FBI nabs ruthless Boston mob boss in California

BOSTON — Mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger was captured near Los Angeles after 16 years on the run that embarrassed the FBI and exposed the bureau's corrupt relationship with its underworld informants.

STEVE LeBLANC,Associated Press Modified: June 23, 2011 at 6:00 am •  Published: June 22, 2011

Th
e 30-second ad started running Tuesday in 14 TV markets to which Bulger may have ties and was to air during programs popular with women roughly Greig's age, including "The View" and "Regis and Kelly."

The campaign pointed out that the blond-haired Greig had plastic surgery several times before going on the lam and was known to frequent beauty salons.

The hunt for Bulger touched the highest level of Massachusetts politics. 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. He resigned the post in 2003 under political pressure.

William Bulger told a congressional committee that he spoke to his brother by phone shortly after he went on the run but had no idea about his whereabouts.

He declined to comment to The Boston Globe about his brother's arrest.

"Whitey Bulger has left behind in the Boston area a lot of victims and a lot of pain, and I think for them and for justice in general, it's a great day," said William Christie, an attorney for the families of two alleged Bulger victims.

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.

Along with Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, he led the Winter Hill Gang, which ran loansharking, 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."

Prosecutors said he went on the run after being warned by John Connolly Jr., an FBI agent in Boston who had made Bulger an informant 20 years earlier. Connolly was convicted of racketeering in 2002 for protecting Bulger and Flemmi, also an FBI informant.

Bulger provided the Boston FBI with information on his gang's main rival in an era when bringing down the Mafia was one of the bureau's top national priorities.

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.

In 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.

On Thursday, Bulger's picture on the Ten Most Wanted list was spanned by a red banner that said "Captured." Greig's photo, with the same banner, was displayed prominently.

John Weiskopf, who lives across the street from Bulger's Santa Monica building, said he recognized Bulger when he saw his photo on the Internet.

"I recognized him. I said 'Holy Smokes,'" he said.

"From what I understand, these were really gracious easy-going people," Weiskopf said. "They don't come out with fangs, they just blended in."

Duffy, the retired state police major in Massachusetts, said the people who lived in South Boston saw Bulger as a Robin Hood figure who protected them from drug dealers and other criminals. In reality, Bulger controlled the drug trade in Boston and committed murders as a matter of routine, Duffy said.

"Killing people was their first option," he said of Bulger and his gang.

He added: "There was this horrendous misconception that he kept drugs out of South Boston, when actually, he controlled the drug trade in South Boston. If you were a drug dealer, you didn't operate in South Boston without paying him."

Along with the federal charges in Boston, Bulger faces murder charges in Oklahoma in the killing of a businessman and in Miami in the killing of a gambling executive. Both slayings took place in the early 1980s.

___

Associated Press writers Brian Melley in Santa Monica, Calif., and Greg Risling, Christopher Weber and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


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