James “Whitey” Bulger was 89, incontinent, and so frail he was confined to a wheelchair on that late October day in 2018 when the federal Bureau of Prisons abruptly changed his classification, moved him to US Penitentiary Hazelton, in Preston County, West Virginia, and, for the first time since his conviction on eleven counts of murder and other racketeering charges connected to his reign in Boston as both a crime boss and a secret FBI informant, put him in general population. Where a cabal of his enemies from Boston were waiting.
Four hours after his arrival, Bulger was dead. His death as brutal and savage as the fate many of his own victims suffered. He was beaten beyond recognition with a lock in a sock and mutilated with a blunt object. His assailants attempted to gouge out his eyes and cut out his tongue with a serrated spoon. Then, he was wrapped in a blanket and lifted into his bed, tucked in as if he were sleeping. His body is now buried in a Boston cemetery alongside his parents under a gravestone etched with a simple cross under the name: BULGER.
This week marks three years since Bulger, a man whose own family describes in a civil suit against the federal Bureau of Prisons as, “perhaps the most infamous and well-known inmate to be incarcerated in a federal penal institution since Al Capone.”
Astonishingly, no one has been charged in connection with his murder, one that took place in a recreation room full of convict witnesses in a federal prison filled with security cameras. And one that appeared to be in violation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ own practice of segregating snitches from their enemies in federal facilities or dorms known as “cheese factories,” because they are filled with known informants or cooperators. Like Bulger.
Scott Taylor, a BOP spokesperson, refused to comment on the criminal investigation into the slaying, or whether any suspects have been identified, telling Los Angeles that the agency, “does not provide information relating to investigations.” However, Taylor insists, the BOP “takes pride in protecting and securing individuals entrusted in our custody.”
Bulger’s family doesn’t agree. Whitey’s brother William M. Bulger, or Billy as he was called at the Massachusetts State House where he had an ironclad grip on power as the Senate President under the building’s hallowed golden dome for eighteen years – the longest term in the state’s history – is suing the federal government claiming BOP employees sent his mobster sibling there to die.
Billy’s son William M. Bulger, who now oversees Whitey’s estate for his 87-year-old father, is seeking undisclosed damages saying that his uncle was deliberately
subjected to a risk of certain or serious bodily injury by the intentional or deliberately indifferent actions of the defendants and was thereby caused to endure a violent death at the hands of another inmate within hours of his arrival at the facility.”
But even the Bulgers must admit in the suit that there aren’t a lot of tears being shed for his Whitey’s death. It was no secret the gangster was a murderous, duplicitous, double-crossing rat, a heartless, traitorous drug dealer who had no problem murdering friends and women alike.
“James Bulger, Jr. has been consistently portrayed as a violent murderous gangster, killer of not only men but also women, and allegedly responsible for at least nineteen murders,” the civil suit acknowledges. Worse, the suit says, Whitey had been dubbed a pedophile by his old partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who also happens to be an admitted pedophile and confessed on the stand in Bulger’s trial to having had sex with his own stepdaughter before killing her with Whitey’s help.
During Whitey’s 2013 trial Flemmi pointed a finger at his former boss during his trial and blurted:
“You want to talk about pedophilia? Right over at that table,” Flemmi crowed.
That, the Bulgers’ suit asserts, made his brother even a bigger target for death in the federal prison system. “In addition to being labeled a “snitch,” James Bulger Jr. was being portrayed as a pedophile as well. It is well known by law enforcement, prosecutors, and correctional officers that there are two labels you never, ever want to have as an inmate: informant (in prison parlance ‘snitch’) or pedophile, ‘child molester’” or, the suit continues, a “chomo.”
All of it put Whitey “at extremely high risk of serious injury or death at the hands of inmates.” But apparently it didn’t put his killers at high risk of being prosecuted for taking out this FBI rat.
