Whitey Bulger, Boston gangster, found dead in prison

Bulger was found unresponsive at a U.S. penitentiary in West Virginia

  • Oct. 30, 2018 10:55 a.m.

This June 23, 2011, file booking photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows James “Whitey” Bulger. (U.S. Marshals Service via AP, File)

James “Whitey” Bulger, the murderous Boston gangster who benefited from a corrupt relationship with the FBI before spending 16 years as one of America’s most wanted men, died in federal prison. He was 89.

Bulger was found unresponsive Tuesday morning at the U.S. penitentiary in West Virginia where he’d just been transferred, and a medical examiner declared him dead shortly afterward, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Authorities did not immediately release a cause of death but said the FBI was notified and is investigating.

Bulger, the model for Jack Nicholson’s ruthless crime boss in the 2006 Martin Scorsese movie, “The Departed,” led a largely Irish mob that ran loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets. He also was an FBI informant who ratted on the New England mob, his gang’s main rival, in an era when bringing down the Mafia was a top national priority for the FBI.

Bulger fled Boston in late 1994 after his FBI handler, John Connolly Jr., warned him he was about to be indicted. With a $2 million reward on his head, Bulger became one of the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” criminals, with a place just below Osama bin Laden.

When the extent of his crimes and the FBI’s role in overlooking them became public in the late 1990s, Bulger became a source of embarrassment for the FBI. During the years he was a fugitive, the FBI battled a public perception that it had not tried very hard to find him.

After more than 16 years on the run, Bulger was captured at age 81 in Santa Monica, California, where he had been living in a rent-controlled apartment near the beach with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.

In 2013, he was convicted in the slayings, as well as extortion, and money-laundering after a sensational racketeering trial that included graphic testimony from three former Bulger cohorts: a hit man, a protege and a partner. He was sentenced nearly five years ago to two consecutive life sentences plus five years.

Bulger had just been moved to USP Hazelton, a high-security prison with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. He had been in a prison in Florida before a stopover at a transfer facility in Oklahoma City. Federal Bureau of Prisons officials and his attorney had declined to comment on why he was being moved.

Bulger, nicknamed “Whitey” for his bright platinum hair, grew up in a gritty South Boston housing project and became known as one of the most ruthless gangsters in Boston. His younger brother, William Bulger, became one of the most powerful politicians in Massachusetts, leading the state Senate for 17 years.

In working-class “Southie,” Jim Bulger was known for helping old ladies across the street and giving turkey dinners to his neighbours at Thanksgiving. He had a kind of Robin Hood-like image among some locals, but authorities said he would put a bullet in the brain of anyone who he even suspected of double-crossing him.

“You could go back in the annals of criminal history and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone as diabolical as Bulger,” said Tom Duffy, a retired state police major who investigated Bulger.

“Killing people was his first option. They don’t get any colder than him,” Duffy said after Bulger was finally captured in June 2011.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Saanich brings Uptown-Douglas Corridor draft plan to the public

Feedback from residents will help finalize the plan

Cloudy, chance of showers ahead for Wednesday

Plus a look ahead at your weekend

B.C. population on pace to fall behind Alberta

Provincial population could reach almost seven million in 2043, but Alberta is growing faster

Greater Victoria could see a months worth of rain within a week this fall

Weather Network predicts wet, warm fall season for B.C.

Residents say Monday’s fatal crash in Saanich wasn’t unexpected

Speed has long been a concern for neighbours in the Cumberland and Union roads area

‘It’s almost surreal’: B.C. fire chief, sidekick Sammy recap rescue mission in Bahamas

Chief Larry Watkinson and Sam the disaster dog spent 8 days assisting a search and rescue team

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of September 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

‘Time to take action:’ Children advocates call for national youth suicide strategy

Council wants Ottawa to make reporting of suicides and attempted suicides mandatory for data collection

Canadian inflation decelerates to 1.9% as gas prices weaken

August was the sixth straight month that price growth was 1.9 per cent or higher

Man who crushed Nanaimo RCMP cars with stolen truck gets more jail time

Majore Jackson, 34, sentenced to two more years in jail in provincial court in Nanaimo

B.C. dog breeder banned again after 46 dogs seized

The SPCA seized the animals from Terry Baker, 66, in February 2018

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

Three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Most Read