FBI agents arrest notorious crime boss connected with 19 murders

FEDERAL agents have revealed that James Bulger, the legendary Boston crime boss indicted in 19 murders who rose to number one on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list following Osama bin Laden's death, was captured in possession of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash – and over 20 firearms.

The arrest of Bulger, known as "Whitey" after a streak in his hair, on Wednesday night in Santa Monica, California, ended an international manhunt that had gone on since he disappeared nearly 16 years ago.

Bulger, 81, is a former FBI informant who disappeared early in 1995 after a retired FBI agent alerted him to an imminent indictment. He was arrested without incident at a private residence along with his companion, Catherine Greig, 60, who fled with him in 1995.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

At a news conference at the United States attorney's office in Boston yesterday, John DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office, said the bureau's Los Angeles field office received the crucial tip on Tuesday. He said the tip was a "direct result" of a new publicity campaign to raise Greig's profile. The agency had also doubled its reward for her capture to $100,000.

On Wednesday agents from the FBI's fugitive task force in Los Angeles started doing surveillance on the apartment building in Santa Monica where Bulger and Greig had been living. They concluded the tip had been "fruitful," and the two were arrested he said. Inside the apartment, they found "hundreds of thousands of dollars" and more than 20 firearms.

Bulger had proved elusive despite a $2 million reward for his capture, the largest ever for a US domestic target, and there have been reported sightings of him over the years from all over the world.

It is hard to overstate the role Bulger played in Boston culture. People there learn his name and story in childhood and make a game of looking for him around town, especially in South Boston, the neighbourhood where he grew up and where his crime operation was based.

An inspiration for the ruthless gangland boss in the 2006 Martin Scorsese movie The Departed, Bulger was wanted in connection with 19 murders. One victim was shot between the eyes in a car park at his country club in Oklahoma. Another was gunned down in broad daylight on a South Boston street to prevent him from talking about the killing in Oklahoma.

"He left a trail of bodies," said Tom Duffy, a retired state police major in Massachusetts. "You did not double-cross him. If you did, you were dead."

At the same time he was boss of South Boston's murderous Winter Hill Gang, a mostly Irish mob, Bulger was an FBI informant, supplying information about the rival New England Mafia. But he fled in January 1995 when an agent tipped him off that he was about to be indicted.

That set off a major scandal at the FBI, which was found to have a cosy relationship with its underworld informants, protecting mob figures and allowing them to carry out their murderous business as long as they were supplying useful information.