printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

FBI Update on Top Ten Fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger

FPC Briefing
Richard Teahan
FBI Supervisory Special Agent
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
February 10, 2009


 

Date: 02/10/2009 Location: Washington D.C. Description: FBI Supervisory Special Agent Richard Teahan, Briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Center on "Update on Top Ten Fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger" State Dept Photo

2:00 P.M. EST

Video

MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today we have a briefing by FBI Supervisor Special Agent Richard Teahan, who will speak about an update on the top ten fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger.

Agent.

MR. TEAHAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I appreciate the opportunity to address the Foreign Press Center today. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak and provide, you know, what we determine to be a global perspective for James J. Bulger.

I’d like to spend, you know, roughly about 30 minutes giving you kind of a synopsis of the case, an update of the case and why it is so important, as well as the impact on, you know, the city of Boston from our perspective, from the FBI perspective, and the Bulger task force perspective.

Just briefly, we have a dedicated task force solely to look for James Bulger. Its mission is to locate and apprehend Bulger, and as well as seeking anyone who harbors, aids, or abets his continuing to be a fugitive. As you’ll see, we’ve got two FBI agents, two Massachusetts Department of Corrections officers, two Massachusetts State Police, and two analysts. It really goes to show the collaboration that we have, the interagency cooperation that we have in the Boston office to address this violent fugitive.

Why a task force? You know, really to explain it properly is to explain Bulger’s leadership of the Winter Hill organization, also known as the Bulger crew. It’s a criminal enterprise that completely took over and controlled and operated the criminal elements in the city of Boston. They infiltrated businesses, state government, and law enforcement, which I’ll get into shortly.

They left their wake of destruction to include drug trafficking operations in the community that they deemed, you know, to be home to them, distribution of narcotics, as well as allegations and information concerning the molestation of young girls in the community, directly by James J. Bulger. He is a predator in every sense of the word, and again, as I’ve mentioned, took advantage of the very community that he was – that he was from.

The enterprise left a serious scar on the city, which has resulted in, you know, truly fear of people coming forward and providing information concerning Bulger. Bulger remains a fugitive, has been a fugitive for 13, 14 years now. And it’s that fear of providing information, as well as, you know, distrust of law enforcement as a result of Bulger’s infiltration of state government, local police officers, state police officers, and the FBI.

Just briefly, these are some photos that you’ll find on the website, but these are known photos of Bulger. There’s one that’s been retouched, but those are known photographs on file of James Bulger.

With this case, you know, there was a $1 million reward for his capture. There is now a $2 million reward. It was increased in September of 2008. It shows the FBI’s commitment to catch Bulger. It shows our commitment to seek information concerning his arrest and/or capture. And again, this is the largest reward ever offered for a domestic U.S. fugitive. And again, it shows our commitment, the FBI commitment, to apprehending this individual.

Again, known photographs of Bulger. A 1953 photo showing an arrest by Boston police, and then the photo that I showed you previously concerning an aged photo at 60 years of age. Again, known photographs -- and actually, that should be updated to 80 years of age, but that is an enhanced photo of Bulger. There are numerous enhanced photos of Bulger on the website that you can find, which will show different depictions of him age-progressed.

What is Bulger wanted for? As you see, 19 counts of RICO murder, Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization statute, which was passed by Congress in the ‘70s. And it really targeted La Cosa Nostra, but it is a statute that is used with criminal enterprises, and this is no exception here. You’ll see by all the predicate acts underneath that what Bulger is charged with: narcotics, extortion, money laundering, conspiracy to commit murder, and a range of other conspiracy charges.

Just quickly, those are – these are our – the Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitive poster. And the other poster is known as an identification order, which is posted, you know, domestically and internationally. It provides information concerning Bulger, his fingerprints, and also Catherine Greig – who I’ll get into in a minute – who is his traveling companion.

