BOSTON Jurors in James “Whitey” Bulger’s racketeering trial on Thursday were shown machine guns and other weapons from a massive arsenal that investigators say he and his gang owned, as prosecutors attempted to show that Bulger ran a criminal enterprise through violence, intimidation and fear.
Retired state police Col. Thomas Foley identified weapons hidden in several locations during a 2000 investigation, including in a shed behind a South Boston home owned by the mother of Bulger’s partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi. When investigators searched the shed, they found just one handgun, but later, Flemmi’s son led them to a house in Somerville and a storage facility in Florida where the guns had been moved.
Foley slowly and methodically identified dozens of guns through photographs. But there was a dramatic moment when prosecutor Fred Wyshak pulled out six machine guns – one at a time – and asked Foley to identify them.
Foley said Bulger’s gang collected fees known as “rent” or “tribute” from bookmakers, drug dealers and others to allow them to operate within their territory.
“What were the consequences of not paying a fee?” Wyshak asked.
“Well, it could range from being put out of business to taking a beating, or actually at times, some people were killed,” Foley said.
Bulger, the former leader of the Winter Hill Gang, is charged with a long list of crimes in a 32-count racketeering indictment, including participating in 19 killings in the 1970s and `80s. He was one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives after he fled Boston in 1994.
Bulger, now 83, was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
Foley’s testimony came after another retired state police officer, Lt. Robert Long, identified Bulger on several surveillance videos from 1980. The videos showed Bulger meeting with members of his gang, as well as members of the Italian Mafia.
In opening statements to the jury Wednesday, prosecutor Brian Kelly said Bulger made millions through drugs, extortion and loan-sharking by instilling fear in drug dealers, bookies and others. Kelly said Bulger was a long-time FBI informant who provided information on the New England Mafia, his gang’s rivals.
Bulger’s lead attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., agreed with the prosecutor’s description of how Bulger made his money, but insisted he was never an FBI informant and denied that he killed two 26-year-old women he is accused of strangling.
During cross-examination, Foley acknowledged that none of the weapons were found in Bulger’s house and neither his fingerprints nor DNA were found on any of them.
But later, during questioning by Wyshak, Foley said “numerous” guns were found in Bulger’s Santa Monica apartment when he was arrested two years ago. After Bulger’s arrest, authorities said they found about $800,000 in cash and more than 30 guns in the apartment.
Bulger’s attorneys say Bulger corrupted FBI agents by paying them to tip him off to search warrants, bugs and indictment, but that he was never an informant.
Foley wrote a 2012 book about his investigations of Bulger entitled, “Most Wanted: Pursuing Whitey Bulger, the Murderous Mob Chief the FBI Secretly Protected.”
During cross-examination, Bulger attorney Hank Brennan aggressively questioned Foley about the extent of corruption within the FBI’s Boston office, and suggested that the protection of Bulger extended to the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston. Brennan repeatedly asked Foley if he had raised “issues” with the prosecutor’s office.
“It was actually how they were handling the FBI’s informant program, meaning particularly how they were dealing with Bulger and Flemmi while we were trying to investigate them,” Foley said, in response to a question from Wyshak.
Testimony is scheduled to resume Friday.