by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief
For twenty-four hours after the Los Angeles Times announced the capture of James "Whitey" Bulger last Wednesday evening, I followed the story of the capture of one of the FBI's most wanted. I'd read enough about the theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 of 13 paintings, including Vermeer's The Concert and Rembrandt's "Storm in the Sea of Galilee" to know that Bulger is not thought to have engineered the St. Patrick's Day heist. However, for much of the two plus decades that the paintings have been missing from the walls of the Boston gallery, Bulger was also missing and the two mysteries intertwined themselves. The hope, the dream, the fantasy, of those following the Gardner theft is that maybe Bulger does know where the paintings are and will trade that information to negotiate down from a death sentence.
The area of Santa Monica that Bulger lived on Third Street, just north of the retail and entertainment area known as Third Street Promenade, is in the center of a destination beach community in one of the largest metropolitan area in the United States. In addition, he occupied a rent controlled apartment in Santa Monica. Rent-controlled apartments are basically inherited or found with the best of connections. No one gets a rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica from the classified ads, never mind occupy it for 16 years. Who set up Whitey and his girlfriend in such sweet accommodations?
This morning's Boston Globe article restates that the FBI has no knowledge that Bulger had anything to do with the Gardner heist. And many people who have studied the case also agree. However, it is a bit disappointing to see that the FBI has put more energy into finding an aging gangster instead of locating priceless works of art. The families of the victims of Whitey Bulger have expressed their satisfaction in the media that Bulger was apprehended and that of course cannot be minimized. However, Bulger, an old man at 81, will be convicted and put in jail. He removed himself from organized crime in Boston almost two decades ago. But now that Osama bin Laden has been captured and killed and Bulger is now checked off the FBI's most wanted list, maybe Boston can focus on bringing home its masterpieces.