by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief
More than two years after the FBI apprehended James "Whitey" Bulger in Santa Monica, the 84-year-old convicted murderer will be sentenced Thursday to prison for the rest of his life -- without ever leading investigators to the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.
Both the Gardner's security director and investigator, Anthony Amore, and the federal prosecutor who put Bulger away, Brian T. Kelly, have said publicly that Bulger was not connected to the heist in any way and is not considered a suspect.
Shelley Murphey, reporter for the Boston Globe and co-author with Kevin Cullen of Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that Brought Him to Justice (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013) summarizes Bulger's legal status here in "'King of Bulger's victim's set to speak out in court" (Boston Globe, Nov. 11):
In August, following an eight-week trial, jurors found Bulger participated in 11 murders while operating a sprawling criminal enterprise from the 1970s through the 1990s that trafficked in cocaine and marijuana; extorted drug dealers, businessmen, and bookmakers; and corrupted FBI agents and other law enforcement officials. He was convicted of 31 counts of racketeering, extortion, money laundering, and weapons possession.
In a sentencing memorandum filed last week, prosecutors said Bulger “has no redeeming qualities” and faces a mandatory term under federal sentencing guidelines of life in prison, followed by another life sentence for possessing machine guns and another five-year term for possessing handguns.
In the biography of Bulger by Murphey and Cullen, a word search for "Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum", "art theft", or "museum" resulted in none of the speculation found in previous years about Whitey's possible knowledge of what had happened to the ISGM paintings. [I did read in their book that in 1996 Bulger and his companion Cathy Greig walked into an residential building on Third Street in Santa Monica, lied about their identities on an application form for a rent-controlled apartment, then moved into a two-bedroom unit at $837 a month. When I lived in Santa Monica in the early 1990s, everyone I ever knew had to know someone to get a unit due to the fierce competition for affordable beach housing.]
In Ulrich Bosert's 2009 The Gardner Heist, rumors retold include that Whitey Bulger approached someone in Florida to sell the Gardner loot for $10 million and that Bulger had shipped the stolen paintings to the IRA in Ireland.