Regardless of race, creed or political preference, most everyone is intrigued by a good old-fashioned gangster story.
Still, the impetus for this week’s column is more of an informative nature than entertainment and opinion. I flat-out didn’t realize how many people out there were unaware of that which I’m about to share with you.
Until a U.S. commando unit – a mix of Navy SEALS, CIA operatives, and other intelligence sources – took him out May 2, 2011, terrorist mastermind/financier Osama bin Laden was No. 1 on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, and had been in that No. 1 position since the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks for which bin Laden proudly took credit.
However, after bin Laden was killed, and laid to rest at sea, former Boston crime kingpin and fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger immediately rose to the No. 1 slot. Many of you who faithfully follow the news are up-to-date regarding Bulger’s profile and status. However, as mentioned above, there are quite a few who aren’t up-to-date. That said, I’ll give a short synopsis on “Whitey” Bulger, something anyone can find on the Internet.
James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger Jr. was born Sept. 3, 1929, in Dorchester, Mass. Boston folklore depicts Bulger as a Robin Hood-style bandit whose “Winter Hill” gang was dedicated to protecting the neighborhood and its residents.
Though Whitey Bulger didn’t allow drug trafficking and other criminal activities in his own South Boston neighborhood, he allegedly masterminded a protection racket that targeted, and extorted money from, other drug kingpins and those running illegal gambling operations outside his neighborhood. In short, Whitey Bulger gained control of a majority of the criminal activity in South Boston.
In the early ‘70s, the FBI, searching for reliable information in their battle against the Patriarca crime family, approached Bulger and asked him to become an informant. If what one hears and reads is true, Bulger did become an FBI informant, and his FBI “handler” was childhood friend John Connolly.
Spring 1994, a joint task force of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Massachusetts State Police and the Boston Police Department launched a probe of Bulger’s criminal enterprise. At first, the FBI, at this time considered compromised because of the relationship between Bulger and Connolly, was not informed. After a number of Boston-based criminals agreed to testify to having paid protection money to Bulger, a Federal case was built against him under the RICO Act.
By all accounts, sometime in December 1994, FBI agent Connally informed Bulger he was about to be arrested, and Bulger, along with girlfriend Catherine Greig, took flight.
With a reward of $2 million on his head, Bulger and Greig were arrested at a posh apartment complex in Santa Monica, Calif., June 22, 2011. Reportedly, more than $800,000 cash and a number of weapons were confiscated from Bulger’s apartment.
As of this writing, the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger is ongoing, yet winding down to closure, in a much-televised, much-written about Boston courtroom.
No doubt, he will serve the rest of his life behind bars.
Just another gangster story, right?
Well, something many of you might not know is that Whitey Bulger’s younger brother William Michael “Billy” Bulger, an attorney and career politician, was a member of both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts Senate.
Still, Billy Bulger served as the president of the University of Massachusetts from 1996 until 2003, when Gov. Mitt Romney asked him to vacate the presidency, which Billy Bulger did.
Though die-hard basketball fans should know, I’ll bet 9 to 1 that a vast majority of readers didn’t know basketball legend Julius Irving, better known to his fans as “Dr. J.,” played his college ball at the University of Massachusetts from 1968 thru 1971, at which time he left college and entered the American Basketball Association, before going to the National Basketball Association.
Politicians, gansgters, and a basketball great – who would’ve thought it?