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24 June 2011 :: 10:06:23 am 55401

US crime boss faces trial after 16-year manhunt

LOS ANGELES, June 24, 2011 (AFP) - A judge ordered notorious mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger sent back to Boston Thursday to face trial over a string of crimes, after his arrest in California ended a 16-year international manhunt.
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The 81-year-old Irish American, who is charged with 19 murders in the 1970s and 80s and inspired a Hollywood movie, was detained late Wednesday in Santa Monica where he lived under a pseudonym with his long-term girlfriend.

“He was ordered by the court to be transferred to Boston… to face two federal indictments” with immediate effect, deputy US attorney Robert Dugdale told reporters after a six-minute court hearing.

Bulger, one time head of the so-called “Winter Hill” gang in Boston, fled shortly before being indicted in January 1995. He was spotted in London in 2002 and in California in 2000 and 2005, but had evaded arrest.

After he fled, it emerged that he had been a long-time FBI informant, fueling suspicion about the agency’s fruitless efforts to find the fugitive, according to the Boston Globe newspaper.

Bulger was the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Departed,” the gritty 2006 crime film directed by Martin Scorsese and also starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.

Bulger and his girlfriend Catherine Greig, 60, who were arrested Wednesday in an apartment in Santa Monica a couple of blocks from the Pacific ocean, where they had lived for years under the pseudonyms Charles and Carol Gasko.

They confirmed their real identities at Thursday’s hearing in downtown Los Angeles, and did not apply for bail.

“Today marks the moment when James ‘Whitey’ Bulger will finally face justice,” said US Attorney Carmen Ortiz in Boston, where Bulger allegedly committed a string of crimes in the 1970s and 80s.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said a publicity campaign launched only a few days ago had generated the tip that led agents to arrest Bulger and Greig “without incident.”

The head of the FBI in Boston, Special Agent Richard Deslauriers, said “a variety of weapons, guns, and a very substantial amount of cash” were found in the apartment where the pair was detained in Santa Monica.

Their hideout was only yards away from a popular shopping street, the Third Street Promenade, and neighbors said they had no suspicions.

“I couldn’t believe it when I discovered that was my neighbor. I didn’t really know them… Occasionally he expressed some rage and showed impatient behavior in the lobby,” neighbor Barbara Gluck told AFP.

“I think they have lived here for about 10 years, but I’m not sure,” added Gluck, who has lived for 15 years in the building, near Bulger and his girlfriend on the third floor.

The FBI began airing public service announcements on Tuesday that were focused on Greig — a former dental hygienist said to frequent beauty salons — whom law enforcement agents believed would lead them to Bulger.

It had offered a $100,000 reward for information on her whereabouts and a $2 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Bulger — the largest reward the FBI has ever offered for a Top Ten domestic fugitive.

Bulger had used a number of aliases during years on the run, the FBI said before the arrest, adding that he “has a violent temper and is known to carry a knife at all times.”

International police body Interpol praised the arrest, saying it showed nobody could evade justice forever.

US Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek said Bulger and his girlfriend would be transferred to Boston imminently. “I dont know when they’re gonna get there. It’s not gonna be today obviously,” he told AFP.

“It’s gonna be some time in the near future,” he added.

Photo : AFP

Category : World News

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