapped economic times. 

“I think it’s money,” said Susan Fontano, a lifelong resident of East Somerville. She thought people might be trying to pinch pennies wherever they can. She left the lights off her second-story porch this year... but… it wasn’t to save cash. They just never got around to it, she said.
 
Along with the money, there’s the energy use. Holiday lights definitely seemed environmentally unfriendly to young activist Barry Rafkind, a relative newcomer to the city.
 
It turns out, however, that holiday lights might not be all that heavy a drain on either the wallet or the grid. Somerville city spokesman Tom Champion said in an email, “The switch to LED lights means that you can go crazy with external Christmas decorations and still use only a fraction of the power needed for the old incandescent filament technology.” The city is hanging more lights every year, but since they’re using LEDs as much as possible, “our holiday power consumption is going down in kilowatt hours if not actual cost.”
 
And one of the biggest decorating families agreed: The Mansfields' huge display costs less, Mary Mansfield said, then turning on the a/c in the summer.

The FBI Wants You... To Find Whitey's Girlfriend

By Jared Bowen   |   Tuesday, June 21, 2011
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June 21, 2011




UPDATE June 23, 2011: James "Whitey" Bulger and Catherine Greig were arrested on June 22nd, which FBI agents say was a direct result of a tip generated by this campaign.

BOSTON — The FBI insists its pursuit of Top 10 Most Wanted Fugitive Whitey Bulger remains as active as ever — despite the fact Bulger has eluded them for 16 years. Now, the agency is changing its tack and stepping up its search for the woman he took with him.

A longtime leader of the Boston underworld’s Winter Hill Gang, James "Whitey" Bulger fled Boston in 1994 when the FBI came close to arresting him on racketeering charges. Bulger was sighted in London in 2002, and the 81-year-old may still be hiding outside the U.S.

On Monday, the FBI doubled the reward for information leading to the arrest of Bulger's girlfriend Catherine Greig, who is also missing and wanted for harboring a fugitive.
 
“The way Bulger would operate is he would be out in the open with her and they would be attempting to live under the radar, so to speak,” said Richard Teahan, a Supervisory Special Agent with Boston's FBI field office.

The FBI is trying to paint a more detailed portrait of Greig, although the most recent photos they have of Greig are decades old. Still, it's a new avenue in the Whitey Bulger case, said Special Agent Richard DesLauriers.
 
“The FBI is continuing to emphasize Ms. Greig because she has received substantially less attention than her boyfriend when the FBI has relied on traditional fugitive publicity,” DesLauriers said.
 
The agency has also gleaned certain behavioral and personality details about Greig: That she loves animals, has well-kept teeth, frequents beauty salons and has had multiple plastic surgeries. Several of her aliases are known, and she is 21 years younger than the elderly Bulger.
 
The FBI has also commissioned a public service announcement to run throughout the United States in areas historically tied to the couple. They're hoping to reach women around 60 years old -- Greig’s contemporaries -- who might have crossed paths with her over the years.
 
To that end, the FBI is taking out commercial time for programs like “Dr. Oz,” “The Nate Berkus Show” and “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” all morning and daytime programs they believe these women are watching.
 
“I think that we are doing a good job at covering our hunt for Greig and Bulger in the U.S. People focusing on Greig here in the United States and then pushing out from here,” Teahan said.

Hear The Cambridge-Somerville Smackdown

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
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About the Authors
Danielle Dreilinger Danielle Dreilinger
Danielle Dreilinger is an author and news producer for WGBH.org.


Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 

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