Irish American mob boss Bulger (81) is arrested after 16 years on the run
James 'Whitey' Bulger, the notorious Boston Irish gangster on the FBI's '10 Most Wanted' list for his alleged role in 19 murders, has been captured near Los Angeles after living on the run for 16 years.
Bulger (81) was arrested along with his longtime girlfriend, 60-year-old Catherine Greig, in the early evening at a residence in Santa Monica.
The arrest was based on a tip from the recent publicity campaign that federal authorities had regenerated.
The two were arrested without incident, the FBI said. The FBI had been conducting a surveillance operation in the area where the arrest was made.
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. He was a top-echelon FBI informant.
He has been the subject of several books and was an inspiration for the 2006 Martin Scorsese film The Departed.
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.
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 priorities.
But the Boston FBI office was criticised when the extent of Bulger's alleged crimes and his cosy relationship with the FBI became public in the late 1990s.
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.
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.
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 campaign pointed out that Greig had several plastic surgeries before going on the run. The FBI was offering a $2m (e1.4m) reward for information leading to Bulger's arrest.
The pair were scheduled to make an appearance in Los Angeles federal court today. Bulger faces a series of federal charges including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, narcotics distribution, extortion and money laundering. Greig is charged with harbouring a fugitive.
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.
After he fled, he became one of America's most-hunted fugitives, charged in murders that included the slayings of businessmen in Florida and Oklahoma, and was next to Osama bin Laden on the '10 Most Wanted' list.