Boston crime boss James J. “Whitey” Bulger, who has been on the run from law enforcement authorities for more than 16 years, was arrested late Wednesday in a Santa Monica, Calif., home he shared with his girlfriend, ending a manhunt that had landed the infamous mob leader on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.”
The FBI on Thursday reported that Bulger and his longtime companion, Catherine Elizabeth Greig, were taken into custody without incident by agents acting on what the FBI said was a tip resulting from recent publicity on the case on daytime TV and billboards.
The 81-year-old crime boss is wanted in connection with 19 homicides and also is accused of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit extortion, narcotics distribution, conspiracy to commit money laundering, extortion and laundering illicit mob profits.
“Recent publicity produced a tip which led agents to Santa Monica where they located both Bulger and Greig,” said Richard Deslauriers, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston field office, and Steven Martinez, the FBI’s assistant director in charge in Los Angeles, in a statement.
More than a dozen FBI agents carried out bags of evidence from the Santa Monica apartment while neighbors and even some tourists from Boston watched. Authorities said they seized a variety of weapons and a large amount of cash.
The couple made their initial court appearance Thursday and were remanded to Massachusetts to face charges. Both waived their right to a removal hearing.
Television images from the courthouse showed a balding man with a full white beard and wire-rimmed glasses. Bulger clutched court documents against his chest in court and smiled as he was led away by law officers.
The manhunt had focused in recent months on locating Ms. Greig, a dental hygienist who was described as an animal lover and frequent beauty parlor customer, and included television commercials in 14 major cities where there had been sightings of the couple. FBI officials said the public service announcements were directed at women who might recognize the 60-year-old woman.
A $100,000 reward had been offered for her arrest. In 2008, the FBI doubled the reward offered for Bulger’s capture to $2 million. At the time, the bureau referred to Bulger as “a predator in every sense of the word.”
Bulger had been added to the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list on Aug. 19, 1999.
The couple had reportedly been traveling together for the past several years. Their Santa Monica home is located on the top floor of the Princess Eugenia, a three-story, 28-unit building overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The Associated Press reported that property managers at the complex said Bulger and Greig lived in the apartment for 15 years and had paid their $1,150-a-month rent in cash.
Bulger, whose brother, William, is a former president of the Massachusetts Senate and long one of the most influential Democratic politicians in the state, was named in September 2000 in an indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with the homicides, all of which occurred between the 1970s and the 1990s.
Federal prosecutors think Bulger, along with an associate known as Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, controlled an organized crime syndicate known as the Winter Hill Gang, which operated out of the blue-collar, Irish-American South Boston neighborhood. The gang specialized in extortion, loan sharking, bookmaking and drug sales, prosecutors said.
Bulger, a former FBI informant, reportedly controlled the gang from the late 1970s. He disappeared in 1994 after the issuance of an initial indictment accusing him of taking part in a scheme to extort money from a bookmaker.
He had been reported seen over the past five years in New York City and suburban Long Island, N.Y.; Sheridan, Wyo.; Long Beach, Miss.; Grand Isle, La.; Chicago; Albany, N.Y.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; New Orleans; Sloan, Iowa; and Fountain Valley, Calif. The FBI received more than 1,500 tips since he fled prosecution.