James “Whitey” Bulger, the accused Boston-based murderer and racketeer among the FBI’s 10 most-wanted fugitives, is headed for Massachusetts after his arrest in Santa Monica, California, with a stash of cash and guns.
Bulger, 81, and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, 60, were caught June 22 by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents after a tip, the agency said in a statement. Bulger appeared yesterday in federal court in Los Angeles and was ordered sent to Massachusetts, where he was indicted.
Bulger has left California, Brandy Donini-Melanson, a spokeswoman for Carmen M. Ortiz, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said in a telephone interview. Donini-Melanson declined to say when Bulger is scheduled to arrive in Boston, citing security reasons.
If Bugler arrives as scheduled, he is set to appear in federal court in Boston at 4 p.m. local time before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo T. Sorokin and then before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler, according to a court document. Greig is slated to appear afterward before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal.
U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf was assigned to preside over Bulger’s case. It was in Wolf’s courtroom in 1998 that Bulger’s partner, Stephen Flemmi, revealed that he and Bulger were FBI informants and had been promised immunity from prosecution.
‘A Great Day’
The arrest represents “the end of a long and exhaustive hunt, and a great day” for law enforcement, Ortiz said yesterday at a press conference in Boston. “They never gave up.”
Barry Slotnick, a defense lawyer who represented mobster Joseph Colombo, said the government may have a hard time proving Bulger’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The crimes are so old, the proof may be difficult,” Slotnick said in an interview. “Are the witnesses still around? Are they still available?” said Slotnick, of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC in New York.
Myra June Sun, identified by the Justice Department as Bulger’s public defender in Los Angeles, didn’t immediately return a phone call yesterday seeking comment.
Winter Hill Gang
In a 111-page indictment dated May 23, 2001, and provided by federal prosecutors in Boston, Bulger is described as a leader of a criminal organization known as the “Bulger Group” and “Winter Hill Gang.”
The gangs committed extortion, loan sharking, bookmaking, narcotics trafficking and murder, beginning about 1972, the government said. Bulger was wanted in connection with 19 murders.
The group is also linked to illegally shipping arms to the Irish Republican Army and importing about 36 tons of marijuana into the U.S., both in 1984, prosecutors said.
Bulger and accomplices that year allegedly buried three murder victims in the basement of a South Boston home, then dug them up a year later when it was being sold.
The group maintained contacts with police officers to get information on investigations, according to the indictment.
Bulger, a onetime FBI informant, used disguises and traveled in Europe, Canada and Mexico after fleeing, the FBI said. His aliases included Harold Evers and Ernest E. Beaudreau.
Bulger and Greig, both represented by public defenders, didn’t challenge the government’s request to keep them detained at yesterday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale told reporters outside the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. They were ordered transferred to Boston “forthwith” where they will be arraigned, Dugdale said.
The arrests came a day after the FBI’s Boston office was to air public-service announcements about Greig, who fled with Bulger in 1995. She was wanted for harboring a criminal and isn’t accused in any of his crimes, the FBI said in a June 20 statement about the ad campaign.
The agency aired the 30-second public-service announcements in 14 U.S. cities, including San Diego and San Francisco, according to the statement. Los Angeles wasn’t among them. The ads targeted women who are Greig’s age and who might be her co-worker, hair-stylist or neighbor, according to the statement.
FBI agent Richard DesLauriers and other officials said at the press conference that agents and Los Angeles police put a Santa Monica building under surveillance, lured Bulger out with an undisclosed ruse and arrested the two without incident.
Inside the apartment were “a variety of weapons and a large amount of cash,” Ortiz said.
Bulger may face life in prison or the death penalty if he is convicted of the murders, depending on the jurisdiction, the prosecutor said.
Greig was charged in an April 1997 complaint in federal court in Boston with harboring and concealing Bulger from arrest. If convicted, she may face a five-year prison term.
Officials said the disposition of a possible $2 million reward for Bulger and $100,000 reward for Greig is undetermined.
Bulger, who was born in Boston, was known to frequent libraries and historic sites, the FBI said. He carried a knife, has a violent temper and kept physically fit by walking on the beach, the agency said.
The FBI’s $1 million reward for Bulger’s capture was doubled in 2008, a year after he and Greig were believed to have been spotted in Taormina, in Sicily, according to the FBI’s website.
His “Wanted” posters were printed in Italian, German, Portuguese and Spanish, according to the agency. The FBI released recordings of Bulger and a grainy black-and-white surveillance video of him walking from a vehicle and talking with another man at a hotel garage in Boston in the 1980s.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Bulger worked as an informant on mob activities for the FBI in Boston, according to the agency. He was indicted in January 1995 for racketeering violations, including activities while he was an informant. Five years later he was indicted for multiple murders.
The 1997 FBI affidavit in support of a criminal complaint against Greig said that another girlfriend of Bulger’s cooperated with the government in trying to track down the fugitive in 1996. The woman, who told the FBI she had been Bulger’s girlfriend for 20 years, found out in 1994 that he had been involved with Greig as well during that time.
The former girlfriend told the FBI in 1996 that, after Bulger was charged in January of 1995, he returned to Massachusetts and picked up Greig, according to the affidavit.
The case is U.S. v. Bulger, 94-10287-MLW, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston.)