The Old Man Next Door

The last days of America’s most wanted mobster, James “Whitey” Bulger

Bulger’s apartment door after being visited by the Fugitive Task Force in 2011.

Barbara Gluck was turning her car off 3rdStreet to park in the Princess Eugenia’s underground garage when she saw two men in gray suits standing by the entry lock. It was early in the evening of Wednesday, June 22, 2011.

“Do you live in this building?” one of the men asked.

“Who are you?” Gluck demanded. The two men flashed their golden FBI badges, and Gluck, annoyed, entered the subterranean structure. Inside there were about ten more men, all in suits, standing near the garage elevator. Scott Garriola was among them. Nobody would tell Gluck as much, but the Fugitive Task Force—a joint FBI-Los Angeles Police Department operation—was there because of a million-to-one tip that had come in less than 24 hours before. An FBI video appeal had begun airing in select TV markets (although, because of budget restrictions, not in Los Angeles), featuring photographs of Bulger and Greig and a hot line for tips. Anna Bjornsdottir, who had been crowned Miss Iceland in 1974, was watching CNN in Reykjavík when she saw the FBI spot. Bjornsdottir recognized the couple from the days when she had lived at the Embassy Hotel Apartments. After getting through to an FBI agent in Los Angeles, she explained why she especially remembered Greig: They had bonded over a stray cat that prowled the Embassy grounds. The former beauty queen’s tip won her a $2 million reward.

By the time Greig called Josh Bond and told him that Charlie was on his way to the storage locker, Garriola’s team was in place beneath the Eugenia. From an unoccupied third-floor unit at the Embassy across the street, other task force members kept an eye on Apartment 303. It was about seven o’clock, and they had been on the scene since 1 p.m. Suddenly Garriola and his men heard the elevator’s machinery engage—someone was coming down. When the car arrived, there was a pause and then its door opened. Out stepped an old bearded man wearing white summer slacks.

Garriola shouted at Bulger to put his hands up, step forward, and kneel down. The gangster refused and cursed Garriola, who repeated the order. Bulger finally knelt on the oily floor and was handcuffed—his initial refusal had not come from a quixotic defiance of authority but from a reluctance to get his white trousers dirty. Moments later Greig was brought in handcuffs to the garage. At first Bulger insisted he was Charlie Gasko, but as Garriola persisted in questioning his identity, the old fugitive gave up the ruse. Then Garriola handed him a form granting the FBI the right to search Apartment 303, and he signed the waiver with a name he had not written in years: “James J. Bulger.”

Bulger seemed in high spirits, despite the handcuffs, chatting with agents as Bond finally entered the garage. “Hi, Josh!” a voice rang out. The manager turned to see who’d called his name. It was Greig.

Soon Bond was on his way to the My Morning Jacket gig. As he drove toward Hollywood, Bond phoned his bosses to tell them that the Princess Eugenia was about to receive a lot of publicity. Then he began phoning family and friends with another message: “I just helped the FBI arrest the most wanted man in America!”

Whitey Bulger doesn’t hold it against Josh Bond for setting him up. He has assured the Princess Eugenia’s manager of this in letters written from the Plymouth County Correctional Facility in Massachusetts, where Bulger has been held since the couple was returned to the state from Los Angeles. Greig was the first to stand trial. In 2012, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, along with some fraud charges, and was sentenced to eight years in federal prison.

Bulger no longer wore the aura of an antihero as his RICO trial began this past June in Boston. A flood of newspaper articles and books had transformed Robin Hood into King Rat: Bulger had been narking on fellow hoods to various police agencies long before the bureau “turned” him in 1975—indeed, almost from the start of his criminal career. For that matter, so had Flemmi.

When the FBI’s John Connolly first reached out to Whitey to become an informant, the agent was already a friend of Bulger’s brother, William, whose divergent career path took him to the presidencies of both the Massachusetts state senate and university system. Though Bulger also served as the FBI’s eyes and ears inside the various Irish gangs, the bureau’s original idea seems to have been to enlist Bulger to spy on Boston’s Italian Mafia—whose demolition in the 1980s would be partly due to Bulger’s information. But news about Boston’s underworld started to flow the other way once the informant began bribing his FBI handlers.


This feature originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Los Angeles magazine