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James "Whitey" Bulger was a preeminent figure in Boston's organized crime scene from the 1970s until the mid-'90s, when he fled the area. He was captured in California in 2011, and now faces numerous charges, including money laundering, extortion and participating in 19 murders.
Whitey Bulger - Most Wanted (2:44)
An inside look at the life of Whitey Bulger from T.J. English, author of "Whitey's Playbook." Video courtesy of Open Road Media.
A preview clip from the Mobsters episode featuring James "Whitey" Bulger.
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James "Whitey" Bulger embarked upon a life of crime at the age of 14, and had become a preeminent figure in Boston's organized crime scene by the late '70s. From 1975 to 1990, Bulger also served as an FBI informant, tipping off the police to the Patriarca crime family while building his own crime network. After fleeing the Boston area in 1995,
Bulger landed on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list. He was captured in California in 2011. Jury selection in Bulger's trial began in early June 2013. He faces numerous charges, including participating in 19 murders, money laundering, extortion and drug dealing.
Whitey Bulger was born James Joseph Bulger Jr. on September 3, 1929, in Dorchester, Massachusetts. One of six children born to Roman Catholic Irish-American parents, Whitey—a moniker he was given for his white-blond hair—grew up in a South Boston public-housing project. His father worked as a longshoreman. Bulger was a troublemaker as a child, and even lived out the childhood fantasy of running away with the circus when he was 10 years old.
Whitey Bulger was first arrested when he was 14 years old, for stealing, and his criminal record continued to escalate from there. As a youth, he was arrested for larceny, forgery, assault and battery, and armed robbery and served five years in a juvenile reformatory. Upon his release, he joined the Air Force where he served time in military jail for assault before being arrested for going AWOL. Nonetheless, he received an honorable discharge in 1952.
After returning to Boston, Bulger embarked upon a life of crime. His offenses grew increasingly large in scale, culminating in a string of bank robberies from Rhode Island to Indiana. In June 1956, he was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. He ended up serving nine years, including stints in Atlanta, Alcatraz, and Leavenworth. He returned to Boston to resume his life of crime.
Bulger became an enforcer for crime boss Donald Killeen. After Killeen was gunned down in 1972, Bulger was consolidated into the Winter Hill Gang, where he quickly rose through the ranks. A shrewd, ruthless, cunning mobster, Bulger sanctioned numerous killings, including Spike O'Toole, Paulie McGonagle, Eddie Connors, Tommy King and Buddy Leonard.
By 1979, Whitey Bulger had become a preeminent figure in Boston's organized crime scene. That year, Howie Winter was sent to prison for fixing horse races, and Bulger assumed the gang's leadership. Over the next 16 years, he came to control a significant portion of Boston's drug dealing, bookmaking, and loan sharking operations. Under his reign, more than 18 murders accumulated in all.
During this same time (from 1975 to 1990), unbeknownst to even his closest associates, Bulger was an FBI informant. Taking advantage of his brother William's stature in the State Senate and childhood friendships that linked him to members of the police force, Bulger helped bring down Boston's Italian-American Patriarca crime family while simultaneously building a more powerful and arguably more violent crime network of his own.
Read more about Whitey Bulger. Whitey's Payback by T.J. English is available wherever books and ebooks are sold.
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