LOS ANGELES (AP) - James "Whitey" Bulger, a notorious Boston gangster on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list for his alleged role in 19 murders, was captured Wednesday near Los Angeles after living on the run for 16 years, authorities said.
Bulger, 81, was arrested along with his longtime girlfriend,
60-year-old Catherine Greig, in the early evening at a residence in
Santa Monica, said a law enforcement official who was not
authorized to speak publicly about the case. The arrest was based
on a tip from the recent publicity campaign that federal
authorities had regenerated, according to the official.
The two were arrested without incident, the FBI said. The FBI
had been conducting a surveillance operation in the area where the
arrest was made, Santa Monica police Sgt. Rudy Flores said.
Bulger was the leader of the Winter Hill Gang when he fled in
January 1995 after being tipped by a former Boston FBI agent that
he was about to be indicted. Bulger was a top-echelon FBI
Over the years, the FBI battled a public perception that it had
not tried very hard to find Bulger, who became a huge source of
embarrassment for the agency after the extent of his crimes and the
FBI's role in overlooking them became public.
Prosecutors said he went on the run after being warned by John
Connolly Jr., an FBI agent who had made Bulger an FBI informant 20
years earlier. Connolly was convicted of racketeering in May 2002
for protecting Bulger and his cohort, Stephen "The Rifleman"
Flemmi, also an FBI informant.
Bulger provided the Boston FBI with information on his gang's
main rival, the New England Mob, in an era when bringing down the
Mafia was one of the FBI's top national priorities.
But the Boston FBI office was sharply criticized when the extent
of Bulger's alleged crimes and his cozy relationship with the FBI
became public in the late 1990s.
He has been the subject of several books and was an inspiration
for the 2006 Martin Scorsese film "The Departed."
During his years on the run, the FBI received reported sightings
of Bulger and Greig from all over the United States and parts of
Europe. In many of those sightings, investigators could not confirm
whether it was actually Bulger who was spotted or simply a
But in September 2002, the FBI received the most reliable tip in
three years when a British businessman who had met Bulger eight
years earlier said he spotted Bulger on a London street.
After the sighting, the FBI's multiagency violent fugitive task
force in Boston and inspectors from New Scotland Yard scoured
London hotels, Internet cafes and gyms in search of Bulger. The FBI
also released an updated sketch, using the businessman's
description of Bulger as tan, white-haired and sporting a gray
On Monday the FBI on announced a new publicity campaign and
accompanying public service ad that asked people, particularly
women, to be on the lookout for Greig. The 30-second ad started
running Tuesday in 14 television markets to which Bulger may have
ties and will air during programs popular with women roughly
The new campaign pointed out that Greig had several plastic
surgeries before going on the lam and was known to frequent beauty
salons. The FBI also was offering a $2 million dollar reward for
information leading to Bulger's arrest.
The pair was scheduled to make an appearance in Los Angeles
federal court Thursday. Bulger faces a series of federal charges
including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, narcotics
distribution, extortion and money laundering. Greig is charged with
harboring a fugitive.
Bulger, nicknamed "Whitey" for his shock of bright platinum
hair, grew up in a gritty South Boston housing project, and went on
to become Boston's most notorious gangster. He led the violent
Winter Hill Gang, a largely Irish mob that ran loan-sharking,
gambling and drug rackets in the Boston area.
After he fled, he became one of the nation's most-hunted
fugitives, charged in a number of murders that included the
slayings of businessmen in Florida and Oklahoma. With a place next
to Osama bin Laden on the "Ten Most Wanted" list, he had a $1
million reward on his head.
Bulger's younger brother, William, was one of the most powerful
politicians in the state, leading the Massachusetts Senate for 17
years and later serving as president of the University of
Massachusetts for seven years.
For many years, William Bulger was able to avoid any tarnish
from his brother's alleged crimes. But in August 2003, William
Bulger resigned his post as president of UMass amid pressure from
Gov. Mitt Romney and Attorney General Thomas Reilly.
His resignation came two months after he testified about his
brother before a congressional committee. William Bulger said he
spoke to his brother shortly after he went on the run in 1995, but
said he had not heard from him since and did not know where he was
The committee, in a draft report issued in 2003, blasted the FBI
for its use of Bulger and other criminals as informants, calling it
"one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)