“It is unusual to have a high-profile prisoner murdered in a federal facility with witnesses and video and three years later no one is arrested?” retired NYPD Manhattan North Homicide Sergeant Detective Willian Cannon told me. “I am surprised that no one is out there asking why.”
My professional and personal lives have been intertwined with Whitey Bulger’s for decades. My permanent home is in Eastie, the hardscrabble Boston neighborhood near Logan Airport that was historically my city’s Ellis Island. The Bulgers lived “through the tunnel” in Southie. I grew up writing about Bulger as a longtime Boston crime reporter and was very close to Michael Donahue, the son of one of the 11 people Whitey was convicted of killing after his trial on November 14, 2013, which came after he was tracked to Santa Monica where he and his longtime companion Catherine Greig were captured at a hideout a few blocks from the beach where they were a doddering elderly couple, Charlie and Carol Gasko
I had flown to Santa Monica after his capture, only to learn he had my book “A Mob Story,” in his true-crime collection on a shelf in his bedroom. When he was convicted, my prison sources told me Whitey would spend two life sentences subject to frequent strip searches and solitary confinement, which was confirmed in Willie Bugler’s civil suit. “On many days James Bulger Jr. is strip-searched more than five times a day.” The suit continues, “
What contact he had with other human beings was often verbally and/or physically abusive toward him. At a federal prison in Tucson an inmate snuck into his cell and stabbed him in the head.”
But it would be much worse on when Whitey was transferred to USP Hazelton, which the suit says, “inmate on inmate violence runs rampant and has for many years.” So much so it’s called Misery Mountain. And it would be there that Whitey died a miserable death on Oct. 30, 2018.
A longtime source reached out within minutes of Whitey’s death. Then another and another. I was not even a crime reporter anymore. That day I as writing my very first television series for City on a Hill for legendary showrunner Tom Fontana, creator of, ironically, the prison drama Oz. (The Whitey death would have been a great episode.)v LOVE
I broke the story on Twitter: SOURCES: EXCLUSIVE Whitey Bulger was killed at new West Virginia prison.
Then I went to work as the tweet was retweeted thousands of times, even as longtime Whitey watchers repeatedly claimed I was full of shit.
My professional and personal life has been intertwined with Whitey Bulger’s for decades. My permanent home is in Eastie, the hardscrabble Boston neighborhood near Logan Airport that was historically my city’s Ellis Island. The Bulgers lived “through the tunnel” in Southie. I helped one of his old enemies, a reputed high-ranking mobster named Mikey Romano, get out of federal prison because he was put there by a rat like Whitey in the first place.
Everyone has heard the names of the people who are alleged to have killed Whitey in jail. Boston is a small city like
that. There’s the hitman with ties to New York City’s Genovese Crime Family from West Springfield, Massachusetts – a neighborhood that in the old days was run by the Genovese boss Vincent “Vinny the Chin” Gigante. In fact, that hitman, Fotios “Freddy” Geas, and his brother, are serving life in prison for killing a Genovese crime family boss in that city. Mafia turncoats, like Bulger, testified against the Geas brothers.
As of October 2021, Geas remains an inmate at Misery Mountain held in solitary confinement.
Register Number: 05244-748
Release Date: LIFE
Located At: USP Hazelton
Then there is the hitman’s cellmate, Sean McKinnon, a low-level crook from Vermont serving time for stealing guns from a Vermont firearms store. He was transferred after Bulger’s killing and told NBC News he is unfairly being held in solitary confinement.
Register Number: 10134-082
Release Date: 07/27/2022
Located At: USP McCreary
The third, Paul J. DeCologero, is particularly interesting considering the reputed Massachusetts mobster is serving 25 years in prison for dismembering an informant (who was indicted alongside the aforementioned Mikey Romano partly on the word of another secret informant for the Boston FBI field office, Mark Rossetti.) He was transferred off Misery Mountain too and remains in solitary confinement.
