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Gov’t. to Auction Mobster Property

October 13, 2002

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BOSTON (AP) _ Kevin Breland eyed the walls and ceiling of the vacant apartment he toured Sunday, gauging what he might tear down if he managed to snap up the prime real estate at an upcoming auction.

His renovation plans had nothing to do with how much light the unit gets, or whether it even needed rehabbing. He just wanted to convince himself there weren’t any hidden bodies, he said.

After all, the open house in Boston’s posh Back Bay neighborhood was at one of five condominiums owned by a convicted mobster, Stephen ``The Rifleman″ Flemmi, who is serving a 10-year sentence for extortion and money laundering, and still faces charges for his alleged role in 12 murders.

``The day he walks out of jail, I am out of here. I’ll sell it,″ said Breland, a 30-year-old real estate agent.

``I don’t want to wake up one day with a horse’s head in my bed, you know,″ he added, referring to an infamous scene in the mob movie ``The Godfather.″

Breland was among bargain hunters who toured some of Flemmi’s flats on Sunday, before the government auctions his five seized apartments and three parking spaces on Friday.

After Flemmi, a notorious henchman of fugitive James ``Whitey″ Bulger, was sent to prison last year on the extortion and money laundering charges, the U.S. government seized his cash and real estate. He has pleaded innocent to charges of involvement in 10 murders in Massachusetts. He also faces capital murder charges in Florida and Oklahoma.

He and Bulger were FBI informants who helped run South Boston’s Winter Hill Gang from the 1970s through the mid-1990s. His FBI handlers were accused of looking the other way while the two had free reign over Boston’s crime underworld; former FBI agent John Connolly, 62, was sentenced last month to more than 10 years in prison for protecting Bulger and Flemmi.

Gary and Sheila Howard, of West Bridgewater, who strolled through Flemmi’s two Commonwealth Avenue apartments, also said they would also want to know if the apartments had any hidden surprises.

``You never know what you might find in there _ stashes of cash, maybe,″ Sheila Howard, 50, said.

Properties seized from Flemmi, which he rented out but did not inhabit himself, are worth about $2 million, according to the Internal Revenue Service. They include four condos on Marlborough Street and Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay, and one in suburban Medford. Some have access to swimming pools, saunas and a rooftop deck.

Most of the visitors at the Back Bay open houses, however, were just looking for a good deal, not knowing or giving much thought to its history.

``I don’t really think who owned it, matters. It adds to the history, I guess, maybe adds to the value,″ said John Cho, 32, a Brookline investor. ``But if the price is right, that’s all that matters.″

Lawyer Nicole Procida, 32, also came to find a good buy, and wasn’t concerned about the apartment’s prior owner.

``The government is putting it to good use,″ she said. ``It doesn’t freak me out. Just as long as no one was murdered here, I’m fine.″

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