Top gangster 'Whitey' Bulger caught
Published 23/06/2011 | 06:02
James "Whitey" Bulger, a notorious Boston gangster who inspired the 2006 Martin Scorsese film The Departed, has been captured near Los Angeles after living on the run for 16 years, authorities have said.
Bulger, 81, who was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list for his alleged role in 19 murders, was arrested with his long-time girlfriend, Catherine Greig, 60, at a residence in Santa Monica.
The arrest was based on a tip from a recent publicity campaign federal authorities had regenerated, according to the official.
The FBI had been conducting a surveillance operation in the area where the arrest was made, Santa Monica police sergeant Rudy Flores said.
Bulger was the leader of the Winter Hill Gang when he fled in January 1995 after being tipped off by a former Boston FBI agent that he was about to be indicted. Bulger, who has been the subject of several books, was a top-echelon FBI informant.
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 priorities. The mobster 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 in the late 1990s.
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 as leader of 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 America's most-hunted fugitives, charged in a number of murders that included the killings 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 dollar (£620,000) reward on his head.
Bulger and Greig are scheduled to make an appearance in Los Angeles federal court on Thursday. Bulger faces a series of federal charges including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, narcotics distribution, extortion and money laundering. Greig is charged with harbouring a fugitive.