FBI special agent Richard Deslauriers speaks Monday during a news conference next to a poster featuring fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger at the FBI field office in Boston.
FBI special agent Richard Deslauriers speaks Monday during a news conference next to a poster featuring fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger at the FBI field office in Boston. Michael Dwyer/AP
Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger appeared in Los Angeles federal court Thursday and was remanded to Massachusetts to face charges.
Bulger appeared with his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, and waived his right to a removal hearing. The pair were arrested late Wednesday in their suburban Santa Monica apartment after 16 years on the run.
New England organized crime figure James "Whitey" Bulger is shown in these 1984 photos originally released by the FBI.
New England organized crime figure James "Whitey" Bulger is shown in these 1984 photos originally released by the FBI. AP
James "Whitey" Bulger
Born Sept. 3, 1929 in Boston
Led the Winter Hill Gang, a largely Irish mob that conducted loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets in the Boston area. He was nicknamed "Whitey" for his shock of bright platinum hair.
Bulger's criminal career began in the 1940s, when he joined street youth gangs. His first arrests were for larceny, forgery, assault and armed robbery. After a brief stint in the Air Force, he joined a succession of criminal gangs and finally ended up at Alcatraz in 1959. In the 1970s, he became an enforcer for the Killen gang in South Boston and then the Winter Hill Gang, later taking over the group and becoming a top-echelon FBI informant.
Bulger provided the FBI with information on his gang's main rival, the New England Mob. Bulger later was listed as one of the agency's "Ten Most Wanted" for his alleged role in 19 murders, including the slayings of businessmen in Florida and Oklahoma. He was next to Osama bin Laden on the list and had a $2 million reward on his head.
Source: The Associated Press
Balding, with a full white beard and wire-rimmed glassed, Bulger clutched court documents against his chest when he appeared before Magistrate Judge John McDermott. Bulger told the court he understood the charges against him.
He smiled as he was led away by a cadre of law enforcement agents.
The notorious Boston mobster is accused of murdering 19 people. The FBI finally caught up with the 81-year-old Bulger on Wednesday at a residence in Santa Monica. He was apprehended along with Greig just days after the government launched a new publicity campaign to locate the fugitives, said Steven Martinez, FBI's assistant director in charge in Los Angeles.
A tip generated by the campaign led to the arrest, Martinez said.
He faces a series of federal charges including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, narcotics distribution, extortion and money-laundering. She is charged with harboring a fugitive.
Known as "The Irish Godfather" of Boston, Bulger has been on the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted posters for years and was an inspiration for the 2006 movie The Departed.
Along with Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, he allegedly led the violent Winter Hill Gang, a largely Irish mob that ran loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets in the Boston area. U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern said in 2000 that the two were "responsible for a reign of intimidation and murder that spanned 25 years."
In the 1970s, Bulger became a top-secret FBI informant in Boston but later corrupted his handlers.
The agents "tipped him off to investigations by other police agencies and they also tipped him off to other people who were informing against him so that he could and did murder them," said David Boeri, a reporter from member station WBUR in Boston who has followed the Bulger case for more than two decades.
When state and federal investigators finally closed in on Bulger in January 1995, he fled Boston with his girlfriend after being tipped by his FBI handler. Two former FBI agents were later charged with plotting murders with Bulger, and one is now serving a life sentence in prison.
"This is what makes this such a treacherous story," Boeri said. "It is corruption within the FBI."
William "Willie" Sutton, listed 3/20/1950-2/18/1952: Sutton was a prolific criminal who stole a total of $2 million from more than 100 banks. Though he was quoted as saying he robbed banks because "that's where the money is," Sutton denied uttering the famous phrase. At the time of his capture, he was the most celebrated criminal in America. Sutton ended up in prison a number of times but managed to escape. He was arrested the last time in 1952.
James Earl Ray, listed 4/20/1968-6/8/1968:Ray assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. He was captured a few months later but made his second appearance on the FBI's most wanted list when he escaped from prison in 1977. He was recaptured three days later.
Angela Davis, listed 8/18/1970-10/13/1970:Davis was a political activist and scholar who landed on the list in 1970 when guns registered under her name were used in a courtroom shooting. She was acquitted at trial.
