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FBI releases hundreds of documents on James ‘Whitey’ Bulger

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 7/19/2021 Shelley Murphy
Whitey Bulger sitting in a chair talking on a cell phone: James "Whitey" Bulger shown holding a goat in this undated photo taken shortly before he disappeared in 1995. © FBI James "Whitey" Bulger shown holding a goat in this undated photo taken shortly before he disappeared in 1995.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has released 300 pages of heavily redacted documents that detail its connections with James “Whitey” Bulger, the former South Boston crime boss who was killed in federal prison in 2018.

The files, which focus on loansharking and a horse-race fixing case from the 1970s, had been disclosed decades ago during federal court proceedings and Congressional hearings into allegations that the FBI protected Bulger from prosecution because he was an FBI informant.

The FBI posted the documents in its Freedom of Information Act library on July 9. In addition to pages that are fully or partially redacted, the file included 80 pages of appeals court rulings involving other Massachusetts organized crime figures over the years.

One of the documents indicates the FBI was targeting Bulger in connection with a loan sharking investigation that began when a victim contacted federal agents to report he was being threatened by Bulger and other “hoodlums.”

On Dec. 10, 1974, the victim secretly recorded telephone conversations with Bulger, who made “highly incriminatory” statements about his participation in the loan sharking arrangement, according to documents.

“Victim has been threatened with bodily harm and ‘slapped around told to pay his debts,’ ”an FBI agent wrote in a report that listed Bulger as one of at least two other people the victim owed money.


Video: FBI Releases 300 Pages From Whitey Bulger File (CBS Boston)

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The documents also describe an FBI interview with an unnamed cooperator who described how he helped organized crime figures, including members of the Somerville-based Winter Hill Gang, fix races at tracks along the East coast in 1974 and 1975 involving horses with names such as “No Hurry,” “Rollinindough” and “Cactus Jack.” He identified jockeys who “held their mounts and were paid varying sums of money” to make sure their horses didn’t finish first, second or third in the race.

The cooperator, later identified during court proceedings as Anthony Ciulla, helped prosecutors convict 20 men in the scheme, including then-Winter Hill Gang leader Howard T. Winter, Las Vegas casino executives, and jockeys. He detailed how the gang collected thousands of dollars in wagers made at tracks with bookmakers and identified Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi as two of the seven key gangsters who managed the scheme.

Yet Bulger and Flemmi were the only two members of the gang who evaded criminal charges in the case, paving the way for them to expand their criminal enterprise.

After Bulger fled to avoid his 1995 federal racketeering indictment, Flemmi, his co-defendant in that case, revealed that the two gangsters were longtime FBI informants who provided information that helped take down the local Mafia.

During federal court hearings in 1998, disgraced former FBI supervisor John Morris testified that there was enough evidence to indict Bulger and Flemmi in the sweeping race-fixing case, but he persuaded a federal prosecutor not to because they were informants.

Bulger was sentenced to life in prison in 2013 for killing 11 people while running a criminal enterprise from the 1970s to the 1990s. He was murdered in US Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia on Oct. 30, 2018, when he was 89 years old.

Bulger’s family accuses US Bureau of Prison officials of causing his murder by transferring him from a Florida prison to Hazelton, among the nation’s most violent prisons. He was killed 12 hours after arriving at the prison. His homicide remains unsolved and three inmates suspected in his killing remain under a 23 hour a day lockdown, the Globe has reported.

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