Just quickly regarding his childhood, born and raised in the project of South Boston, Massachusetts. It’s a very insular community, part of Boston, and is – was and is really known to be predominantly Irish Catholic immigrants. Bulger’s parents were from Ireland. And Bulger’s brothers and sisters, one, including William Bulger, who is – who was the president of the Massachusetts Senate, a very influential political figure in Boston and also the president of the University of Massachusetts, and resigned under pressure due to James J. Bulger’s fugitive status.

Bulger’s other brother is John Bulger, also known as Jack Bulger. He was in a state position as Suffolk County Juvenile Court clerk, and he was charged with obstruction and perjury as a direct result of aiding James J. Bulger in remaining – being a fugitive. And also two sisters.

Just, you know, quickly showing the reach of the Bulger family, this is a picture that depicts William Bulger, his wife, and Gerry Adams, who’s the leader of the Sinn Fein. And that is at Bulger’s house and that is a photo that was published by Bulger himself in his – in the book that he wrote.

These are just some of the murals that are located in Boston. It shows – and it really – you know, it shows the connection to the Irish community and shows, you know, really that there was a group at one time that were IRA sympathizers. There continues to be support for that in the South Boston community.

Just another mural showing the connection to the Irish community. And this is a depiction of a true name passport. It’s an Irish passport under Bulger’s true name. He maintained that passport for a time, you know, until he fled.

Quickly regarding his childhood, he was involved with juvenile acts early on, affiliated with the Shamrocks, an Irish street gang, actively involved at an early age with serious crimes, as you see there: robbery, theft, rape, and assault.

Events leading to his incarceration was a series of bank robberies that Bulger committed across the nation, ultimately leading to his capture, and spent, you know, a lot of time in Atlanta Penitentiary, and specifically Alcatraz, and then was released at age 34 in 1963.

Upon his release, he became associated with an individual by the name of Stephen Flemmi, who was directly involved with La Cosa Nostra in Boston, enforcer and associate of LCN. Basically, during this time period, at Winter Hill and the LCN took complete control of Boston, all the criminal activities, and controlled everything: gambling, drug trafficking, loan sharking, extortion, murder, you name it. They did become the two most powerful criminal enterprises in New England. Bulger profited from that, as well as Flemmi and other associates of Winter Hill.

Just quickly, into Bulger’s – you know, it’s – there’s public knowledge that Bulger was a top-echelon informant for the FBI. His handler was John Connelly. Connelly handled Bulger from 1975 to 1990, and also operated Stephen Flemmi in the same capacity. Ultimately, John Connelly was prosecuted in 2002 for obstruction and conspiracy in regard to his handling of Bulger. As I mentioned earlier, it goes to the infiltration that the Bulger criminal enterprise operated in Boston, to include a state police trooper, to include a Boston police officer, and others.

This is a photograph depicting Bulger and his number two man, an individual by name of Kevin Weeks, who ultimately cooperated with the United States Government, entered into agreements to provide information concerning murders that occurred. And Kevin Weeks served approximately five years in jail.

This was – this is an establishment known as the Rotary Variety. It’s located in South Boston, Massachusetts. It was Bulger’s base of operations at the time. This is where he operated most of his criminal enterprise, amongst other locations, but this was his base of operations.

Just some notes regarding Kevin Weeks. Kevin Weeks remains a government witness. And again, as I mentioned, he did serve five years in jail for providing information concerning the criminal enterprise.

These are just known photographs of Bulger, and I’ll get into it in a short time. Bulger was an avid animal lover, as you see by some of those photos.

Quickly, as I mentioned, the corruption – I mentioned, you know, fears and favors and loyalty to, you know, family members and South Boston being a close-knit community, not a lot of cooperation because of fear and loyalty. There was also, you know, family relationships that were of concern, both, you know, the criminal element and, you know, police, victims, and witnesses that were involved, intimidated and, you know, truly fearful for their lives.

As I mentioned earlier, you know, the infiltration into law enforcement – FBI agent supervisor, you know, Massachusetts State Police, Boston police, clerk of courts Jack Bulger, and others that, you know, we have yet to find that, you know, we believe are harboring Bulger’s fugitive status.

