BOSTON — Fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger will return Boston soon. He and his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig waived their rights to a removal hearing during their appearance in federal court in Los Angeles Thursday.
During the brief court appearance, Bulger waived his right to a hearing and agreed to return to Massachusetts to face a long list of charges, according to Robert Dugdale, who is with the California U.S. Attorney’s office.
“He has waived all those processes to which he is entitled to in federal court in Los Angeles, and he was ordered by the court to be transferred to Boston forthwith to face the two federal indictments waiting for him there,” Dugdale.
The 81-year-old Bulger did not at all resemble the simulated law enforcement images that have been circulating since he fled Boston in 1995, after the FBI tipped him off about one of those indictments. Now Bulger is balding, wears wire-rimmed glasses and has a full white beard. Dugdale described Bulger as being relaxed during Thursday’s proceedings — smiling at onlookers and telling the magistrate that yes, he understands the charges against him.
“He appeared to be calm, collected and he said in a very matter-of-fact way that he was familiar with the charges against him, intimately familiar with them,” Dugdale said.
Each indictment is more than 100 pages long, containing what Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said are a variety of charges outlining crimes Bulger allegedly committed while simultaneously working as South Boston’s mob boss and an FBI informant.
“James ‘Whitey’ Bulger will finally face justice for a number of his crimes, including extortion, money laundering, RICO conspiracy [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations] and RICO murders related to 19 individuals. Whitey Bulger will face life in prison if he is convicted of these crimes,” Ortiz said.
The FBI found Bulger, the man in their “Ten Most Wanted” list, when someone called them with a tip just days after the bureau started airing TV ads in 14 cities across the country this week, looking for Bulger’s longtime girlfriend Greig.
The ads targeted daytime TV shows in the hopes that women Greig’s age would be watching and may have noticed her in places she used to frequent, such as beauty salons or shops. Boston FBI Special Agent Richard Deslauriers wouldn’t say exactly where the tip came from, but he said FBI agents lured Bulger out of his modest Santa Monica apartment with a ruse (which DesLauriers declined to explain) and then arrested him and Greig without incident. He also described what agents found in their apartment.
“I think the best way to characterize it would be to say a variety of guns and a substantial amount of cash,” Deslauriers said.
Reports suggest that authorities found some $800,000 in cash and dozens of weapons, including a .357 Magnum, in the rent-controlled apartment where Bulger and Greig lived together — apparently for the past 15 years. Ortiz said an investigation into other possible harboring charges continues to determine how Bulger and Greig were able to live under the assumed names of Charles and Carol Gasko for all this time with no discernible income.
“We will be pursuing a harboring charge and investigating whether there was any assistance — who provided assistance. Whether we have any specific suspects or targets in mind, we do not, but that is an open investigation,” Ortiz said.
While Bulger’s capture is the end of a long search, it could create more scandal here in Massachusetts. Retired Massachusetts State Police Col. Tom Foley, who investigated him for decades, hopes Bulger will cooperate with authorities.
“I think there’s a lot of questions out there he can answer. There’s an opportunity for us to clean house once and for all. I’m hoping that he can come in and finally start pointing some fingers at some people who need to be held accountable here,” Foley said.
Although his crimes do not carry the death penalty in Massachusetts, that’s not the case in two other states where Bulger is charged with murder. In Oklahoma, authorities say they plan to coordinate Bulger’s prosecution. But Florida officials say they will press to have him face a jury in Miami. As for Greig, right now, she faces a maximum of five years in prison on charges of harboring Bulger.