The Murder of Roger Wheeler

In 1981, Boston hitman Johnny Martorano murdered businessman and owner of World Jai Lai Roger Wheeler in the parking lot of the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Johnny Martorano was hired by the infamous and now deceased Whitey Bilger to perform this hit because Roger Wheeler presented a threat to an embezzlement that benefited Bulger.

This weekend the PGA Championship golf tournament is played at this same exclusive private club. It costs an undisclosed amount to join and then 30K yearly dues.

This has a little side story about retired FBI agent Paul Rico. Authorities arrested Rico for participating in this murder, but he died of natural causes after being arrested in Florida and taken back to Oklahoma for trial.

A Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler had made a ton of money in the Tech industry and invested in the Florida Jai Lai business. Jai Lai is a weird game played with rackets and hard rubber balls. The main thing about this is that it generates a lot of gambling interest, and that is followed by organized Crime interest. Roger Wheeler hired retired FBI agent Paul Rico who was retired from the Boston office, to run his security. As we now know, Boston FBI agent John Connelly was convicted of helping Whitey Bulger and protecting him in exchange for tips on the Italian mafia in Boston. Rico was the man who taught Connelly everything he knew.

Bulger and his Winter Hill gang were stealing thousands of dollars from Wheeler’s Jai Lai operation. Roger Wheeler became suspicious when he noticed the money drain. Whitey Bulger learned of this and hired Boston area hitman Johnny Martorano to kill him. It has been claimed that FBI agent Paul Rico supplied information about Wheeler’s address, cars, and day-to-day activities to further this plot. Martarano went to Tulsa and waited in the Southern Hills Golf Club parking lot until he saw Wheeler leaving the clubhouse and entering his car.

Martorano will later testify, “We spot his Caddy, but remember, I’ve never seen this guy. So we park a few rows closer to the club. I’m in full disguise—we’d picked up that stuff at a theatrical store in Tulsa. Full beard, sunglasses, a baseball cap. Finally, I see a guy coming down the hill from the club to the parking lot, it might be Wheeler. I let him walk past our car; then I fall in behind him. If he gets in the Caddy, I clip him. If he goes to another car, just keep walking. But it’s him; he’s getting in the car. He doesn’t hear me; he’s about to close the door, but I grab it to keep it open. Startled, he jumps back in the seat, and I let him have it: one shot between the eyes, .38 snub nose.”

The president of Wheeler’s World Jai Lai was named John Callahan. He was involved in the embezzlement and the plot. A year later, Bulger thought he was a weak link, and Martarano murdered him also.

Martorano went on the lam for 16 years. With tips from Bulger, the FBI arrested him in 1995. He made a deal and gave statements against the FBI agent Paul Rico, Whitey Bulger, and his fall partner Steve “The Rifleman” Flemmi. Martorano made his deal, admitted to 20 murders, served 8 years in prison, and was released in 2007. He gave an interview on 60 Minutes a year later in 2008.

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