Just quickly regarding Bulger’s flight, Bulger fled in January of 1995. He spent some time in – and I’m not sure you can see those, but New York, Louisiana, Florida, Wyoming, Mississippi, Chicago in 1996, Oklahoma for a short time, Alabama, California. And most of those locations were, you know, via driving a vehicle across the United States. And as well as international travel, and I will get into that.

During this time – well, actually, prior to his flight, he traveled extensively in true name, held a true name passport and traveled frequently to France, frequently to Ireland, frequently to the United Kingdom, and also Spain.

But upon his flight, this is where he was – this is where we believe he was domestically. Just a quick note on Catherine Greig. We believe that Catherine Greig is currently traveling with him. She was charged with harboring a federal fugitive, and there is an active warrant for her arrest currently. We believe that she is still traveling with him, and I’ll get into her characteristics as we proceed here.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. TEAHAN: His girlfriend, sir.

Her background, quickly, is she’s a – she was born and raised in South Boston, lived in a place called Quincy, Massachusetts for a time. She has an affection for animals, very vain about her appearance, had had plastic surgery prior to flight. And she has a twin sister living in the Boston area currently. And again, she has – the aliases that you see are aliases that she has used in the past.

Regarding his international travel and regarding his, you know, modus operandi, as we call it, this slide, you know, shows Bulger’s extensive ability to hide money and to, you know, not so much buy assets as to plan for a life on the run, had, you know, multiple options available to him, but in essence, he would hide money in locations all over the world, some of which we have yet to find. As I’ll show you here, these are accounts that we’ve found, but there are numerous other accounts that we believe that we have not found.

This is a bank account in Montreal, Canada. I should note that Bulger conducted a lot of travel to Canada, was a Montreal Canadiens fan and traveled there extensively, also, as you see, was, you know, locating money there.

Barclays Bank in London – we conducted an investigation which found that account and a safe deposit box in true name, but a significant amount of money in those accounts which were uncovered by us, again, under true name.

Just quickly regarding Barclays Bank again, Bulger enjoyed staying at the Meridian Hotel in Piccadilly Circus. That’s how we uncovered that he was staying there was that receipt. You see U.S. – you know, the $75,000 in that account and numerous collectible coins. He was an avid coin collector and most likely used those coins as a way of converting money into foreign currency to – in order to facilitate his flight.

Bank of Ireland – you know, regarding that account, you’ll see by the types of currency that he had in that account that he was very skilled at converting currency, holding various forms of currency that he would operate and move to different accounts. And again, collectible coins.

With the accounts in mind and with his ability to secret money in locations all over the world, you know, it shows his preparation, it shows his discipline in preparing that eventually he would have to become a fugitive. He obtained a driver’s license under the name of Tom Baxter in New York in the 1970s, held that identification until we uncovered it in the late 1990s. You know, he – every residence that he would – that he would manipulate and/or come to know, you know, various people and would utilize their residences, he would establish safes in those residences. And contained in those safes would be identity documents, money, passports, driver’s licenses, things of that nature.

So the point really being is that he prepared for life on the run. He knew exactly where to hide money and how to hide it.

Regarding the fugitive investigation, you know, we’ve focused on – we focused on the associates of Bulger. You know, are there people in Boston that aided and abetted and still harbor Bulger? That’s part of our mission. That’s what we look for. Is there anybody in the Boston area or anywhere that has – that has been manipulated by Bulger in order for him to remain a fugitive? We try to analyze, you know, patterns of communication. By that, I mean, you know, who do we think is communicating with Bulger? You know, are there family members communicating with him? Is it friends? Is it – is it people that we don’t know about across the United States and internationally that, you know, are continuing to aid and abet him? We look at trying to uncover his alias – his aliases which we have yet to find, and also look at finance, and also, you know, compelling people to testify, you know, who are harboring him.

