Investigators are wondering whether legendary South Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, one of the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives, is the same elderly man who has robbed three Orange County banks in a week, including one Thursday.
"Absolutely, there's speculation," said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Los Angeles office. "But although we can't say it's absolutely not him, we really don't think it is."
The so-called Senior Citizen Bandit's latest caper unfolded about 2 p.m. Thursday at the U.S. Bank in Laguna Niguel. Holding a handgun partially concealed in an envelope, he pointed it at the teller and demanded cash, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department.
Officials said they believed the same man took money from a Washington Mutual Bank in San Juan Capistrano on July 8 and a Cal National Bank in Seal Beach on Tuesday. Each time the robber was armed with a silver small-caliber automatic handgun, authorities said.
If the robber turned out to be Bulger, it wouldn't be the first time he was allegedly spotted in Orange County.
An unconfirmed sighting of Bulger was reported in January 2000, two months after he was featured on the television show "America's Most Wanted." A witness told authorities he believed he saw Bulger waiting in a car outside a Fountain Valley hair salon.
Although similar, descriptions of Bulger and the Senior Citizen Bandit don't match. Bulger is said to be up to 5 feet 9 and 150 to 160 pounds. The robber is described by Amormino as 5 feet 8 and 190 to 205 pounds. Both have white hair.
The robber is thought to be in his 70s. Bulger is 75.
Amormino has said the robber probably has a criminal past and has done prison time.
"Usually a man who has been living a law-abiding life doesn't start robbing banks," he said.
Robbing banks is arguably one of Bulger's lesser suspected crimes.
According to an FBI alert, Bulger was involved in numerous murders in the 1970s and '80s in connection with organized crime and was an FBI informant at the same time. Bulger, nicknamed for his snowy hair, is an avid reader "known to frequent libraries and historic sites," according to the alert.
The subject of many books and articles, Bulger allegedly controlled much of Boston's drug traffic. His younger brother was the former president of the Massachusetts Senate and of the University of Massachusetts.