SANTA MONICA, Calif. — As the FBI chased leads on two continents, Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger spent nearly all of his 16 years on the lam in this quiet seaside city, passing himself off as just another elderly retiree, albeit one who kept a .357 Magnum and more than 100 rounds of ammunition in his modest apartment.
Bulger — the FBI's most-wanted man and a feared underworld figure linked to 19 murders — was captured Wednesday after one of the biggest manhunts in U.S. history. His undoing may have been his impeccably groomed girlfriend.
During a search of Bulger's apartment agents after his arrest, agents found $800,000 in cash, more than 30 firearms, including pistols, rifles and shotguns, several types of knives and several pieces of false identification, Steven Martinez, FBI Assistant Director in Charge in Los Angeles, said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
The weapons were tucked in hiding places throughout the apartment, Martinez said.
Earlier this week, after years of frustration, the FBI put out a series of daytime TV announcements with photos of Bulger's blond live-in companion, Catherine Greig. The announcements pointed out that Greig was known to frequent beauty salons and have her teeth cleaned once a month.
Two days later, the campaign produced a tip that led agents to the two-bedroom apartment three blocks from the Pacific Ocean where Bulger and Greig lived, authorities said. The FBI would not give any details about the tip.
The 81-year-old boss of South Boston's vicious Winter Hill Gang — a man who authorities say would not hesitate to shoot someone between the eyes — was lured outside the building and captured without resistance. Greig, 60, was also arrested.
Neighbors were stunned to learn they had been living in the same building as the man who was the model for Jack Nicholson's ruthless crime boss in the 2006 Martin Scorsese movie "The Departed."
Deputy Police Chief David Doan said it wasn't surprising that Bulger just blended in with the community
"This guy was an historic figure on the East Coast but no one on the West Coast knew who Whitey Bulger was," Doan said at the Thursday news conference.
"If you behave and you don't draw attention to yourself and you're in a community where you're not well-known, he's just another old man walking down the street," Doan said.
The arrest closed one chapter in a case that scandalized the FBI.
Bulger fled in 1995 after a retired FBI agent who had recruited him as a government informant tipped him off that he was about to be indicted. Soon it was discovered that the Boston FBI had a corrupt relationship with its underworld informants, protecting mob figures for decades and allowing them to commit murders as long as they were supplying useful information.
"Although there are those who have doubted our resolve at times over the years, it has never wavered," Richard DesLauriers, agent in the charge of the FBI's Boston office, said after Bulger's capture. "We followed every lead. We explored every possibility, and when those leads ran out, we did not sit back and wait for the phone to ring."
While Bulger's capture is the end of a long, frustrating search for the FBI, it could expose the bureau to even more scandal.
One of Bulger's lieutenants testified in 2002 that Bulger boasted that he had corrupted six FBI agents and more than 20 Boston police officers, keeping them loyal by stuffing envelopes with cash at Christmastime.
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