Two men were arraigned Tuesday in connection with their involvement in an extortion scheme, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone informed the public.
Howard Winter, aka “Howie”, 83, of Millbury and James Melvin, 70, of Braintree, were arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court on charges of extortion (two counts) and conspiracy to commit extortion. Winter and Melvin are accused of engaging in a months-long conspiracy to extort cash from two businessmen.
During the arraignment, Middlesex Superior Court Clerk Magistrate Michael Sullivan released the defendants on $25,000 cash bail with conditions to have no contact and stay away from the victims.
The next court date for both defendants is December 18 at 2 p.m. for a motion hearing.
The investigation, conducted by Massachusetts State Police and attorneys from the Middlesex District Attorney’s PACT Unit, uncovered activities in which individual and collective attempts were made to extort $35,000 each from two victims.
According to authorities, around November 2011, the two victims, who are businessmen, made a series of loans to an attorney, who subsequently had difficulty repaying the loans. Beginning in or about February 2012, the victims began receiving phone calls from unknown males requesting a meeting to discuss the status of their loans to the attorney. As a result of receiving these telephone calls, one of the victims went to the Sons of Italy hall in Medford, where he was introduced to two individuals, one of whom he later identified as defendant Winter. During this meeting, Winter spoke knowledgeably about the victim’s outstanding loans to the attorney. Winter then informed the victim that he and the second victim would have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to Winter because they had engaged in loan transactions without first receiving the consent or permission of unidentified people in the North End section of Boston. The victim understood Winter’s reference to the North End to mean organized crime. It is alleged that, following this meeting and for several weeks after, both victims received threatening phone calls from the defendant Melvin, who was acting in concert and in agreement with Winter. The victims, fearful for their safety and the safety of their families, contacted law enforcement in early March.
It is alleged that, in furtherance of the conspiracy, Melvin requested that both victims meet him and Winter again at the Sons of Italy hall in Medford in March. It is alleged that at this meeting, which was audio recorded by State Police, Winter and Melvin demanded the two victims each pay Winter $35,000 in cash. When one of the victims asked who Winter was and why he was involved in their loan transactions, it is alleged that Winter responded “There’s no one in the (expletive) country that don’t know who I am…when you tell me you don’t know who I am, you’re full of (expletive). There’s nobody that don’t (expletive) know me. I wish they didn’t know me, OK?” referring to the long and well-known organized crime and violent history of Howie Winter.
When one of the victims asked Winter and Melvin, who were together, if he should be worried for his safety, it is alleged Melvin responded, “Yeah, yeah…really you should.”
When the victims asked Winter and Melvin, who were together, what would happen if they didn’t pay the extortion amounts, it is alleged that Winter responded: “You don’t pay me…then you’re gonna have problems [with the unidentified people from the North End].”
It is alleged that after this meeting in March 2012, the victims continued to be contacted by Winter and Melvin about making a payment to them. At one point, after not being able to reach one of the victims via telephone, Melvin and an unidentified male whom Melvin referred to as his “friend” left a letter in the mailbox at the victim’s residence indicating that they had been there. According to authorities, it is alleged that the victims believed that this act was intended to intimidate and threaten the victims and to confirm to the victims that the defendants knew where the victim lived in order to motivate the victims to make a payment to Winter and Melvin.
Over the next several weeks, State Police troopers audio recorded and videotaped three cash payments made to Winter and Melvin by one of the victims in furtherance of the investigation. Winter and Melvin, continuing to act in concert, further demanded that the victims start paying $5,000 per month to them.
The two defendants were arrested June 7, 2012 and were arraigned June 8 in Somerville District Court on charges of attempted extortion and conspiracy. Somerville District Court Judge Neil Walker released the defendants on $25,000 cash bail each, with conditions to have no contact and stay away from the victims, wear a GPS monitoring device, surrender their passports and remain in the Commonwealth. The defendants were indicted by a Middlesex Grand Jury on September 27.
These charges are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The case is being investigated by the Massachusetts State Police and attorneys assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s PACT Unit. It is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Stephen Gilpatric and Chris Tarrant of the PACT Unit.