International cooperation – at this point, I would tell you that the focus of the case has become international. We’ve received great cooperation from Department of State. We received great cooperation from the legal attaches who are FBI agents stationed at every embassy all over the world. Through them, because we have no investigative authority overseas, we work with our foreign partners, our foreign law enforcement partners, in order to – in order to obtain investigative results regarding sightings, regarding telephone tips that we receive, lookalike sightings that we receive regarding Bulger. So in essence, you know, our international cooperation is wide in scope, and along with the investigative side of it, we look to publicize the Bulger case worldwide in order to, in essence, make his world smaller for him.

We look at financial institutions. Bulger utilized large banking institutions and frequently would reside close by those institutions in order to access them, as he did in London. He resided within close proximity to the banking institutions that he held accounts in.

Provisional arrest warrants – these are locations that we have – that we have worked through our – you know, through our foreign partners and through countries where we’ve had significant leads for Bulger. Mexico, for example; a great example of a really strong lead that we had in Mexico was we had a lead come in on an individual and his wife who were residing in the – in or near Guadalajara, Mexico. They – she would frequent a dental clinic, which goes part and parcel with her MO. He was – spoke with a Boston accent, looked like Bulger, a close description of Bulger. And we actually traveled to Mexico, worked with Mexican law enforcement and the legal attache’s office, and we actually knocked on the door of this individual and resolved that lead upon interview. And I’m here to tell you it looked a lot like Bulger,

So the example – or the point being is that we receive a lot of lookalike sightings, which we have to resolve all of them. And we receive them worldwide, so all of these places that you see here – Mexico, the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Thailand, Spain, Canada, Australia, Brazil, France – we’ve all received multiple leads from those countries, both lookalike sightings – we’ve had, you know, email tips, telephone tips. It runs the gamut.

Our media campaign – our media campaign is not new, but I think we’re seeking a global perspective, as I mentioned at the outset. I’d like to just talk quickly on a sighting that we had in Sicily in 2007. We developed that through an individual who called in and provided information and provided some footage, photographs that these – that this couple was in Sicily. We took a look at those photographs. They looked – it was a real strong sighting.

So we conducted an investigation with our Italian counterparts. We could not identify those people. So after about three months, we went on a global publicity blitz targeting Europe. And so we started out in Italy. We went on a television show that was geared toward missing persons, fugitives, and, you know, obtained, I don’t know, well over a hundred leads regarding that sighting. Next, we went from Italy, we went to the United Kingdom. We went on the BBC, on CNN. We went on all the local media there as well as American – America’s Most Wanted, developed numerous leads regarding, again, that sighting.

We had a team go to Spain, conduct the same operation there. And ultimately, we wound up in Germany in February of 2008, which we appeared on the German equivalent to America’s Most Wanted. At that time, after that show aired, we received 40 to 50 leads. One of those leads was the son of a couple who called in and advised that that was his parents that was in Sicily during that time period. They provided interviews and corroborated that that was, in fact, the couple.

So our publicity campaign worked. Inside of six months, we identified those two people. And truly, I don’t – if we didn’t do that, I don’t think we would have them identified to date. It was truly an outstanding operation. And again, working with the media – you all – we resolved that lead inside of six months. Tremendous.

Our objective really is to enhance the publicity regarding the case. You know, we could speak on Bulger in Boston and the vicinity of Boston, but our mission and our project is to push this case worldwide and to provide a – you know, a summary of the case and truly reach out to our media counterparts worldwide and make this case go global. We conduct a local and a national media campaign, America’s Most Wanted, our local media contacts, but global publicity is what’s going to lead us in the right direction on capturing Bulger.

Quickly, I’ll get into just, really, some of his behavior patterns. You know, based on these behavior patterns, we’ve received multiple leads worldwide regarding this. We would get calls regarding, you know, Bulger being in a gym because he’s a fitness buff. We would receive leads regarding libraries, museums, of Bulger sightings, again, worldwide. Just of note there, he’s – he was proud to have served time in Alcatraz, but has vowed that he will never, ever go back to prison. Frequenting historic landmarks and museums, and as I mentioned earlier, the rare coins, stamps, tokens of all kinds. Just some more, you know, characteristics of Bulger – a real avid animal lover, liked sailing.

