Bulger had apparently been living the good life in the Golden State since 1996.
Other than the disappearance of Detroit Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa, this was the deepest thorn in the side of the modern FBI. The inability to find Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger was a festering sore for federal agents, not just because he was able to give them the slip for 16 years, but because Bulger had operated with the help of crooked FBI agents. He escaped arrest after being tipped off by a former agent.
"The arrests mark the end of a long and exhaustive hunt for America's most wanted man," said Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney, Boston.
Whitey Bulger has been on the FBI's hunting list since 1995 and assumed the position of America's most wanted fugitive after Osama bin Laden was killed last month.
Bulger's crime resume dates to the 1950s. He was once held at Alcatraz. As a fugitive he was wanted for 19 murders and suspected in dozens of others. According to federal authorities, the killings were committed to protect an empire of drugs, gambling and loansharking, run by his "Winter Hill" gang. The rackets were successful because some federal agents in Boston were paid off to look the other way and went to jail. Today is a different story.
"Using a ruse, agents and other task force members lured Mr. Bulger out of his apartment. Agents determined that the individual was in fact Mr. Bulger. He was placed under arrest without incident. Agents then went back into the apartment and arrested Miss Greig," said Richard DesLauriers, FBI, Boston.
Catherine Greig, the longtime girlfriend of the 81-year-old Irish gangster had lived with him in a southern California apartment for nearly the entire time they were on the lam. According to the manager, they were living under the names Charles and Carol Gasko.
"I've seen this guy walking down before, he goes by Charlie, it's crazy stuff," said a neighbor.
"It's odd. They didn't seem anything out of the ordinary, they were just an elderly couple," said another neighbor.
The FBI's latest public plea for help started airing this week in cities where Whitey Bulger was known to visit, including Chicago.
The reason? Chicago was the last place Bulger was seen alive. One of his top Irish mob aides, Kevin Weeks, told federal agents that the mob boss flew from New York City to Chicago in September of 1996, and in Chicago he picked up a set of fake IDs.
It is unclear whether those IDs gave Bulger and his girlfriend their new names, Charles and Carol Gasko, as seen on their California mail box, the names they used since arriving.
Chicago has a rich history of Irish gangsters from the time they faced off with Al Capone's Italian mob for control of the city's bootlegging business.
There was so much suspicion that Bulger was hiding in Chicago that the leaders of a historically Irish-run union were questioned.
The FBI Bulger task force descended twice on Chicago, Labor Day in 1999 and June of 2006, when agents questioned top officials of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union about whether they were helping to hide Bulger, delivering subpoenas and seizing a handheld computer.
But the best evidence that the bureau had no idea where he was is that the TV spots did not air in Los Angeles, the very place where Bulger had been hiding in plain sight since 1996.
Federal agents found guns and lots of cash in the apartment where Whitey Bulger had been living. He paid the rent and apparently paid for everything else in cash.
Bulger made a short appearance in federal court late Thursday afternoon.
The federal agents who arrested Bulger didn't have to use much gas to find him. He had been living exactly four miles from their Los Angeles office, a left turn out of their headquarters and a straight shot across Wilshire Boulevard.