James 'Whitey' Bulger's capture could cause a world of trouble inside the FBI.
The ruthless Boston crime boss who spent 16 years in hiding is said to have boasted that he corrupted six FBI agents and more than 20 police officers. If he decides to talk, some of them could rue the day he was caught.
"They are holding their breath, wondering what he could say," said Robert Fitzpatrick, the former second-in-command of the Boston FBI office.
The 81-year-old gangster was captured on Wednesday in Santa Monica, California, where he apparently had been living for most of the time he was a fugitive.
He appeared yesterday afternoon inside a heavily guarded courthouse in Boston to answer for his role in 19 murders.
Bulger looked tanned and fit and walked with a slight hunch at back-to-back hearings on two indictments.
He asked that a public defender be appointed to represent him, but the government objected, citing the $800,000 (f560,000) seized from his Southern California apartment and his "family resources".
Bulger, the former boss of the Winter Hill Gang, Boston's Irish mob, embroiled the FBI in scandal after he disappeared in 1995.
It turned out that Bulger had been an FBI informant for two decades, feeding the bureau information on the rival New England Mafia, and that he fled after retired Boston FBI agent John Connolly Jr tipped him off that he was about to be indicted.
Connolly Jr, was sent to prison for protecting Bulger. The FBI depicted Connolly as a rogue agent, but Bulger associates described more widespread corruption in testimony at Connolly's trial and in lawsuits filed by the families of people allegedly killed by Bulger and his gang. At the second hearing, Bulger took a swipe at prosecutors after Judge Marianne Bowler asked him if he could afford to pay for an attorney.
"Well, I could, if they would give me my money back," he replied in his unmistakable Boston accent, prompting laughter in the courtroom.
Prosecutors asked that Bulger be held without bail as he may try to threaten witnesses or flee.
Catherine Greig, Bulger's girlfriend who was arrested with him, told court officials Bulger's brother may be willing to assist him in posting bail.
When Bulger walked into the courtroom, he saw his brother William, the former powerful leader of the state Senate, seated in the second row. Whitey Bulger smiled at him and mouthed, "Hi." His brother smiled back.
Greig appeared in court a few minutes later on charges of harbouring a fugitive.
Kevin Weeks, Bulger's right-hand man, said the crime lord stuffed envelopes with cash for law enforcement officers at holiday time. "He used to say that Christmas was for cops and kids," Weeks testified.
After a series of hearings in the late 1990s, it was found that more than a dozen FBI agents had broken the law.
Among them was Connolly's former supervisor, John Morris, who admitted he took about $7,000 in bribes and a case of expensive wine from Bulger and henchman Stephen 'The Rifleman' Flemmi. Morris testified under a grant of immunity.
Edward J MacKenzie Jr, a former drug dealer and enforcer for Bulger, predicted that Bulger will disclose new details about FBI corruption.
"Whitey was no fool. He knew he would get caught. I think he'll have more fun pulling all those skeletons out of the closet," MacKenzie said. "I think he'll start talking and he'll start taking people down."
Some law enforcement officials said they doubt Bulger will try to cut a deal with prosecutors by exposing corruption, in part because he will almost certainly be asked to reveal if his brothers helped him while he was a fugitive.
A further hearing was scheduled for Tuesday. Bulger did not enter a plea.