Whitey Bulger: Infamous Boston gangster killed in West Virginia jail aged 89

Boston mobster was serving life sentence after being convicted of a litany of crimes

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 30 October 2018 19:12 GMT
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Whitey Bulger: Infamous Boston gangster killed in West Virginia jail aged 89

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James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious gangster whose life and crimes in Boston became the focus of several major films, has died in jail.

The 89-year-old, who was the leader of South Boston’s Winter Hill Gang, ​was serving a life sentence after being convicted in 2013 of a litany of crimes, including participating in 11 murders. He was one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives for 16 years until his 2011 arrest in Santa Monica, California.

“At approximately 8.20am, inmate James Bulger was found unresponsive,” read a brief statement from the Bureau of Prisons. “Life-saving measures were initiated immediately by responding staff. Mr Bulger was subsequently pronounced dead by the Preston County medical examiner. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was notified and an investigation has been initiated.”

He had just been moved again to a prison in West Virginia, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons online inmate log on Tuesday listed Bulger as an inmate at USP Hazelton, a high-security prison with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp in Bruceton Mills.

Renowned Boston mobster, Whitey Bulger
Renowned Boston mobster, Whitey Bulger (AP)

Bulger had also recently been moved from a prison in Florida to a transfer facility in Oklahoma City.

The Bureau of Prisons officials and his attorney declined last week to comment on why he was being moved.

Bulger was an FBI informant who created a national embarrassment for the federal agency after several corrupted agents were reported to have accepted bribes and protected him during his stay in numerous prisons.

In a statement through a spokesperson, the US attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia said: “The FBI will be conducting an investigation into the death of James Bulger. No other information will be released at this time.”

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Recent films focusing on Bulger included the 2015 movie Black Mass starring Johnny Depp and the Martin Scorsese’s The Departed in 2006.

In October 2016, the US Supreme Court threw out an appeal of Bulger’s life sentence and racketeering convictions.

The details surrounding Bulger’s death were not immediately clear as of Tuesday afternoon. Numerous reports indicated the gangster was “killed” in prison. Three sources speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Boston Globe his death may have involved a fellow inmate with Mafia ties, who is currently being investigated for the alleged slaying.

Bulger led a largely Irish gang that ran loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets. As an FBI informant he provided information on the New England Mafia, his gang’s main rival, in an era when bringing down organised crime was a top national priority for the FBI.

The gangster fled Boston in late 1994 after his FBI handler, John Connolly Jr, warned him he was about to be indicted. With a $2m reward on his head, Bulger became one of the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” criminals, with a place just below Osama bin Laden.

After more than 16 years on the run, Bulger was captured in Santa Monica, California, where he had been living in an apartment near the beach with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.

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In 2013, he was convicted of 11 murders, as well as extortion, and money-laundering after a sensational racketeering trial that included graphic testimony from three former Bulger cohorts: a hit man, a protege and a partner.

Bulger, nicknamed “Whitey” for his bright platinum hair, grew up in a gritty South Boston housing project and became known as one of the most ruthless gangsters in Boston. His younger brother, William Bulger, became one of the most powerful politicians in Massachusetts, leading the state Senate for 17 years.

Additional reporting by AP

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