Feds Capture Fugitive James 'Whitey' Bulger In Calif.

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A notorious Boston gangster has been captured by authorities near Los Angeles. James "Whitey" Bulger is on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list for his alleged role in 19 murders. The 81-year-old has been on the run for 16 years.


One of the most wanted men in America is in federal custody. The Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List for more than a decade, next to Osama bin Laden. Bulger was arrested last night in Santa Monica, California, days after the FBI released a TV ad targeting his long-time girlfriend Catherine Greig.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Unidentified Woman: Have you seen this woman? The FBI is offering $100,000 for tips leading to Catherine Greig's whereabouts.

INSKEEP: Reporter David Boeri has been following the criminal career of Whitey Bulger for more than 25 years. He's with member station WBUR, which is where he's at this morning.

Good morning, David.

DAVID BOERI: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So how'd the FBI find him?

BOERI: Well, they claim that they got a tip on a TV spot that had just started airing the day before, and they showed up in an apartment, a house in Santa Monica last night and made the arrest. Bulger was known as a sun chaser. They were looking for him in warm climates. Interestingly enough, he was made famous by Jack Nicholson portraying him loosely in "The Departed." And so it turns out he's arrested in Santa Monica, not far from Hollywood.

INSKEEP: Well, how did he get away in the first place? This is a guy who's accused of 19 murders, if I'm not mistaken, and who was very much wanted in Boston.

BOERI: That's right. And unlike most mobsters, he was a top echelon informant. The FBI was waging its war on organized crime, specifically the mafia. He became the Irish godfather by helping the FBI take out these mafia guys, and thereby consolidated his power. He liked to call it the Bulger Bureau of Information, because he corrupted FBI agents in that Boston office, and they protected him. They tipped him off to investigations by other police agencies, and they also tipped him off to people who were informing against him so that he could - and did - murder them. So...

INSKEEP: Wait a minute. So, you're saying that he actually - at least in his mind - was using the FBI to eliminate his rivals in the crime world in Boston.

BOERI: This is what makes this such a treacherous story. It is corruption within the FBI, where the tentacles of their top-secret informants, their criminals, reach into the Bureau, and now the bureau's working for him - two FBI agents who were charged with murder plots with Bulger, one of them serving a life sentence in prison today.

INSKEEP: Was anybody from the FBI or in law enforcement accused of helping Bulger get away and hide for all these years?

BOERI: Yes. His FBI handler was accused and ultimately convicted of tipping him off in 1994 that a secret indictment that largely had been worked on by other federal agencies and the state police was about to come down, and they were coming after him. He came back, dumped his old girlfriend, picked up his new girlfriend and went on the road for 16 years.

INSKEEP: It must be a strange feeling to cover this man for so many years and suddenly discover that he's in federal custody.

BOERI: It is stunning. And in Boston - you got to understand, Steve - in Boston, where the first two planes on 9-11 left and hit the buildings in New York, Osama bin Laden and Whitey Bulger were equally notorious in the reaction to their arrest, and the death of bin Laden is on a similar plane. This guy used to look out at Boston from Southie, the old town, and say I own this town.

INSKEEP: If I may ask one other question: Why's he called Whitey?

BOERI: He had blond hair growing up. He bought ice cream cones for that FBI agent that later became his handler, and that white hair led to the nickname Whitey. But, in fact, he is a true dark knight.

INSKEEP: David Boeri is a reporter for WBUR in Boston. Thanks very much.

BOERI: You're welcome, Steve.

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