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FBI Releases Trove Of Revealing Documents On Notorious Gangster James "Whitey" Bulger

Loan-sharking, horserace-fixing, and the brutal enforcement of his gang were all known to the federal government before the late Boston mob boss was brought in as an informant.

By Kevin Dolak

A 300-page trove of FBI documents released over the weekend relating to James “Whitey” Bulger’s crimes and misdeeds before he flipped on his allies has revealed that the bureau was well aware that the notorious Boston gangster’s criminal activities before recruiting him as an informant.

The former Winter Hill Gang boss-turned-FBI informant, who was brutally killed in a West Virginia prison complex in 2018, was convicted in 2013 for his role in 11 murders. He had been on the run for 16 years prior to his 2011 arrest in California. In 1994, he was tipped off to a pending RICO indictment by his handler with the FBI. In November 2013, Bulger was handed two terms of life imprisonment plus five years.

The heavily redacted FBI documents detail how in the years before Bulger flipped and began informing on other mobsters, the bureau was on the trail of what it referred to as “different hoodlum groups” in the Boston area in the mid-1970s. These groups, according to the FBI file, were shaking down “juice payments” on loans. 

The FBI said that the document release will be the first of several of their investigations into and dealings with Bulger over several decades. The details of the vast trove of documents was initially reported on by the Boston Herald.

Bulger, who earned the nickname "Whitey" because of his platinum hair, was brought in as an informant by the FBI in 1974 and soon began ratting out members of the Patriarca crime family, the Winter Hill Gang’s main rival; the gangs were involved in various criminal enterprises, including loan sharking, gambling operations, and drug running.

The documents also reveal fresh details of a vast nationwide horserace fixing operation that involved several notable names. In the scheme, members of the Winter Hill crew drugged horses and bribed jockeys at five racetracks, including downs in Boston, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the records say.

The documents also name Las Vegas casinos the Dunes, Tropicana and the Riviera as sites of criminal operations. The nefarious activity ultimately benefited mob associates, including members of the Winter Hill Gang, who placed bets on opposing horses, according to the FBI. 

The document trove features the names of some of the most infamous gangsters of the past century, including Meyer Lansky, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and “Fat” Tony Salerno; the famed criminals were looped in on the horserace fixing, the documents state. 

Bulger was violently murdered in prison in 2018 by two inmates, one of whom was a convicted hitman, the Boston Globe reported. He was 89. While no one has been convicted in his slaying, officials have said that two imprisoned mobsters from Massachusetts are suspected in his gruesome death.

In March, a cache of Bulger memorabilia and correspondences was put up for auction at Lelands by his friend and former fellow inmate, Clement “Chip” Janis. In the letters to Janis, the convicted killer writes that he’s “not guilty,” and feeling vulnerable" in prison; he also details his frustration over perceived unfair treatment from corrections officers.

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