Faculty Focus: Get Whitey
How a COM alum helped capture the most wanted man in America
Photos: Whitey Bulger through the years: Inmate case file AZ-1428 (The National Archives at San Francisco). Bulger and Catherine Greig: LAPD mug shots, 2011
In June 2011, when the FBI got a tip that notorious Beantown gangster Whitey Bulger was hiding out in Santa Monica, California, Bulger had been nearly 17 years on the run with girlfriend Catherine Greig. For approximately 14 years, the two had been posing as an average retired couple in Santa Monica, living in an apartment building a short distance from the beach.
General Manager Josh Bond (’05) had no idea that his tenant and next-door neighbor “Charlie Gasko,” who sometimes stopped by to shoot the breeze, was a wanted man with 19 murders on his head. Until FBI agent Scott Garriola showed up.
In this excerpt from Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss (Crown Publishers, 2013), COM Professor of Journalism Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill (’70)—the team who wrote the best seller Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal (soon to be a movie directed by Barry Levinson)—reveal how Josh Bond helped the FBI capture the most wanted man in America.
The agent had a manila folder. He told Josh he was there to check out a tip—a tip about a man who was possibly living in the Princess Eugenia, a man without a Social Security number, a bank account and other identifying information. The agent then opened the folder to reveal the FBI’s fugitive flyer for gangster James J. “Whitey” Bulger and Catherine Greig.
Josh stared at the two faces side by side. “Holy shit,” he said. . . .
The agent’s interest was clearly heightened. “That’s them?” he asked.
Josh looked at him. “What’s my reaction tell you?”
The agent ignored Josh’s comment. “How sure?”
“Ninety-nine-point-nine percent sure.” The moment the words came out of his mouth he realized he was being ridiculous trying to account for some kind of cosmic philosophical truth that nothing was ever absolutely certain. He amended his answer. “I’m one hundred percent sure,” he said.
He looked at the flyer, stunned—the Bulger name racing around his head, as he remembered random news during his time at Boston University: Bill Bulger (Hon.’96), a politician, and then Whitey Bulger, a criminal who was wanted for something. But he knew very little beyond basic name recognition.
The agent immediately made a call. Josh couldn’t overhear exactly what was said but got the gist of it—the agent told another FBI agent, This kid here thinks it’s him, and I think we got him, so let’s not fuck this up.
Josh also noted the agent’s calm, in contrast to his own condition—heart pumping, mind racing with half thoughts, things like, Whitey Bulger—he’s been wanted for a long time for a lot of crimes. I know him, I’m living next to him. . . .
Editor’s note: A short while later, in Bond’s apartment:
Agents at this point had confirmed Cathy Greig was home; she’d appeared on the balcony, where they’d made a positive identification. Garriola’s phone and radio crackled with updates, and Josh thought the voices on the radio were getting tense—even jumpy, especially after a man was spotted on the balcony. The voices competed as they tried to determine if the man was Whitey. Who is it? Is it him? What do we have? But the man wore some kind of light shirt with a hoodie, and no one could tell positively whether it was Whitey.
Then, after the man went back inside, the heavy black drapes were pulled shut, and that set off a cacophony of voices worrying that the couple in the apartment had made the surveillance and knew investigators were watching.
It was clear to Josh the tempo had picked up. It was also clear Garriola had decided that instead of a raid they now wanted to lure the man they believed was Whitey Bulger out of the apartment. . . .
Josh had a new idea: what if he notified Whitey his storage unit had been broken into? Whitey would want to come down to check it out.
Garriola liked this idea. He spoke with his colleagues, and the plan was hatched. Josh and the agent . . . returned to Josh’s apartment after Garriola had cut the lock on Whitey’s storage unit . . . [Josh] would go back to the [management] office and call Whitey about the storage unit. The FBI agent concurred, and they left the apartment to take up their respective positions.
When Josh walked into the office, (Assistant Manager) Thea was still there, waiting. She was mostly in the dark about the events that were unfolding, and Josh filled her in. Waiting for Garriola’s call, they sat together at the computer, looked up Whitey on Wikipedia and began reading. Josh suddenly felt the full force of a hurricane-like blast of information, where all he could think was, This guy has killed a lot of people.
Thea told Josh he looked all white. “Take a deep breath,” she said.
The phone rang. It was Garriola; they were ready.
Reprinted from Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss, copyright © 2013 by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. Published by Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.