The FBI published hundreds of pages of documents from its file on murderous gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, who himself was apparently brutally murdered while serving a life sentence in prison. Some records seem to indicate when the FBI brought Bulger into the fold as an informant, according to a report in the Boston Herald.
The documents, posted to the FBI’s FOIA library on July 9, are a fascinating look at the inner workings of an FBI operation that was largely focused on Massachusetts “hoodlums” engaged in “loansharking”—and a RICO and horse race-fixing case that involved investigations in upstate New York, Detroit, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Omaha.
Several documents are simply procedural requests for the use of recording devices. Many documents are heavily redacted; transcripts of recorded calls are blacked-out completely. Some documents can only be read when held upside-down next to a mirror.
The earliest documents date back to 1974 and track the FBI’s interactions with an informant referred to as “victim.” This victim apparently owed “juice payments”—payments on loans given at exorbitantly high rates—to various “well-known Boston hoodlums” or “hoodlum groups.” The documents show that at one point, the FBI deliberately told the informant not to make these payments, “in order that he will eventually receive threatening calls of an evidentiary nature.”
It’s worth noting that as this went on, the victim felt increasingly like his life was in danger, saying at one point he had been “slapped around” and told to pay his debts.
One document notes that, somehow, “the Organized Crime element has been able to obtain the locations of telephones even though it is requested that the service be non-published,” which put informants in potentially even more danger.
In December 1974, documents show, the victim contacted Bulger, and a “highly incriminatory” conversation was recorded. Notes from 1978 show that the FBI was investigating the sports-bribery case and was specifically targeting Cosa Nostra member Anthony Salerno, “financial wizard of organized crime” Meyer Lansky, and Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, who ran Las Vegas hotels for the benefit of crime families.
The Boston Herald report implies that the documents posted to the FBI’s Vault provide new information. However, according to the Boston Globe, the documents posted to the Vault aren’t actually “newly declassified,” as the Herald reports.
“The Bulger files recently posted on the FBI’s website focus on a 1970s race-fixing case and were previously made public decades ago during federal court proceedings and Congressional hearings investigation allegations that the FBI protected Bulger from prosecution because he was an FBI informant,” the Globe said.
In addition, as the Globe notes, at least 80 of the 300 pages are federal court rulings involving other organized crime figures from Massachusetts that are already publicly available.
The Herald notes that its story is the first part of a two-part series. It’s unclear whether the FBI intends to release more documents from Bulger’s file. The FBI did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for clarification.
The Boston Herald originally filed the FOIA request for the documents from Bulger’s file in 2019.
Bulger, who led the Winter Hill Gang, was famously captured in 2011 in Santa Monica with his girlfriend, Catherine Greig. He had been on the run since 1994, when his FBI handler John “Zip” Connelly tipped Bulger off that the federal authorities were close to implicating him in a murder. After a 2013 trial, Bulger was sentenced to life in prison for 11 murders. He was serving his sentence in Florida when, in October 2018, he was moved first to Oklahoma, and then to a prison in West Virginia, where he was apparently brutally murdered shortly after he arrived. He was 89 years old.
Read the FBI’s documents, below.
[Image via U.S. Marshals Service]
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