Name: PAUL J DECOLOGERO
Register Number: 23952-038
Release Date: 06/21/2026
Located At: USP Lee
So, if I know, the feds know. These names have been in various press stories about Bulger’s death for three years now and yet no one has been charged. Even the Bulger family civil suit against the BOP mentions it. “Predictably, within hours of his placement in general population at Hazelton, inmates believed to be from New England and who are alleged to have Mafia ties or loyalties, killed James Bulger utilizing methods that included the use of a lock in a sock-type weapon.”
Today, I live just a few miles away from that Santa Monica hideout, the one that he and his paramour Catherine Greig paid $837 bucks a month for (how he secured that is as big a mystery as who whacked him behind bars) until their capture in 2011.
The apartment included sophisticated hides carved into the walls that secreted an arsenal of 30 weapons – including a machine gun and a grenade – along with $822,000 in crisp, clean bills–guns that to this day the ATF has refused to discus. Not the weapons’ origins or how an elderly man like Bulger built hides in his rent-stabilized beachnside apartment.
In 1994 Bulger’s handlers John Connolly and James Morris tipped Bulger to a pending indictment and he remained on the lam until the US Marshals lured him out of the Princess Eugenia apartments and arrested him without incident. Not long after that, Morris,
Morris—nicknamed “Vino” because Bulger and Flemmi loved to gift him expensive cases of wine because the corrupt agents were feeding Bulger intel on his enemies just as the gangster was informing his friends — was promoted and sent to the FBI field office where, astonishingly, he took over a public corruption and government fraud unit until his retirement.
An odd transfer for a guy who was suspected of tipping off Boston’s most notorious gangster to a pending indictment.
Just like the odd transfer for a geriatric gangster despised by the guys who just happened to in the same prison unit as four men with ties to Boston, lifers, “stand-up guys” known for both their penchant for violence and a shared hatred for snitches despite segregation orders and deconflicting plans used by federal prosecutors. That can’t be a coincidence, says someone who knows a lot about federal prisons and how they work: the son of the notorious Gambino Crime Family boss John Gotti Jr. Bulger finding himself alongside four Massachusetts underworld characters suddenly confined to the same cell block is impossible.
“You’d have to believe James Comey farts unicorns to believe that line of shit,” Gotti told me. “There are so many systems in place to make sure something like that never happens that this had to be a well-planned transfer.”
But it’s not just the one-time Gambino Crime Family boss who is perplexed by the federal narrative of Whitey’s death. Bulger’s attorney, J.W. Carney, a son of Boston who has consistently fought for the underdog – accused terrorists, prep school kids, and rats like Whitey – in the long decades since I have known him—also smells bullshit.
Carney told reporters after his death that Bulger was “sentenced to life in prison, but as a result of decisions by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, that sentenced has been changed to the death penalty.”
Many law enforcement officials who have worked organized crime cases agree. Both on and off the record, former federal prosecutors, district attorneys, defense lawyers and cops told me there are serious questions that should be posed about Bulger’s death – which federal prison officials have only said is being investigated as a homicide.
“No doubt the feds set him up,” retired NYPD Organized Crime Investigations Division Sergeant Detective Fred Santoro told me. “Here’s the thing. Does anyone really give a fuck that Whitey Bulger is dead? No. So, I suspect the feds are not going to be too fucking diligent to figure out how that happened.”
The Bulger family agrees, writing in the civil suit: “the appearance is that he was deliberately sent to his death.”
Bulger’s decades of double-crossing left him with a long list of enemies, but not all of them were loved ones of his victims or the underworld figures he pissed off. Bulger had also been poking a stick at a much more powerful adversary: the Department of Justice.
John “Red” Shea a top lieutenant in Bulger’s mob who authored the book: “Rat Bastards, the Irish Mobster Who Took the Rap When Everyone Else Ran,” about his time working for Whitey’s crew, said he believes Bulger was “running his mouth about the wrong people – and I’m not talking about wiseguys.”
