Shackled James 'Whitey' Bulger Laughs in California Court

Mob boss who inspired the Oscar winner 'The Departed' nabbed in Santa Monica.

June 23, 2011, 1:20 AM

June 23, 2011— -- Notorious suspected mob boss James J. "Whitey" Bulger chuckled in a California court as he appeared in public today for the first time in 16 years.

"There's a lot of media here to see you," a marshal told the legendary former leader of the brutal Winter Hill Gang, according to a federal official there. The shackled Bulger just laughed.

When the judge asked Bulger during the short hearing if he had read and understood the charges listed against him in a 200-plus page indictment, Bulger said he hadn't read it all but knew what was inside.

Though fake IDs were discovered in their residence after their arrests, Bulger and his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig, both waived their identity hearings and agreed to be transported to Massachusetts to face charges, Steven Martinez, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office, told reporters this evening.

Bulger, who has been on the run with Greig since the mid-1990s for his alleged role in at least 19 murders, was arrested near his Santa Monica, Calif., home late Wednesday. Bulger was arrested without incident after he fell for an FBI "ruse" that drew him out of his home, officials said.

After his arrest, Bulger consented to a search of his apartment, Martinez said. When agents followed up, they found he was housing enough weapons -- including sawed-off shotguns, pistols and AR 15 assault rifles -- for a small gangland war, law enforcement sources told ABC News. He also had a bundle of cash "secreted in the apartment" totaling approximately $800,000, Martinez said.

"I think it's fairly obvious he had the means and wherewithal to stay anonymous," Martinez said. "I think the money had something to do with it. He had the means to get by."

The FBI tracked down Bulger after receiving a "promising" tip in response to a new bureau publicity campaign that focused on tracking down Greig, FBI special agent in charge Richard DesLaurers told reporters today.

Martinez said the tip was relayed to Los Angeles agents by a Bulger task force in Boston on Wednesday.

"We are not at liberty to disclose the identity of the source [of the initial tip] for security reasons," Martinez said.

"We did not have any idea [Bulger] was in Santa Monica," he added, noting that TV ads targeting Greig aired in the San Diego and San Francisco markets, but not Los Angeles, though they garnered national news coverage.

READ: Whitey Bulger Tracked Down Through His Galpal Catherine Greig

After watching the house where Bulger and Greig were suspected of living, the FBI confirmed the 81-year-old was their man and duped him into coming out of the home to be arrested, DesLauriers and Martinez said.

DesLauriers would not say exactly how the FBI tricked Bulger -- who has managed to slip past the bureau for nearly two decades -- into giving himself up.

Bulger and Greig had been living under the false names Charles and Carol Gasko, officials said, and appeared to have lived in the Santa Monica home for some time. Two property managers at the Santa Monica property told The Associated Press the fugitive pair, using the Gasko name, moved there in 1996.

Bulger is in federal custody in California but is expected to be extradited to Boston within the next 48 hours.

Greig's twin sister, Margaret McCusker, told ABC News the arrest came as a shock.

"I am very emotional about all this but I have to say I am happy my sister is going to coming home," she said. "I talked to her the first couple of years but I haven't talked to her since. It's been a very long time. ... I didn't know if she was alive or dead, and suddenly it is within my grasp."

DesLauriers also declined to provide any information about the tipster that sparked the successful operation, but said the bureau would be working with the Department of Justice concerning a possible $2 million reward.

Bulger could face life in prison for the charges against him in Boston and possibly the death penalty for charges filed elsewhere should he be convicted, U.S. Attorney Cameron Ortiz said. Greig could face up to five years in prison for harboring a fugitive.

READ: Tale of Two Brothers: Whitey and Billy Bulger's Rise to Power in Crime and Politics

"We [have] gone a long way in bringing justice to the victims and their families," Ortiz said. "Now we have the ability to bring him to at least face these charges. ... At least now we have the opportunity to prove our case."

'Whitey' Bulger PSA Pays Off

On Monday, the FBI had announced a new television campaign aimed specifically at women, in the hopes of tracking down Greig, hoping she could lead agents to Bulger.

The infamous duo have been on the run together since 1995.

According to the FBI's website, Bulger was being sought in connection with murders committed from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s during his leadership of organized crime. Some of the crimes listed in connection with Bulger include conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit extortion and narcotics distribution, among others.

Bulger, a former FBI informant, went on the run in the mid-1990s after he was allegedly tipped off by a now-disgraced ex-FBI agent that he was about to be indicted. The FBI agent, John Connolly Jr., was convicted in 2008 for his role in a mob hit in 1982 while he was supposedly undercover.

The Winter Hill Gang allegedly raked in income from extortion payments paid by career criminals in the Boston area in exchange for the ability to run drug operations, loan sharking and other illegal enterprises.

ABC News' Lee Ferran, Michael S. James and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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