Friday, August 27, 2010

Whitey Bulger: Southie's Man of Mystery


South Boston today conjures up images of three-story houses lined up in a row, a stroll down to Castle Island, and watching the famous St. Patrick’s Day parade. The history of South Boston also includes these images, but there is a darker picture looming in the background, and that is the image of the Irish mob and James “Whitey” Bulger who once ruled the organized crime scene in South Boston.

Whitey Bulger and his followers instilled fear not only in the citizens of South Boston, but in those living in surrounding areas. Today, South Boston has a fairly good reputation and its population is growing, but when it was Bulger’s territory, the stigma of this area in Boston was anything but safe or respectable.

James Bulger was born September 3, 1929. He grew up in Dorchester, MA and was one of six children. His nickname “Whitey” came from his head of white-blond hair and stuck with him for life. He grew up in a housing project in South Boston and almost immediately began causing trouble. At age ten, he ran away with the circus and at fourteen he was arrested for stealing. From there, his criminal record only grew worse. Among his crimes of youth were larceny, forgery, assault and battery, and armed robbery. After serving five years in a juvenile facility, he joined the Air Force but was put in military jail for assault and was arrested for going AWOL. He was discharged in 1952, returned to Boston, and began his life of crime.

Bulger was convicted of three bank robberies across the country from Rhode Island to Indiana, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. While in prison, he voluntarily took LSD for a research program to reduce his stay. However, he also passed a hacksaw blade to three inmates for an escape plot and was sent to Alcatraz for three years. After Alcatraz, Bulger was imprisoned at Leavenworth and Lewisburg. He returned to his hometown in 1965 and became an enforcer for Donald Killeen, a crime boss in Boston. Killeen, however, was shot and killed in 1972 and Bulger joined the Winter Hill Gang. He quickly rose to power, aiding in numerous murders and already proving what a ruthless and shameless mobster he was.

By the late seventies, Bulger became one of the biggest mobsters in the Boston organized crime world. He took over Howie Winter’s gang after Winter was sent to prison and Bulger also came into control of a lot of Boston’s drug dealing, bookmaking, and loan sharking. In only sixteen years, eighteen murders were committed under Bulger’s reign.

Bulger, trying to keep himself safe, became an FBI informant. Whitey’s brother, William Bulger, was in the Massachusetts State Senate and Whitey took full advantage of his brother’s stature. He also kept many childhood friends who worked in the police force around Boston and was able to keep his crimes under wraps. With the help of these people, Bulger was able to bring down the Italian-American Patriarca crime family in Boston and built his own organized crime network that was even more dangerous and violent than the Italian mob.

Bulger’s influence spread all around South Boston and especially to the youth growing up in the Southie projects. In Michael Patrick MacDonald’s book entitled All Souls, he discusses Bulger and his influence on the teens living in the area once Bulger brought his drug trade into the South Boston projects. MacDonald chronicles Bulger’s power over young individuals and the alarming number of teens who died under Bulger’s control either from murder, suicide, or drug overdose. According to an article published in The Boston Globe entitled “The Man Who Opened the Windows and Screamed,” a lawyer once approached MacDonald and “urged [him] to file a class-act suit against the FBI, modeled on smokers’ suits against Big Tobacco, for allowing Bulger to terrorize Southie residents with impunity.” MacDonald’s book gave a testimony to the horror that Bulger and his crew created in South Boston.

It wasn’t until 1994 that the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Massachusetts State Police, and the Boston Police Department finally began investigating Bulger’s gambling ring. In 1995, Bulger and Stephen Flemmi, his associate, were indicted but Bulger got away with no punishment. There are rumors that Bulger’s correspondent in the FBI, Special Agent John Connelly, tipped him off so that he could flee before he was arrested. John Connelly was sentenced to a ten year term in prison for working with Bulger and feeding him inside information. It has been reported that Bulger and his common law wife, Theresa Stanley, fled just after Thanksgiving and did not return until January. They roamed from place to place including Manhattan, Los Angeles, and Clearwater, Florida.

Bulger returned to Boston with Theresa Stanley, but fled once again soon after with a mistress named Catherine Grieg. The two have been fugitives ever since. James “Whitey” Bulger still remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted list and has been there since 1999. He is the second most wanted person – only behind Osama bin Laden. According to the FBI’s website, there is now a $2,000,000 reward being offered for any person that can give information on Bulger’s whereabouts. The charges that Bulger is still wanted for include money laundering, racketeering, drug trafficking, obstruction of justice, along with the murder of twenty-one people.

In 2003, Whitey’s brother, John “Jackie” Bulger was convicted of perjury. He was said to have been communicating with Whitey, assisting him in obtaining a safety deposit box, and also getting Whitey a fake license.

On August, 2010, the fifteenth segment on Bulger ran on America’s Most Wanted. It showed the same photo that has been shown each and every time. Bulger wearing sunglass and a Red Sox cap as he waltzed into the Lottery headquarters to collect his “share” of a $14.3 million Mass Millions ticket he just happened to receive. His photo has been electronically aged to give an idea to the public of what he might look like today.



The search is still on today for Whitey Bulger’s location. A force called The Bulger Fugitive Task Force (BFTF) was created in order to try and gather as much information as possible on the Bulger. As far as the BFTF knows, Bulger and his mistress are still alive and in good health although their location is unknown. Since 2004, there have been over one hundred Bulger look-alikes brought in and dismissed. Citizens from all over the world call into their local police departments to investigate suspicious characters that resemble that blurry picture of a white-haired man in a Red Sox cap. Federal, state, and local law enforcement teams have all been working with the BFTF to find Bulger and bring him in.

In one 2007 article in The Boston Phoenix, a cop claimed to have seen Bulger in a local movie theater sitting in the front row of a showing of Martin Scorsece’s The Departed. The witness said Bulger had snuck in to view Jack Nicholson play a character based on him. The lead however, led nowhere. There have been sightings of Bulger worldwide in countries such as England and Italy and still the search has been going on for over ten years. Also, an article on Boston.com states that the last confirmed sighting of Bulger was in London in 2002. The FBI continues to receive tips on where Bulger may be hiding out, but each time they travel out of the country they must receive permission not only from United States, but convince foreign authorities to allow investigation.

According to the FBI’s website, Bulger is still alive. He is now 80 years old and “maintains physical fitness by walking on beaches and in parks.” He is also still considered “armed and extremely dangerous.” There have not been any real sightings of Bulger in eight years. The notorious mobster is still roaming the globe. It is believed that he and Grieg are somewhere in Europe, but it is only a possibility. The only next step for citizens to take is to keep an eye out for this notorious Bostonian.

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