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Bulger's 16 Year Evasion

Bulger's 16 Year Evasion

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Published by Martha Bebinger

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Published by: Martha Bebinger on Jun 25, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Mobster's run almost textbook case of evasionBy GILLIAN FLACCUS and CHRISTINA HOAGSANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) - Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulgerdid almost everything right in evading capture for 16 years.The notorious mobster's run from the law was remarkable for itslongevity, which was due mainly to the unremarkable new identity he builtfor himself while on the lam.He adopted an unassuming lifestyle, paid for everything with cash, didn'tdrive a car, limited his social contact to small talk and adhered to the codeof silence from the mob life he left behind. When federal agents trackedhim to his lair this week, it was only after targeting the one part of his pastthat Bulger didn't leave behind - his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.By all accounts, the two did little to ever arouse suspicion, posing as tworetirees holed up in a bland white 1970s apartment complex in SantaMonica amid other buildings of the same era.Although Bulger - who fled Boston in 1995 after a retired FBI agent whohad recruited him as an informant tipped him to a pending indictment -was believed to have millions of dollars stashed in secret accounts, andinvestigators found $800,000 hidden in the apartment, the couple didn'tlive lavishly. They paid $1,145 cash several days in advance each month fora rent-controlled unit, while newer neighbors paid more than twice asmuch. Greig shopped at a 99-cent store.Occasionally, they splurged, even while remaining discreet.Andrew Turner, the general manager of Michael's, recognized pictures of the fugitives this week as the couple who dined occasionally at table No. 23at the upscale institution. He had a record of them paying their $190 tab incash for a meal that included Grey Goose vodka cocktails, foie gras, steakand lobster, topped off by wine, in September 2009 - the month Bulgerturned 80. The couple kept to themselves and were unassuming, Turner
recalled."This guy was just nice, mild and meek, milquetoast in a little apartmentin Santa Monica," said Bill Keefer, a retired U.S. marshal who supervisedthe witness protection program in Los Angeles, Hawaii and Long Island,N.Y. "This guy should have been a supervisor with the marshal's witnessprotection program. He did an outstanding job, the louse."Bulger, now 81, has been linked to 19 murders, including the strangling of an associate's girlfriend who knew he was a snitch and the murder of aman shot so many times his leg was almost severed from his body.His flight in 1995 was big news at the time. In addition to Bulger'sindictment for racketeering along with other major mob figures, questionswere raised about his ability to always be one step ahead of the law andbecause his brother, state Senate president William Bulger, was one of Massachusetts' most powerful politicians.His fugitive status only grew when the FBI was forced to acknowledge incourt two years later what had been long-whispered in law enforcement:the Boston FBI bureau had a corrupt relationship with its informants. Anassociate testified in 2002 that Bulger boasted that he had corrupted sixFBI agents and more than 20 Boston cops, keeping them loyal withChristmas envelopes stuffed with cash.Between the time of his flight and settling on the West Coast, Bulger hadabout two years to reinvent himself.In the fall of 1995, the couple checked into a hotel as "Mr. and Mrs. TomBaxter," according to an FBI affidavit unsealed this week. They spent timeon New York's Long Island and lived six weeks in a two-bedroomapartment in the fishing village of Grand Isle, La., in 1996.It's not clear how far they roamed, but their travels ended in this sun-splashed beach city about 15 years ago when they moved into unit 303 of the Princess Eugenia apartments as Charles and Carol Gasko.As they reinvented themselves, Bulger and Greig stuck to a low-key
lifestyle that didn't invite attention. They didn't appear to have visitors,never spoke of family and limited conversations to superficial chit chat.Neighbors said they stuck close to home, walking to the nearby ThirdStreet Promenade, the city's outdoor mall, or strolling along the PalisadesPark, a ribbon of grass and trees that runs along a bluff overlooking thePacific Ocean a few blocks from home.Greig was the more outgoing of the two while Bulger was sometimescranky and reclusive. Barbara Gluck, a tenant down the hall, describedGreig as sweet and lovely. They would chat pleasantly until Bulger barkedat Greig to stop talking with her."It was like she was hanging on to a time-bomb," Gluck said. "At onepoint, she said, `He has a rage issue."'Others said the couple went out of their way to ingratiate themselves whilealso maintaining a distance.Bulger, once known for kind acts in South Boston that were in sharpcontrast to the viciousness of his alleged crimes, helped a young mothercarry grocery bags to her apartment and offered a flashlight to a buildingemployee at night. The couple sent a sympathy card when a propertymanager's father died. They left gifts of fruit for an elderly resident. Greigbefriended dog owners on the street."They were good neighbors," said Catalina Schlank, 88. "I will missthem."Bulger's wealth helped him maintain independence from family or formercriminal allies who might have given away his location, said retired FBIagent Scott Bakken, who worked the Bulger case for a short time in 2002.With a $2 million bounty on his head, Bulger had little incentive to touchbase with anyone in his old South Boston neighborhood, particularly afterit became clear he had broken the code of silence and ratted on rivals andallies alike.

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