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Whitey Bulger kept cash hidden in apartment and traveled frequently

FBI agents find $822,198 in the Santa Monica apartment Bulger shared with companion Catherine Greig. Bulger told the FBI he traveled to Boston several times 'armed to the teeth.' He also traveled to Mexico and Las Vegas while in hiding from authorities.

June 28, 2011|By Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • FBI agents carry out bags and cases of evidence Thursday morning from the apartment building in Santa Monica where Boston crime boss James "Whitey'' Bulger was arrested Wednesday night. Bulger was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List.
FBI agents carry out bags and cases of evidence Thursday morning from the… (Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles…)

Reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger kept hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash hidden behind the walls of his Santa Monica apartment and told authorities he frequently traveled — sometimes in disguise and armed — to Boston, Las Vegas, San Diego and Mexico, court documents filed Monday show.

The new details about how Bulger and his longtime companion, Catherine Greig, managed to live undetected in Santa Monica for at least 14 years are contained in a five-page document filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts in connection with Bulger's request for a government-paid defense attorney.

When FBI agents arrested Bulger on Wednesday, they found $822,198 inside the apartment, "much of it in packages containing $100 bills that were bundled together and hidden inside a wall in the apartment," the records said. Federal prosecutors wrote that the money allowed Bulger and Greig to have a "relatively comfortable lifestyle."

Photos: James 'Whitey' Bulger

But perhaps the most intriguing information to emerge from the documents was Bulger's statements to federal agents Friday while he was on a small jet flying to Boston to face arraignment.

Bulger told federal agents he went to Las Vegas, where he claimed "he won more than he lost" during "numerous occasions to play the slots."

He also discussed traveling to Boston several times in disguise and "armed to the teeth" because he "had to take care of some unfinished business," the document said. He did not offer additional details about who he visited or when and whether he traveled alone.

Closer to home, Bulger said to authorities that he traveled to San Diego and then crossed the border into Tijuana, Mexico, "to purchase medicines."

Bulger also admitted that he "previously stashed money with people he trusted," but did not say if anyone was hiding assets for him.

The U.S. attorney's office in Boston would not directly comment on Bulger's statements. Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, stressed that the investigation into Bulger's activities in Santa Monica is continuing and that officials are trying to verify his accounts.

The FBI's statements about Bulger's travels raise additional questions about why it took so long to capture him when he appears to have been living in the open.

Brian Jenkins, a top analyst at the RAND Corp. and one of the nation's leading national security experts, said Monday that the apparent ability of the notorious mobster to slip back and forth across the border showed that he was able to move around without attracting attention to himself.

"They're really not there checking every single document," Jenkins said. "An 80-year guy from Santa Monica, they are going to just wave through," Jenkins said. "How many people drive down to Tijuana from Southern California to get medication. We are talking hundreds of thousands."

Officials with the U.S. Border Patrol would not immediately comment other than to say they were looking into the issue. In 2009, Border Patrol agents began requiring identification other than a driver's license, such as a passport, to cross the border.

Bulger, 81, is allegedly responsible for numerous crimes, including 19 killings, and faces two separate federal indictments, one from 1995 and the other from 1999.

While on the lam, Bulger and Greig went by the names Charles and Carol Gasko. The FBI said Thursday that agents recovered false identification at Bulger's Santa Monica apartment but did not discuss what kind of documents were found.

The court filing did not say how Bulger traveled. But even if he went by plane, Jenkins said, Bulger did not fit the model of the kind of person who raises suspicions and so he may have been able to easily get past checks on domestic airlines.

"If it is a valid driver's license with his new name, he would be flying with a legitimate document," Jenkins said. "The document is legitimate; the person is an invention."

Photos: James 'Whitey' Bulger

Andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

Richard.winton@latimes.com

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