The auction today for the belongings of Boston's most notorious mobster, James "Whitey" Bulger, began with a pair of size 9.5 sneakers.
"You can walk in Whitey's shoes," auctioneer Bob Sheehan announced as he opened the bidding. Within seconds they were sold, still in the box, for $50. Other sneakers sold for $35, a third pair fetched $40. Four pairs of his "slightly worn" dress shoes went for $240.
And someone might be wearing his white bucket hat, the one Bulger was wearing when U.S. Marshals cornered him in the garage of his Santa Monica, California, hideout in June 2011.
"Whitey was wearing that hat when he heard, 'Put your hands up,'" Sheehan said as he opened the bidding. The hat sold for $6,400.
The sales were made today during a court-ordered auction of all of the items found in Bulger's rent-controlled apartment, which was just blocks from the beach and the famous Promenade, an apartment crowded with cat figurines and clothing belonging to his longtime companion Catherine Greig.
All 138 lots of Bulger and Greig's belongings offered at the auction today were sold, with the proceeds of $109, 295 to be split among the families of the 11 people Bulger was convicted of murdering in 2013, a U.S. Marshals spokeswoman said.
The highest amount paid was $23,000 for a 14-karat yellow gold Claddagh ring with one heart-cut diamond. The lowest lot was $10 for garment bags and clothing.
"This is about making money for the families. We were hoping his notoriety would bring out some interested buyers and it did," said U.S. Marshal John Gibbons, who attended today’s sale along with representatives from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Federal prosecutors said Bulger's life of crime amassed him more than $25 million during his eight-week trial that sent the then 84-year-old leader of the Winter Hill Gang to prison for life. He was also ordered to pay $19.5 million in restitution, which today’s sale made a small dent in.
After his arrest, investigators found 30 high-powered weapons secreted in the walls along with a stash of $822,000 in cash. Their bedroom was lined with bookshelves stocked with Bulger’s favorite mob books, including some that featured him. A collection of those books sold for $1550.
One bidder, John Kelly, paid $4900.00 for a boxing dummy that the mobster positioned in the window of the Santa Monica hideout with a fedora affixed to its head, one of the security measures the notoriously paranoid fugitive took during his 16 years on the lam.
"I followed the Whitey story for years. I didn't buy it to glamorize him. I did it because it's a good cause," Kelly said. Kelly was then hugged by Steve Davis, whose sister Debbi Davis was murdered by Bulger's cohort Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi.
"It's not about Whitey, it's about spending money for a good cause on something that I have good memories of," Kelly said. "I used to box with something just like this."
The auction began at 10 a.m. and by noon it had raised more than $15,000 with some items, like umbrellas and junk drawer items fetching less than $100, or a desk calendar with scribbled notes that sold for $400.
The big-ticket items were more personal, such as a pencil cup shaped like a rat sold to an online bidder for $3,650.
The rat cup was significant because during the years Bulger maintained a stranglehold on Boston's criminal rackets he had some high-powered help: from the FBI. As Bulger committed what a federal judge would call "unfathomable acts in unfathomable ways" in his South Boston neighborhood, one he terrorized with bloodletting, drug dealing and rackets, he had another secret identity as a top echelon informant for the FBI.
Greig, 65, is serving an eight-year sentence connected to charges that she helped Bulger escape a pending indictment. This year a federal judge ordered her to serve another 21 months in prison after she refused to cooperate with a grand jury investigation into whether anyone helped the couple while they were on the run.