In fact, he was. Bulger had been writing letters to several members of Congress, including Iowa Senator Charles Grassley and Massachusetts Congressmen Stephen Lynch and William Keating, imploring federal lawmakers to bring him in to testify about FBI corruption centered around the decades he spent as a Top Echelon Criminal Informant for the FBI. (Carney and another Bulger attorney Hank Brennan declined to comment on what Bulger was prepared to say.)
Bulger had been on the FBI’s payroll briefly in 1971, but he didn’t become a full-time informant until 1975 when his name was hand-printed on a three-by-five index card and he was given informant number BS-1544. His address at the time was 252 O’Callahan Way, an apartment in the South Boston housing projects where he grew up. His employment listed him as a Suffolk County maintenance worker. His FBI handler, a childhood neighbor ten years his junior, John Connolly, signed it.
As Bulger’s criminal status accelerated with the FBI’s help, Connolly became more wise guy than G-man. “His style and manner of dress had changed; he was wearing much more jewelry. He was almost showy in terms of the way he dressed, the way he carried himself,” his FBI supervisor John Morris testified in Bulger’s 2013 trial.
Still, there was a reason that Bulger muttered “fucking liar” under his breath when Morris took the stand to testify about the cases that the Bulger helped the FBI take down back when he was the head of an Irish underworld outfit known as the Winter Hill Gang. .
Morris had his own skeletons connected to his handling of Bulger – and multiple other cases, including one in which he planted a bogus car bomb in a Boston bookie’s family car to scare him into cooperating with the FBI, a blatant violation of bureau regulations that he was never held accountable for. The mobster didn’t flip and was never told it was the FBI, not the Mafia, who targeted him, or that the bomb was a fake, according to Morris’s testimony.
Morris met Bulger for the first time when he cooked him dinner at his tony Lexington, Mass. townhouse in 1987. “Treat Mr. Bulger with respect,” Connolly told Morris, he remembered. “He wanted Mr. Bulger to be comfortable, and essentially, he wanted him handled in a manner in which informants typically aren’t handled.” Months later there was another killer at the FBI supper table, Stephen “the Rifleman” Flemmi, Bulger’s partner who also made a deal in 1975 to become Top Echelon Criminal Informant No. BS-955.
The agents and the killers dined frequently together—Flemmi’s mother made them dinner one night that Bulger’s brother, William Bulger, the Senate President at the time, “passed through,” Morris testified, another at the apartment of Morris’ mistress, FBI secretary Debra Noseworthy. Morris even earned his own moniker from the mobsters, “Vino,” because of his love of fine wines, in particular the wooden cases he received from Bulger and Flemmi with at least one containing an envelope with $1000 in cash.
Morris knew he had crossed a line and would eventually pay a price, he recalled at Bulger’s trial. “John and I were in the kitchen and I asked, ‘what is that these guys want from us?’’ Morris testified. “And he told me, ‘A head start.’ If they were going to be indicted, charged, arrested, to tip them off and let them flee.”
Which is exactly what happened on Dec. 23, 1994. Connolly caught wind of a pending indictment and tipped Bulger who fled with girlfriend Greig. Flemmi was arrested in 1995 on charges of racketeering and extortion but fought the charges on grounds that the FBI had granted him and Bulger permission to commit certain crimes short of murder while they worked as informants – thus opening a window into the Boston FBI’s darkest secrets and alliances, a sordid litany of bribes paid, and informants killed. The story was covered extensively, and the Boston Globe ran a series exposing Bulger as a rat.
By that time, Morris had moved on – first getting a promotion to work public corruption cases in the Los Angeles field office, which happens to be a couple of miles away from Whitey’s Santa Monica hideout, and then at FBI headquarters at Quantico. He was at his desk one afternoon in Oct. 1995, while Bulger was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitive list, when he got several messages, and finally a call, from one “Mr. White.”
He recognized the voice immediately: Whitey Bulger.
