Mob Suspect 'Whitey' Bulger May Have Been Spotted in O.C.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The globe-trotting Godfather of South Boston--a storied gangster on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List on suspicion of racketeering, extortion and 20 unsolved slayings--may have been spotted in Orange County, the federal agency said Tuesday.

Officials would not say whether James "Whitey" Bulger, who once did time in Alcatraz for bank robbery, was actually seen in Orange County. However, a tipster called authorities after a woman believed to be Bulger's girlfriend, Catherine E. Greig, had her hair done at a Fountain Valley salon.

Bulger and Greig were featured on a Jan. 29 segment of "America's Most Wanted."

She is 49, petite with blue eyes, a dental hygienist by occupation--and a memorable hair client. Authorities say she visits a salon only once and brings her own hair dye with her. While she is inside the salon, a mysterious man--whom Greig identifies as her husband--typically waits outside in a car.

It was unclear Tuesday night exactly when Greig might have been seen and whether Bulger also was in Fountain Valley.

Bulger, now 70, was indicted five years ago with several other New England crime figures on racketeering and extortion charges. Bulger, known as Jimmy Blue Eyes, is accused of holding a knife to a mortgage broker's throat at a South Boston variety store to extort $50,000.

Six months ago, he was implicated in the deaths of as many as 20 people killed by a Mafia hit man and was placed on the Most Wanted List. The FBI is offering $250,000 for information that leads to Bulger's arrest.

Agents describe the aging reputed crime boss as a bookworm who has traveled extensively. Several years ago, he and Greig would spend an occasional month on Grand Isle, La., identifying themselves as "Tom and Helen from New York."

Residents of the resort island on the Gulf of Mexico would later say that Bulger was charming and generous, a grandfatherly type who wore a Bing Crosby-styled straw hat and bought prescription eyeglasses for neighborhood children. Residents said Bulger would often feed stray dogs biscuits that he stashed in the trunk of his Mercury Grand Marquis, and he reportedly wept once when a dying puppy was shot in the head to end its suffering.

According to his FBI profile, Bulger likes to visit historical landmarks and stays in shape by working out in health clubs and by taking long walks on the beach. Greig, who often goes by the name Helen, also has a soft spot for dogs, according to her profile.

For two decades, Bulger was reportedly the most powerful man in South Boston--head of one of the nation's most organized network of Irish mobsters. He allegedly controlled the area's loan-sharking, gambling and drug trades with the help of a well-known band of thugs called the Winter Hill Gang.

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