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Nabbed fugitive’s apartment draws would-be renters

- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) | The simple Santa Monica, Calif., apartment where James "Whitey" Bulger hid from the FBI for more than a decade could soon be one of the hotter properties in the city's rental market.

The door to Unit 303 remains sealed with police tape as FBI agents continue to pick the place apart, but a line of would-be renters is already jostling to get a look at the apartment once occupied by America's most-wanted criminal.

Mark Verge, owner of Westside Rentals, said his Santa Monica office had been inundated by callers wanting to know when the Bulger apartment would be available and how much it would cost. So many people called, he sent a memo to employees telling them not to promise it to anyone.

"It's a total curiosity," Mr. Verge said. "People say they want to rent it. But as the owner, you want the best tenant, not someone who is fanatical about living in a monster's apartment."

There's not much to distinguish Bulger's former home from any other in the 1970s complex. The corner unit faces away from the sea, is next to an elevator and has two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

And it's not available - at least for now.

Bulger, always punctual with his rent, which he only ever gave in cash, had paid through the end of June. FBI agents will remain at his former home for at least two more weeks as they search for anything he could have stuffed into the walls or floors of the two-bedroom unit.

After his June 22 arrest, agents found about $800,000 in cash, more than 30 firearms, multiple knives and several pieces of false identification in the apartment.

The FBI recently allowed a property manager a brief visit inside. Several square and rectangular holes, measuring about 10 inches wide and 18 inches tall, had been cut neatly into the drywall by the front door and in one of the bedrooms.

Agents told the manager that Bulger had kept these "hidey holes" covered over with pictures and mirrors.

Josh Bond, the building supervisor, went into the apartment soon after Bulger's arrest and said it seemed like any other.

He, too, had been fielding calls from people wanting to know about renting it.

"We've been getting a lot of calls," Mr. Bond said. "People from Boston, people that saw it on the news and want to rent it out. The phone was off the hook there for a few days."

It's not clear exactly when Bulger moved in to the Santa Monica apartment, as its owners had no rental agreement on file.

When he first arrived in the early- to mid-1990s, the units were mainly used as extended-stay vacation homes, the property manager said. They were turned into regular apartments in the late 1990s and no one saw a need to collect references or a tenancy agreement from Bulger, who had been a good tenant.

Because the apartment was rent-controlled, which meant rates could only go up a small amount each year, Bulger was getting a relative bargain rate on his rent. According to property records, he was paying $1,145 a month, while some of his neighbors pay more than twice that amount.

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