Just quickly regarding his age and possible medication, at the time, we knew he was taking antenalol, but that could have changed over the years. You know, he is 80 years old probably frequenting, you know, healthcare facilities in whatever country that he may be residing or town that he may be residing. So, you know, that would probably play in more as time goes by here, is what facilities is he utilizing for healthcare. And again, just a loyal IRA supporter and very proud of his Irish heritage.

Just of note on this slide is the – as I mentioned, the love of travel, the disguising, and this is based off witnesses as he would utilize disguises in and around Boston prior to flight. And it was really of his own initiative in order to fool people and to also, you know, conduct criminal activity. Of note there, a yellowed – a discolored yellow tooth in the upper middle row of his teeth. Could that have changed over time? It’s quite possible.

And again, all of these characteristics are based off, you know, interviews of known associates of Bulger, family members, friends, you know, and people that he has manipulated who didn’t realize who he was, and again, as I mentioned, the proximity to the large financial institutions where he would reside.

Catherine Greig – extremely vain, as I mentioned, animal lover, you know, very – known to frequent, you know, beaches and long walks with Bulger, and was – and is compulsive about her teeth.

And that concludes the presentation. I will take questions and I will also – I’d just like to, you know, thank everybody, thank the Foreign Press Center for allowing me to speak here today.

MODERATOR: If you have questions, just wait for the microphone, identify your name and media affiliation, please.

QUESTION: Excuse me, thank you. Arshad Mahmud, correspondent for BDNews 24 in Bangladesh. Could you please give us some idea of how much money you have spent so far on tracking this man? He’s 80 years old, and what is the purpose now, you know, keep on spending money on this man? How harmful he is to the society, even at this age? And why his brother, who was the president of the Massachusetts university was pressured to resign? Did he have any link with this guy?

MR. TEAHAN: Well, let me answer the first part of your question first. I can’t tell you with any kind of – we don’t track what we spend on the Bulger case. We have a dedicated task force, you know, as I mentioned, of a variety of agencies dedicated to locating and apprehending him.

He is charged with 19 counts of murder. He ran a violent criminal enterprise in Boston, manipulated his own community, terrorized his own community, took advantage of young girls, extorted, committed violent acts in the very city that he came from. So really, you know, we just – we just don’t track the amounts of money that we spend on – I will just tell you that the FBI is committed to looking for this individual because of the violent acts that he’s committed and the crimes that he’s committed and the crimes that he’s been indicted for.

Regarding his brother, William Bulger, being the state senate president, he resigned under pressure because he went before Congress, and Congress actually was the entity that called him to answer questions regarding his connection with his brother. So, you know, I can’t speak on why he resigned. I can’t speak on – you know, was it pressure that made him resign? I don’t know. Really, William Bulger wasn’t our concern; it was James J. Bulger that was our concern.

QUESTION: Is there a legal way that (inaudible) – why I asked about that money, because after all, it’s the taxpayers’ money.

MR. TEAHAN: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Right? And you are accountable to the American taxpayers that – where – how this money is being spent. And there is also a question of some kind of inefficiency on the part of the FBI, that you are pursuing for 30 years and can’t, you know, trace him and you keep on spending this money. I mean, at some point, there will be questions about that. Thank you.

MR. TEAHAN: Here’s how I would – here’s my answer to that, is Bulger ran a criminal enterprise, and there are some accounts that he secreted in excess of anywhere in the neighbor of $10-$30 million.

How did he get that $10-$30 million? Conducting extortion, conducting murder, loan sharking, gambling, narcotics distribution, all of which are crimes which he’s charged with. So no amount of money – you really can’t place a value on what it takes to catch the leader of a criminal enterprise that really, really impacted the city of Boston. So unless you live in Boston, unless you reside there, unless you have been impacted by Bulger’s crimes, it’s – you know, it’s difficult to really know the impact that he’s had on the city as a whole.

