Sunday, September 16, 2007

Only Mob Impacted by Whitey Sighting is Tourists

The possible sighting of the legendary Boston gangster James (Whitey) Bulger - who served as the inspiration for Jack Nicholson's savage villain in "The Departed" - is being greeted as a perverse stroke of luck by local Sicilian officials.

With the international spotlight now focused on the town of Taormina, where photographs were taken of a man resembling the now-77-year-old fugitive mobster, officials say the area is likely to become an even greater tourist destination.

"Forgive the cynicism, but it's good for tourism, and it provides a lot of publicity to Taormina at a worldwide level," city official Salvatore Cilona told Corriere Della Sera, one of Italy's major newspapers. "Taormina has always drawn famous criminals," Cilona added, noting that the infamous New York mobster Lucky Luciano stayed in the seaside resort town with a friend in 1962.

Images of a man resembling Bulger, who has been on the lam for more than 10 years, were captured by a vacationing DEA agent on April 10. The man was videotaped window-shopping with a silver-haired woman who may be his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, 56.

The FBI, which is offering a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture, conducted a facial recognition test, but it was inconclusive.

The ruthless former leader of the Winter Hill Gang has been charged with 19 murders and is suspected of having committed many more.

While ruling Boston's criminal underworld in the 1970s, Bulger was also playing ball with the FBI, serving up tips that damaged the interests of his rivals.

He vanished in 1995, just before he was hit with a racketeering indictment.

Thanks to Rich Schapiro.

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