Legendary Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, who has been on the run for more than 15 years, was arrested Wednesday in Santa Monica, multiple law enforcement sources told The Times.
Bulger, 81, fled Boston in late 1994 as federal agents were about to arrest him in connection with at least 19 killings, racketeering and other crimes that spanned the early 1970s to the mid-1980s. He headed an organized crime group that allegedly controlled extortion, drug deals and other illegal activities in the Boston area.
His companion, Catherine Elizabeth Greig, 60, was also arrested.
The FBI initially declined to confirm Bulger’s arrest when contacted by The Times but later issued a statement saying he and Greig were in custody and scheduled to appear Thursday in federal court in downtown Los Angeles. Bulger had been on the FBI’s 10 most wanted fugitive list, and the agency had offered a $2-million reward for his arrest.
FBI agents took the two into custody without incident at a home after authorities received a tip, according to the sources, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the matter. Other details surrounding his arrest were unclear Wednesday night.
The arrests came as the FBI launched a media campaign in 14 cities to help determine Bulger’s whereabouts. Los Angeles was not one of the cities.
Bulger was believed to have been traveling with Greig for the last several years, according to the FBI. Petite with blue eyes, Greig was a dental hygienist by occupation. Authorities say she dyed her hair to disguise her appearance. The media campaign was aimed at women in their 60s, the same demographic as Greig, in hopes of developing leads.
Authorities said Bulger initially fled after being tipped by John Connolly Jr., an FBI agent who used Bulger as an informant. Connolly was convicted of racketeering in May 2002 for protecting Bulger and another reputed crime boss and FBI informant, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi.
Bulger was the subject of several books and helped inspire “The Departed,” the 2006 Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson, who played a Bulger-like character.
In 2000, an unconfirmed sighting of Bulger was reported in Orange County. A man told authorities he believed he saw Bulger outside a Fountain Valley hair salon where a woman who may been Greig was having her hair done.
The last credible sighting of him was in London in 2002, the FBI said. He was believed to have altered his appearance and traveled extensively through Europe, Mexico, Canada and the United States.