Murdering Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, 89, who was on the lam for 16 years before he was captured while hiding in plain sight in Santa Monica, was found dead Tuesday in a federal prison in West Virginia.
While there was no official word of how he died, he may have been killed by a group of inmates after he was transferred to a maximum security lockup.
Federal authorities said Bulger was found dead at the maximum-security prison in Hazelton, West Virginia. He had been transferred to the prison on Monday from a federal lockup in Florida. It was unclear why he transferred to the West Virginia prison.
No details were immediately released about his death, but multiple media reports indicated his death was being investigated as a homicide, possibly carried out by a group of inmates shortly after Bulger arrived at the West Virginia prison.
He was serving a life prison sentence after being convicted of 11 killings in the Boston area.
Bulger was arrested June 22, 2011, at an apartment in the 1000 block of Third Street in Santa Monica, where he was living with his girlfriend, Catherine Greig. The arrest of one of the nation’s most notorious mob figures — who federal authorities said was linked to as many as 19 murders while also acting as an FBI informant — shocked the beach-side community.
As the head of South Boston’s “Winter Hill” crime gang, which specialized in drug sales, gambling and loan sharking, Bulger was long sought by federal authorities for his alleged role in 19 murders, along with extortion, racketeering, money laundering and other crimes from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, according to the FBI.
A tip to the FBI’s Boston bureau led agents to begin surveillance on Bulger in Santa Monica, where agents eventually used a ruse to lure him out of his apartment and arrest him. Greig was arrested inside the apartment, where authorities also found weapons and an estimated $800,000 in cash hidden in the walls.
Officials said Bulger was hiding in plain sight, regularly walking along the beach and in parks to stay in shape. The manager of the Santa Monica apartment complex where he was living told reporters the couple were ideal tenants and always paid the rent on time — in cash.
Bulger was the apparent inspiration for several books and the 2006 Academy Award-winning movie “The Departed,” which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson and was directed by Martin Scorsese. Nicholson played a mobster similar to Bulger.
Bulger’s story was also depicted in the film “Black Mass,” with Johnny Depp portraying the mobster.