The arrest of “Most Wanted” James ‘Whitey’ Bulger in Santa Monica, California, yesterday brings to an end a 16-year-long international manhunt that was proving to be an embarrassment to the FBI. As the Boston Globe reports
Bulger fled just before his federal racketeering indictment in January 1995. It was later revealed in federal court in Boston that he was a longtime FBI informant who had been warned by his corrupt handler, former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr., that he was about to be arrested.
Betrayed by the revelation that Bulger was an informant, several of his former associates began cooperating against him, leading to the discovery of secret graves of his victims in the Boston area and additional charges that Bulger murdered 19 people.
Authorities had investigated two possible Bulger sightings in Southern California. In 2000, a tipster reported seeing Greig having her hair done at a salon in Fountain Valley, the newspaper reported. In 2005, the FBI investigated whether Bulger may have been the elderly man who robbed three Orange County banks.
But ultimately, the trail appeared to grow cold and no link was made to the mobster.
The arrest came days after the FBI launched a 30-second ad campaign in 14 cities across the US targetting his partner, Catherine Greig.
Bulger ran a notorious Irish-American organised crime gang based in Boston, the “Winter Hill Group”, in the 70s and 80s.
Unsurprisingly for an Irish-American criminal based in Boston at the time, there’s a local connection. As the Journal.ie notes
Bulger is said to have helped load seven tons of assault rifles meant for the IRA aboard the trawler Valhalla in 1984. However, the shipment was stopped and seized by the Irish navy and gardai. The crew, including future Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris, were arrested. Speaking on RTE’s Today With Pat Kenny this morning, Boston Globe writer Kevin Cullen said the IRA “believed he [Bulger] was responsible for that mission being compromised.”
And then there’s the stolen Vermeer…