Bernardine Dohrn, listed 10/14/1970-12/7/1973:Dohrn was a co-founder of the radical organization Weather Underground and was sought by the FBI because of her involvement with the group. She was removed from the list after three years.
Leonard Peltier, listed 12/22/1975-2/6/1976:Peltier was a Native American activist convicted of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. He was apprehended in Alberta by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Theodore Bundy, listed 2/10/1978-2/15/1978:"Ted" Bundy was a serial killer who murdered at least 30 women in the 1970s. He was captured in Florida after being stopped for speeding while driving a stolen vehicle.
Ramzi Yousef, listed 4/21/1993-2/7/1995:Yousef was one of the main conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. A year after he fled to Iraq, he assembled and planted a bomb on a plane bound for Tokyo. He was captured in Pakistan in 1995.
Osama bin Laden, listed 6/7/1995-5/1/2011:Bin Laden was initially wanted in connection with the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa that killed more than 200 people. He remained on the list after being connected to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs during an ambush on his Pakistan compound in May 2011.
Eric Rudolph, listed 5/5/1998-5/31/2003:Rudolph was known as the "Olympic Park Bomber," for the bomb he created and detonated at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. After the Olympics, he also set off bombs at abortion clinics and a lesbian bar in the South. Rudolph was captured after he was arrested while dumpster-diving in North Carolina.
James Bulger, listed 8/19/1999-6/22/2011: "Whitey" Bulger was the head of a major organized crime operation based in Boston. He landed on the list because of his connection to murders in the 1970s and 1980s. Bulger, now 81, was the oldest person to be placed on the FBI's list. He was apprehended in Santa Monica, Calif., after 16 years on the run.
In 2003, a congressional committee draft report blasted the FBI for its use of Bulger as an informant, calling it "one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement."
But on Wednesday, it was the FBI who took Bulger down. Agents swarmed around the Santa Monica apartment building where he and Grieg, 60, were staying.
Bulger lived on the third floor of The Princess Eugenia, a three-story, 28-unit building of one- and two-bedroom apartments three blocks from a bluff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
Federal agents had been conducting surveillance in the area where the arrest was made, said police Sgt. Rudy Flores, who gave no details of the arrest.
The FBI said guns and a large amount of cash were found in the apartment, according to The Associated Press. Investigators declined to say how Bulger raised enough money to live on.
Barbara Gluck, who lives on the same floor as Bulger and Greig, told the AP that she didn't know their names but recognized them from photos on the Internet after she heard about their arrest.
Gluck described Greig, a dental hygienist, as "sweet and lovely" and said they would have "girl talk" when they ran into each other in the building. But she added that Bulger became angry whenever he saw the two of them talking.
"He was nasty," Gluck said. "At one point, [Greig] said [Bulger] has a rage issue."
The arrest brings an end to a manhunt that received worldwide attention as the FBI received reported sightings of Bulger and Greig from all over the U.S. and parts of Europe. In many of those sightings, investigators could not confirm whether it was Bulger who was spotted or a lookalike.
The investigation also touched the highest level of Massachusetts politics. Bulger's younger brother, William, was one of the state's most powerful politicians, leading the Massachusetts Senate for 17 years and later serving as president of the University of Massachusetts for seven years. William Bulger told a congressional committee that he had spoken to his brother shortly after he went on the run in 1995 but had no idea about his whereabouts.
He declined to comment to the Boston Globe about his brother's arrest.
Federal officials said they have linked James Bulger to a series of ruthless killings. One victim was shot between the eyes in a parking lot at his country club in Oklahoma. Another was gunned down in broad daylight on a South Boston street reportedly to prevent him from talking about the killing in Oklahoma. Others allegedly were taken out for running afoul of Bulger's gambling enterprises.
"He left a trail of bodies," Tom Duffy, a retired state police major in Massachusetts, told the AP. "You did not double-cross him. If you did, you were dead."
After 16 years on the lam, Wednesday's arrest was a stunning reversal for Bulger.
"This guy used to look out at Boston from Southie — the old town — and say, 'I own this town,' " WBUR's Boeri said.
David Boeri of member station WBUR contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press