BOSTON (CBS) – Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger was headed back to Massachusetts as early as Friday morning after a court appearance in Los Angeles on Thursday, hours after was captured in a “ruse” near Los Angeles after 16 years on the run.
After an international manhunt, the FBI finally caught the 81-year-old Bulger at an apartment in Santa Monica, California along with longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig on Wednesday, just days after the government launched a publicity campaign by circulating pictures of Greig on daytime TV and on billboards.
The arrest was based on a tip from the campaign, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a news conference in Boston.
WBZ-TV’s Peg Rusconi reports.
Ortiz and FBI Boston Special Agent in Charge Rick DesLauriers revealed only a few details about the arrest.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports
DesLauriers said the FBI’s Los Angeles office received the tip Tuesday night and relayed it to the Boston office. It was reviewed and appeared credible.
On Thursday night, agents said the tip was generated thanks to a new publicity campaign targeting Greig. They acknowledge the tipster would be eligible for the $2 million reward being offered, but suggested that tipster had not yet come forward.
Agents began surveillance on the apartment complex at just after 4 p.m. (California time) on Wednesday and soon spotted Bulger and Greig. Using a ruse, they lured Bulger out of his apartment.
They arrested him without incident at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday and went into the apartment and arrested Greig, DesLauriers said.
Ortiz said Bulger and Grieg were using the aliases Charles and Carol Gasko.
“A variety of guns and a substantial amount of cash was found,” in the apartment, DesLauriers said, but he would not elaborate.
GUNS AND CASH IN APARTMENT
According to Bob Orr of CBS News, law enforcement sources said a search of Bulger’s apartment turned up nearly 30 guns, two shotguns and an assortment of handguns.
In addition a large stash of cash was recovered. An FBI source told CBS News that stash amounted to about $800,000.
The FBI confirmed on Thursday night that they also seized a number of fake IDs.
Authorities had minimal information about Bulger and Greig’s current appearances, offering that Bulger did have a beard. No mug shots or photographs were made available.
“We don’t have any photos that have come to us from Los Angeles, ” DesLauriers said.
They will be extradited to Boston, most likely in the next two days.
It’s still not clear how long Bulger and Greig were living in Santa Monica.
LIVED THERE FOR ‘SOME TIME’
“We have no reason to believe he has not been there for some degree of time,” DesLauriers said.
Sources told Orr that it appears that Bulger and Grieg had been living there for “some time” though the stockpile of cash in the apartment indicated that they were ready to move when necessary.
Sources told Orr that when Bulger was arrested outside the apartment, he did not resist but was “verbally combatitive.”
“He eventually settled down and has been speaking with authorities. It’s not clear that he has offered anything of substance,” Orr said.
He added that it seems that Bulger and Greig were living on their own with no obvious network of supporters, but that part of the investigation is continuing.
Authorities have not revealed the name of the tipster. There was a $2 million reward out for information leading to Bulger’s arrest and $100,000 for Greig.
Bulger lived on the third floor of The Princess Eugenia, a three-story, 28-unit building of one and two-bedroom apartments three blocks from a bluff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
WBZ-TV’s Sera Congi reports
BULGER SHOWED TEMPER
Neighbors said the couple did not stand out.
Barbara Gluck, who lived on the same floor as the couple, said she didn’t know their names but recognized them from photos on the Internet after their arrest.
She said they lived in the apartment for “a good couple of years.”
Gluck described Greig as “sweet and lovely” and said they would have “girl talk” when they ran into each other in the building.
Bulger became angry whenever he saw the two of them talking, and would say, “Stop talking to her,” Gluck said.
“He was nasty,” she added.
At one point, Greig said Bulger had a “rage issue,” the neighbor said.
Bulger and Grieg made an appearance in Los Angeles federal court Thursday.
He faces a series of federal charges including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, narcotics distribution, extortion and money laundering, while the 60-year-old Greig is charged with harboring a fugitive.
He was on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list for his alleged role in 19 murders.
By Thursday morning, the word “captured” was placed over his photo on the FBI’s web site.
Photos: Whitey Through The Years
Bulger was the leader of the Winter Hill Gang when he fled in January 1995 after being tipped by a former Boston FBI agent that he was about to be indicted. Bulger was a top-echelon FBI informant.
WBZ-TV’s Lisa Hughes on Bulger’s background
Over the years, the FBI battled a public perception that it had not tried very hard to find Bulger, who became a huge source of embarrassment for the agency after the extent of his crimes and the FBI’s role in overlooking them became public.
ON THE RUN
Prosecutors said he went on the run after being warned by John Connolly Jr., an FBI agent who had made Bulger an FBI informant 20 years earlier. Connolly was convicted of racketeering in May 2002 for protecting Bulger and his cohort, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, also an FBI informant.
Bulger provided the Boston FBI with information on his gang’s main rival, the New England Mob, in an era when bringing down the Mafia was one of the FBI’s top national priorities.
But the Boston FBI office was sharply criticized when the extent of Bulger’s alleged crimes and his cozy relationship with the FBI became public in the late 1990s.
He has been the subject of several books and was an inspiration for the 2006 Martin Scorsese film “The Departed.”
During his years on the run, the FBI received reported sightings of Bulger and Greig from all over the United States and parts of Europe. In many of those sightings, investigators could not confirm whether it was actually Bulger who was spotted or simply a lookalike.
But in September 2002, the FBI received the most reliable tip in three years when a British businessman who had met Bulger eight years earlier said he spotted Bulger on a London street.
After the sighting, the FBI’s multiagency violent fugitive task force in Boston and inspectors from New Scotland Yard scoured London hotels, Internet cafes and gyms in search of Bulger. The FBI also released an updated sketch, using the businessman’s description of Bulger as tan, white-haired and sporting a gray goatee.
Former FBI Agent John Gamel on Whitey’s arrest:
On Monday the FBI on announced a new publicity campaign and accompanying public service ad that asked people, particularly women, to be on the lookout for Greig. The 30-second ad started running Tuesday in 14 television markets to which Bulger may have had ties. It aired during programs popular with women roughly Greig’s age.
Hear from the LA Times reporter and UMass Amherst graduate Andrew Blankstein, who broke the story
The new campaign pointed out that Greig had several plastic surgeries before going on the lam and was known to frequent beauty salons.
Timeline: A Life Of Crime
Bulger, nicknamed “Whitey” for his shock of bright platinum hair, grew up in a gritty South Boston housing project, and went on to become Boston’s most notorious gangster. He led the violent Winter Hill Gang, a largely Irish mob that ran loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets in the Boston area.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports from Southie
After he fled, he became one of the nation’s most-hunted fugitives, charged in a number of murders that included the slayings of businessmen in Florida and Oklahoma. With a place next to Osama bin Laden on the “Ten Most Wanted” list, he had a $2 million reward on his head.
Bulger’s younger brother, William, was one of the most powerful politicians in the state, leading the Massachusetts Senate for 17 years and later serving as president of the University of Massachusetts for seven years.
He had no comment on the arrest Thursday.
For many years, William Bulger was able to avoid any tarnish from his brother’s alleged crimes. But in August 2003, William Bulger resigned his post as president of UMass amid pressure from Gov. Mitt Romney and Attorney General Thomas Reilly.
His resignation came two months after he testified about his brother before a congressional committee. William Bulger said he spoke to his brother shortly after he went on the run in 1995, but said he had not heard from him since and did not know where he was hiding out
The committee, in a draft report issued in 2003, blasted the FBI for its use of Bulger and other criminals as informants, calling it “one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement.”
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