One of the FBI’s most notorious fugitives was in the spotlight yesterday, as a briefing for international media at the State Department offered a global perspective on James “Whitey” Bulger, the Boston crime boss wanted for his role in 19 murders and a host of other offenses.
Because Bulger is believed to be living overseas, “the focus of the case has become international,” said Richard Teahan, a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI's Boston office who is in charge of the case. Through international exposure, Teahan said, “We hope to make his world smaller for him.”
There is currently a reward of up to $2 million for Bulger, the largest reward they’ve ever offered for any of the FBI's U.S. Top Ten fugitives.
The job of catching Bulger—on the run for 14 years—has not been easy, in part because he is a meticulous planner who spent nearly two decades preparing for life as a fugitive. He stashed money all over the world, and he leaves no paper trail, paying only in cash.
Based on intelligence, they have a strong picture of Bulger’s personality:
* He is an avid reader who frequents libraries, an animal lover, and a fitness nut who takes long walks.
* He is a history buff with a compulsive urge for collecting videotapes and books about World War II and Adolf Hitler.
* He loves to travel, frequently visiting historic landmarks and museums, and has traveled widely in France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Canada.
* He is said to always carry a knife.
Bulger, now 79, is known to disguise himself by dying his hair, wearing a moustache, and donning different types of glasses. He is said to be proud of the three-year stretch he did at Alcatraz (for bank robbery), and, noted Teahan, “he has vowed that he will never, ever go back to prison.”
Born and raised in the predominantly Irish-Catholic projects of South Boston, Bulger was involved in serious crimes at an early age, including assault, robbery, and rape.
After a stint in the Air Force and at several federal penitentiaries, he joined the Winter Hill Gang, which took over the South Boston crime scene. In addition to the murders he is charged with, he participated in drug trafficking, extortion, and loan-sharking, Teahan said.
Bulger’s criminal enterprises over the last several decades may have earned him anywhere from $10 million to $30 million. He also infiltrated government agencies, including the FBI, sowing seeds of public distrust in law enforcement that remain in South Boston to this day. “He left a scar on the community,” Teahan said, that will only be fully healed when he has been captured.
Despite the difficulty of the search, the FBI has made some progress in the case. For example, they have discovered two of Bulger’s bank accounts. At Barclay’s Bank in London, they found $75,000 in cash. At another of his accounts in Ireland, they found different types of currencies and rare coins.
A multi-agency task force dedicated solely to finding Bulger (and his companion, Catherine Greig, who is under indictment for harboring a fugitive) continues to gather and analyze intelligence and respond to tips of sightings. The task force is made up of personnel from the FBI, the Massachusetts Department of Correction, and the Massachusetts State Police.
“We’re committed to finding him,” Teahan said. “No matter how long it takes.”
They need your help. If you have any information on Bulger’s whereabouts, contact your local FBI office or the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
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