Friday 22 September 2017

Mob boss Bulger 'did the dirty work himself', court told

Jon Swaine New York

A notorious Boston mob boss who "did the dirty work himself", killed 19 people and stole millions of dollars before spending 16 years as one of America's most wanted fugitives, a court heard.

James 'Whitey' Bulger, whose Winter Hill Gang "ran amok" in Boston for decades before his escape, appeared in the dock to deny extortion, racketeering and a string of murders.

"It's a case about organised crime, public corruption and all sorts of illegal activities," assistant US attorney Brian Kelly told the jury. "At the centre of all this murder and mayhem is one man – the defendant in this case, James Bulger."

The story of Mr Bulger, now 83, was the basis for Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning 2006 film 'The Departed' and runs deep through the folklore of working-class Boston, whose residents swore he would never be found.

He was caught in 2011 in a flat in Santa Monica, California, with Catherine Greig, his girlfriend. Posing as a married couple, the pair had 30 weapons and $800,000 (€600,000) in cash.

No longer sporting the shock of blond hair that earned him his nickname in the 1970s, a shaven-headed Mr Bulger sat in court wearing spectacles. The court heard that he climbed the ranks of the gang to lead a protection racket that spanned bookmakers, drug dealing, property and other businesses.

"And he was no ordinary leader, because he did the dirty work himself," Mr Kelly told court. "He was a hands-on killer."

A 700-page prosecution dossier argues that Bulger murdered or ordered the murders of 19 people over two decades, including two 26-year-old women he is accused of strangling.

The jury heard yesterday about Arthur "Bucky" Barrett, a safe-cracker alleged to have been killed after being tortured into disclosing the location of $40,000 (€30,000) stolen from a bank in 1980. After shooting Mr Barrett dead, Mr Bulger told associates: "Barrett is going downstairs to lie down a bit," prosecutors allege.

Mr Bulger was also allegedly working as an FBI informant, providing the agency with leads on the rival New England Mob.

Prosecutors say he fled Boston in 1994 after receiving a tip-off from John Connolly, his former FBI handler, that he was about to be arrested.

IMMUNITY

Connolly was later convicted and jailed. They plan to unveil testimony from former gangland colleagues of Bulger including Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi and John Martorano, a former hitman.

Bulger, who faces life in prison if convicted, has pleaded not guilty to all counts. He and his lawyers deny he was an FBI informant and say he was granted immunity for some crimes by a now-dead prosecutor.

Ms Greig (62) was last year sentenced to eight years in jail and fined $150,000 (€115,000) for assisting Mr Bulger.

The trial, at the US District Court in Boston, is expected to last four months. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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