Alleged Boston Mob Boss Arrested

After more than 16 years on the run, Whitey Bulger, one of the nation's most infamous mob bosses, was arrested last night in Santa Monica. It came as a result of a tip-off following a nationwide FBI appeal. Bulger, who is accused of nearly 20 murders, was also an FBI informant.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

One of the nation's most infamous crime bosses is due in court in Los Angeles today. James "Whitey" Bulger topped the FBI's Most Wanted List until last night. That's when he was arrested in Santa Monica, California. Bulger had been on the run for 16 years. In court today, Bulger was remanded into the custody of federal authorities and he'll be transferred to Massachusetts to face charges. In a moment, we'll hear reaction from South Boston where Bulger built his reputation for ruthlessness.

But first, NPR's Ina Jaffe reports that Bulger was caught after authorities aired an ad targeting his long-time girlfriend.

(Soundbite of ad)

Unidentified Woman: This is an announcement by the FBI. Have you seen this woman?

INA JAFFE: The pictures showed Bulger's girlfriend, Catherine Greig. She's 60 years old, so the FBI ran this public service announcement during afternoon programs, like "The View" and "Regis and Kelly," that are popular with older women who might have interacted with her.

(Soundbite of ad)

Unidentified Woman: Call the tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

JAFFE: And within hours someone had contacted the FBI. Los Angeles field agents staked out the apartment building where Greig and Bulger lived under the aliases Charles and Carol Gasko. And last night agents arrested them.

Richard DesLauriers is head of the Boston FBI field office.

Mr. RICHARD DESLAURIERS (Boston FBI): Agents and other taskforce members lured Mr. Bulger out of his apartment. Agents determined that the individual was in fact Mr. Bulger. He was placed under arrest without incident. Agents then went back into the apartment and arrested Ms. Greig without incident.

JAFFE: Agents also searched their apartment and found a variety of weapons and a substantial amount of cash. The United States attorney for Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz, says Bulger is facing multiple charges.

Ms. CARMEN ORTIZ (U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts): Including extortion, money laundering, RICO conspiracy and RICO murders related to 19 individuals.

JAFFE: If convicted, said Ortiz, Bulger could face life in prison; Greig could face charges of harboring a fugitive - not the kind of neighbors people are used to on Third Street in Santa Monica. It's a quiet area near tony shopping strips and just two blocks from the beach.

This morning, Jack Baker was walking by Bulger's building for the second time since the alleged mobster's arrest. Baker's a native of Boston and had come here last night as soon as he heard that Bulger had been captured.

Mr. JACK BAKER: And there were people walking by wondering what's going on. Oh, Whitey Bulger got caught. Who's Whitey Bulger? It was like, to us, this is like a huge story being from Boston.

JAFFE: Maybe if Baker had told them that Jack Nicholson played a character based on Bulger in the movie "The Departed" it would have rung a bell. But growing up in South Boston, Baker feels like he was always aware of Whitey Bulger. He was once seen as a folk hero in the neighborhood. But Baker says that's not the case anymore.

Mr. BAKER: Now, years later, we all know that he was the one bringing the drugs in. He was the one committing the crimes.

JAFFE: Bulger's disappearance embarrassed the FBI because it was 16 years ago that an FBI agent tipped him off he was about to be arrested. The bureau's hunt for Bulger spanned years and continents.

But the managers of his Santa Monica apartment building told the Associated Press that Bulger and Greig had lived there for about 15 years. Richard DesLauriers, Boston FBI chief, made Bulger's capture sound like vindication for the bureau.

Mr. DESLAURIERS: Although there are those who have doubted our resolve at times over the years, it has never wavered.

JAFFE: Bulger will be returned to Boston to face charges.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

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