The Murder Of The Tulsa King: Boston Irish Mob Killed Oklahoma Millionaire At Exclusive Southern Hills CC In 1981, Feds Covered It Up

September 27, 2022 — Oklahoma business mogul Roger Wheeler was shot to death in the parking lot of Tulsa’s tony Southern Hills Country Club in the late afternoon of May 27, 1981, a notorious gangland murder that took three decades to crack due to corruption in the FBI. The no-nonsense 55-year old Wheeler, a native of New England, had made enemies of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang when he caught them stealing from him in a professional sporting league he owned.

The Winter Hill Gang, also known as the Irish mob in Boston, was headed by James (Whitey) Bulger, the most infamous Irish crime lord in American history and a longtime FBI informant and police corruptor. Winter Hill Gang hit men, John (Johnny On The Spot) Martorano and Joseph (Joe Mac) McDonald, were dispatched to Oklahoma for the job and Martorano pulled the trigger, shooting Wheeler between the eyes behind the wheel of his Cadillac after he finished a round of golf in his usual Wednesday afternoon foursome at Southern Hills.

Over the years, investigators in Tulsa were obstructed from going after the case’s “Boston angle,” by federal agents in the FBI’s Boston office trying to protect Bulger as a confidential informant and their ace in the hole in their war against the city’s Italian mafia or Patriarca crime family. Although the Winter Hill Gang was considered the Irish mob, the group included Italian members, like Johnny Martorano and Bulger’s right-hand man Stevie (The Rifleman) Flemmi, another confidential informant for the FBI.

The more Italian mafia shot callers sent to prison as a result of Bulger’s cooperation, the more Bulger power and territory accrued from his base in South Boston. Bulger’s bloody reign atop the Beantown rackets lasted from the 1970s until 1995, when he was indicted for racketeering and more than a dozen homicides, went on the run for the better part of 20 years and was officially outed as an FBI mole during his days as a fugitive. Bulger was finally arrested in 2011 hiding in Los Angeles.

Because Oklahoma had no history of traditional mob-related violence, portions of the early investigation looked into possible Dixie Mafia ties to the Wheeler hit. There was a loosely-connected Dixie Mafia crew operating in the Tulsa area at the time.

Tulsa King, a fish out of water fictional mob tale starring Sylvester Stallone, is set to premiere on the Paramount Network in November. The show is created by Taylor Sheridan and the team behind Paramount Network’s smash hit cowboy-crime drama Yellowstone. Stallone’s lead character in Tulsa King is a New York mobster named Dwight “The General” Manfredi sent to Oklahoma after finishing a prison term.

Southern Hills CC was founded in 1935 and has hosted 8 PGA “Majors.” Roger Wheeler was a regular on the links at the club. Wheeler’s homicide was depicted in the 2015 film Black Mass, with Johnny Depp playing Bulger.

Wheeler moved to Oklahoma in the 1940s and made his first fortune providing equipment for the oil industry in the form of anodes (electric-current transfer devices). In the 1960s, he purchased the Telex Corp. and parlayed his vast oil money into tens of millions in audio and computer technology and accessories.

His next investment proved fatal. And he had no idea until it was too late.

Prompted by a tip from a banker friend of his in Boston, Wheeler bought World Jai Lai unaware of the Winter Hill Gang’s presence within the niche professional sport popular operating exclusively in Florida and New England. He soon realized the Winter Hill group, with help from the World Jai Lai’s head of security (retired dirty FBI agent Paul Ricco), were skimming a million dollars a year in parking revenue out a Hartford, Connecticut event space, and made it clear he was going to rid his business of the bad eggs.

According to FBI documents, Bulger decided to give the order for Wheeler’s slaying in the weeks following New Year’s 1981. First, Bulger gave the murder contract to Winter Hill Gang lieutenant Brian Halloran. But Halloran didn’t want to travel to Tulsa, so Bulger gave Martorano the assignment. Seasoned Winter Hill Ganger “Joe Mac” McDonald was already on the lamb from federal authorities in Massachusetts and agreed to be the getaway driver in the hit.

Martorano and McDonald arrived in Tulsa on May 25, 1981 and checked into the Trade Winds Hotel. They spent the next day and a half scouting the job and locating their target. Dressed in disguises — fake beards and wigs — they drove to Southern Hills CC in a stolen car on the afternoon of May 27 and waited for Wheeler to finish his 18 holes of golf. As Wheeler got into his Caddy parked in the back of the country club overlooking a body of water and began to put the key into his ignition, Martorano popped out of the stolen vehicle and shot Martorano dead, leaving four unspent live cartridges of ammo near his feat.

After 30 years of subterfuge by the FBI at their behest, Bulger, Flemmi and Martorano were finally indicted for murdering Roger Wheeler in 2001. Martorano flipped on Bulger and Flemmi upon finding out they had been cooperating with the government behind his back for years. Flemmi would turn against Bulger, too.

Brian Halloran was killed by Bulger and Martorano in the spring of 1982 after being tipped off to his cooperation status by his contacts in the FBI. The drug-addled Halloran had told his FBI handlers that Bulger had Wheeler bumped off. Bulger was slain himself inside a West Virginia federal prison in October 2018 at the age of 89, beaten to death by padlocks attached to leather belts.

This article was originally posted here