MODERATOR: In the front.

QUESTION: Sure. Andrew Miga from Associated Press. I’m just curious, in the time since he’s fled, what – at what point do you think you were closest to him, since he fled in’95, I guess it was?

MR. TEAHAN: Well, the last known witness sighting of Bulger was 2002 in London. You know, I think we were close then, but, you know – Bulger, you know, as I mentioned earlier, planned for a life on the run. He had contingency planning in place. He had secreted money in a variety of locations, wouldn’t leave a credit trail, utilized cash for everything. So he’s very skilled at remaining – you know, at being a fugitive and, you know, having been an informant, kind of knew some of the tricks of our trade. So he was able to remain one step ahead and continues to remain one step ahead. But that is my purpose for being here today, is to conduct a global campaign in the search for Bulger – not local, not national, global.

MODERATOR: Are there any other questions?

QUESTION: Can you describe in a bit more detail his sighting and --

MODERATOR: Could you state your name and your organization?

QUESTION: Yes. Leonard Doyle from The Independent. Could you describe in a bit more detail his sighting in London and Ireland, anywhere else? Just give us a bit more flavor of what – whether these are confirmed and then what happened since?

MR. TEAHAN: We believe that the sighting in London was – is an excellent corroborated sighting by a witness. And I won’t get into details regarding the witness. But suffice it to say that this witness had contact with Bulger both prior to flight and after his flight. So it’s a extremely credible sighting. Along those lines, with sightings in Ireland, Bulger’s got connections in Ireland and also had family there. And, you know, we’ve had multiple sightings in Ireland on Bulger throughout the years.

QUESTION: Can you go into some details? Can you go into some detail in terms of which parts of Ireland, what sort of circumstances, and what he was up to?

MR. TEAHAN: Well, you know, I could probably give you an example of a sighting we had in Ireland recently in 2006, 2007. And, you know, here’s the detail that I will give, is that the Garda had an extremely – it was an excellent sighting at – you know, at initial approach of the – you know, the initial information was very good. The Garda went out and did an outstanding investigation in order to try and identify this individual. And we did identify him, and it was – and it was – you know, it was – it turned out not to be Bulger. But, you know, those are the types of sightings we get. As – specifics as to locations, I’d rather --

QUESTION: (Inaudible?) Well, you mentioned sightings. The implication we have is that that’s him. But then you say, no, we find it’s not him, so it’s not a sighting then.

MR. TEAHAN: Well, it’s a look-alike sighting.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about any actual sightings in Ireland, in the UK?

MR. TEAHAN: No actual sightings of Bulger in Ireland, except for lookalike sightings. But that 2002 sighting in London, we believe, was a credible sighting based on the information at hand.

MODERATOR: Any other questions?

QUESTION: According to this slide, he lived in New York for almost 20 years under a fake driver’s license. What did the FBI do? I mean, they had no clue that he was in such a big city like New York and could do anything.

MR. TEAHAN: Bulger had maintained – Bulger had created an identity in New York. He actually wasn’t living there. He had created an identity there, created a New York driver’s license to show an alias identity. For those 20 years, he wasn’t wanted for anything until 1995. It was then that we tracked that ID and it was then that – it was during that time that we uncovered that alias. So that’s the answer to the New York aspect.

QUESTION: And so given all that you know, where do you think is the most likely place that he is today?

MR. TEAHAN: I can’t – well, I wish I could tell you with some certainty. What I can tell you is based on how he traveled prior to flight. You know, our belief – and as I mentioned earlier with that Sicily sighting, we targeted Europe. When Bulger – before Bulger was a fugitive, he enjoyed traveling to Europe. He traveled freely there with ease, and it’s our belief that there are accounts, both safe deposit boxes and accounts under alias names that we have not found there, which is part of our job, is to locate the alias identities. But Europe was a favorite place for his – for him to travel.

MODERATOR: Okay. If there are no further questions, thank you for coming today.

# # #