The one-time leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang and an associate were ordered held today on $25,000 cash bail each after their arraignments on attempted extortion and conspiracy charges. Howie Winter, 83, and James Melvin, 70, appeared in Somerville District Court today to answer charges related to the January 2012 incident, the Middlesex District Attorney’s office said. “This type of illegal activity is at the root of many crimes that corrupt the integrity of our communities and undermine public safety by placing citizens in tremendous fear and perpetuating an underworld of crime,” Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone said. According to authorities, Winter — Whitey Bulger’s predecessor atop the Winter Hill gang — and Melvin told the two alleged victims they had the mob-backed “North End” behind them and threatened them in phone calls, written letters and face-to-face that they would “have some problems” if they didn’t pay up thousands of dollars. “You used someone else’s name and they were so (expletive) aggravated that they wanted to come over and bang you the (expletive) out,” Winter allegedly told the victims in a recorded conversation, according to a police report. “You don’t know who I am? ... There’s no one in the (expletive) country that don’t know who I am.” The victims — identified only as V-1 and V-2 in court documents — told police they had loaned a man $100,000 and after he stopped paying in January, the phone calls and meeting with Winter began. Over the next four months, they were told not to go authorities and that not paying is “not allowed.” This morning, Winter’s and Melvin’s defense lawyers claimed that the two alleged victims are themselves extortionists and that Winter and Melvin were trying to stop an extortion by intervening. Their lawyers indicated they will post bail. They were also ordered to wear GPS bracelets and to surrender their passports. Winter, the former Winter Hill Gang leader, was brought down on state and federal charges in an epic gangland collapse in the 1970s that preceded James “Whitey” Bulger’s rise to power as a mobster and informant.
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