By Patrick Markey
By all accounts, James J. Bulger lived an industrious life.
Federal authorities say Bulger, more commonly known as "Whitey," was head a major Irish-American underworld gang that operated out of Boston’s Southie district. From gambling through to extortion, authorities charge, Bulger dabbled in a host of nefarious enterprises.
Until he disappeared in 1995.
Now the FBI has placed Bulger on its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Last week Bulger joined such well-known fugitives as Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi Arabian national accused of plotting to blow up American embassies in Africa, and James Charles Kopp, the man allegedly behind the murder of an upstate doctor involved in legal abortions.
"We’ve been searching for Bulger since he disappeared and the top 10 list gives us the notoriety. He’s the 458th person to appear on the list and out of that number, 429 have been caught," FBI Agent Ken Warner said.
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According to federal officials, Bulger once headed one of Boston’s Irish mob families, The Winter Hill Gang, which operated of the area’s mainly Irish and Italian neighborhoods. When the gang’s leader, Howard "Howie" Winter, was imprisoned on charges of fixing horse races in the 1960s, Bulger became a major crime boss in the area, officials said.
For 30 years, Bulger allegedly involved the gang in extortion of other illegitimate businesses, drugs, gambling and loan-sharking. Violence and threats of violence were not uncommon.
According to the America’s Most Wanted webpage, Bulger survived the mob wars between the region’s Irish and Italian gangs, and helped bring the two criminal communities together. He also worked as a federal informer.
Authorities were able to mop up much of the organized crime in the region and in 1995 Bulger was charged under the racketeering and influenced corrupt organizations laws and with extortion. But he managed to slip away.
Authorities said Bulger is known to have traveled widely, visiting countries such as Italy, Ireland and Canada. He is believed to be traveling with a female companion, Catherine E. Greig, who has been charged with harboring a known fugitive.
The FBI said Bulger is an avid reader with an interest in history, and has been seen visiting libraries. Currently taking heart medication, Bulger works out at fitness clubs to keep in shape, but he has also been seen walking in parks and on beaches with his female companion.
Born on Sept. 3, 1929, Bulger is 5-foot-7 to 5-9 and weighs about 150 to 160 pounds. He has white hair and blue eyes. Federal authorities are offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
Bulger’s brother William Bulger is a former president of the Massachusetts State Senate and is currently president of the University of Massachusetts.