“He said, essentially, that he wanted me to use my Machiavellian mind to contact my sources at the Globe to get them to retract the story about him being an informant, and that if I didn’t, I had taken money from him, and if he went to jail, I was, quote, coming with him, end quote,” Morris testified.
Morris told the court the call nearly killed him. He went into cardiac arrest and retired months later. The unfettered corruption he and Connolly engaged in would become public and he agreed to testify against Connolly, who had described as “his best friend,” at two separate trials. Connolly was convicted on state murder charges in Florida and is expected to be released from prison in 2039 – if he lives to be 98.
After his arrest, on his journey from California to Boston where he would be charged, Bulger asked his US Marshal escorts about Connolly, several sources confirmed, remarking, “John got railroaded.” Connolly, of course, has steadfastly insisted on that same assertion. He has now been released from a Florida prison after he argued he would be a COVID risk and is living with a buddy in – you guessed it – Southie.
Bulger’s fellow top echelon FBI informant Stevie Flemmi avoided two death sentences, one in Florida, another in Oklahoma, by making a deal with federal officials. In 2017 he admitted on the stand in the trial for another FBI cooperator, Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, that he killed anywhere from “50 to 60” people including two women – one his girlfriend, the other his stepdaughter that he had admitted to sleeping with.
Flemmi’s initial revelations about his double life as a FBI informant and an unabashed killer led to a series of Congressional hearings in 2003. The House Committee on Government Reform then released its findings in a scathing report: Everything Secret Degenerates: the FBI’s Use of Murders as Informants.
“Senior FBI staff – and possibly FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover – appear to have been personally involved in decisions relating to the development of informants,” the report states. “The FBI’s Boston office used Stephen Flemmi and James Bulger, who appear to have been involved in at least nineteen homicides, as informants for nearly a quarter of a century. Evidence obtained by the Committee leaves no doubt that at least some law enforcement personnel, including officials in FBI Director Hoover’s office, were well aware that federal informants were committing murders.”
Worse, law enforcement offices all over New England told Congress that the FBI thwarted countless investigations. “It appears that federal law enforcement actively worked to prevent homicide cases from being resolved,” the report notes, adding that the FBI even put innocent people in prison to protect informants.
But to this day, Connolly is the only FBI agent who was ever criminally held accountable for the rampant corruption – raising questions about who in the Department of Justice could have been vulnerable if Bulger revealed evidence that Connolly and Morris were not the only people who gave him and Flemmi a license to kill.
“Think about it, if Whitey ever got a chance to talk about what he knows about the informant program – it opens a Pandora’s Box,” Santoro said. “Especially when you consider some of the names around the Bulger case.”
One of those names is former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who worked as a federal prosecutor in Boston from 1982 to 1988 – including a stint as the acting U.S. Attorney – dates that coincide with Bulger and Flemmi’s bloodiest crimes. That would be the same U.S. Attorney’s office that had a role in protecting Bulger and Flemmi, the Congressional report on informants concluded.
The Congressional report points out that the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility investigated the allegations of widespread corruption leveled against Massachusetts federal investigators and concluded that there was “no evidence that prosecutorial discretion was exercised on behalf of Bulger and/or Flemmi.’’
“This is untrue,” the report states, adding that the fact that while, “the Justice Department concluded that prosecutorial discretion had not benefited Bulger or Flemmi – while at the same time fighting to keep Congress from obtaining information
proving this statement to be untrue – is extremely troubling.”
The report also cited disturbing testimony given by the late federal prosecutor Jeremiah O’Sullivan, who was appointed US Attorney in Boston in 1989, not long after Mueller’s departure. Informants, he said, were the FBI’s “holy of holies,” it’s “inner sanctum.”
“It would have precipitated World War III if I tried to get inside the FBI to deal with informants,” he testified. “With the FBI, if you go against them, they will try to get you…They will wage war on you.”
Given Whitey Bulger’s fate, that certainly seems to be the case.