Showing posts with label James Whitey Bulger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label James Whitey Bulger. Show all posts

November 11, 2013

James "Whitey" Bulger to be Sentenced to Prison Thursday

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.

June 11, 2012

Boston Globe: FBI plans public awareness campaign aimed at recovering paintings stolen from Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

I am always curious when a new article is published more than two decades after the world's largest museum theft, the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  It has been almost one year since James "Whitey" Bulger was apprehended in Santa Monica, California, briefly giving rise to expectations that one of the FBI's formerly "Most Wanted" criminals would talk about the stolen paintings as a way to negotiate favorable treatment after his arrest.

The Boston Globe's article by Milton J. Valencia and Stephen Kurkjian, "Public's aid sought in '90  Gardner Museum heist", explains that the FBI plans a "public awareness campaign" to recover the paintings, much like the strategy used to capture fugitive Bulger.  Let's all hope that the efforts are successful and that the museum's security director, Anthony Amore, will finally put the artworks back into the empty frames hanging on the institution's walls.

October 2, 2011

Stonehill College: "Veteran Art Detectives Discuss Most Notorious Cases at Martin Institute"

Photo: Virginia Curry and Dick Ellis
Here's a link to Stonehill College's website and the post about the lecture by former art police investigators, Virginia Curry (FBI) and Dick Ellis (Scotland Yard). Cases highlighted included "Peter the Cheater"; forger Elmyr de Hory; the thefts at Russborough House; looting of Egyptian antiquities; the Sevso Silver; and the involvement of James "Whitey" Bulger in the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

August 20, 2011

Anthony Amore, co-Author of "Stealing Rembrandts", on interviewing art thieves and whether or not James "Whitey" Bulger knows the whereabouts of the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in 1990

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

Anthony Amore, head of security of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is one the Board of Trustees of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art and taught a course in Museum Security for the ARCA program in International Art Crime Studies in 2009. He co-authored "Stealing Rembrandts" with Tom Mashberg, an award-winning investigative reporter and the former Sunday Editor for the Boston Herald.

Thirteen works of art, including three Rembrandts, were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on March 18, 1990. Both Amore and Mashberg spent years studying all aspects of the world's largest unsolved art theft.

Anthony writes in his foreword to the book:
 "One of the more intriguing characteristics of the Gardner heist is that two of the stolen paintings, "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" (1633) and "A Lady and Gentleman in Black" (1633), both by Rembrandt, were cut from their frames."
Amore puts forth the question as to why the two thieves, who spent a leisurely 81 minutes in the museum, risked damaging the paintings by slicing the two Rembrandt canvases from their stretchers:
"Were they so unschooled as to imagine they could manhandle the canvases without wreaking destruction on the paintings? That alone is a key insight into the culprits. Thieves schooled in art would have done no such thing. Moreover, the robbers anticipated that they were going to cut some paintings from their frames. Why else would they have brought along an instrument that was sharp and sturdy enough to slice through stiff, varnished paint and linen canvas? Two other major art thefts in Massachusetts (both involving Rembrandts, as the following chapters will show) were pulled off more than 15 years before the Gardner crime without anyone resorting to cutting canvases. Why do so now? Had these thieves learned their lessons in theft outside Massachusetts? Was this their first art crime?"
Anthony Amore's obsession with studying the ISGM theft and finding the paintings led him and co-author Mashberg to write about comparable thefts in this 245-page manuscript just perfect for summer reading in the hammock, on the beach, or in an airport. The language is accessible and the narrative strong, even when describing when and why Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) painted the artworks that are the subject of these thefts. The authors answer the question as to why anyone would care that these paintings have been stolen, remain missing, or how they were recovered.

ARCA Blog: The book tells of a heist at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts in 1972, orchestrated by Florian "Al" Monday, a man now in his seventies who was involved in art theft more than four decades ago.  Anthony, how did you contact Florian "Al" Monday and what was your experience interviewing him? Does he speculate about the whereabouts of the ISGM paintings?
Anthony Amore: I reached out to Al years ago to have a conversation about art theft. He still lives in Massachusetts and we know many of the same people so it was an interesting conversation. Al has been on the hunt for the stolen Gardner art for many years and can speak more knowledgably about the crime figures who do not have the art than he can about who does. Despite his criminal history and proclivity towards taking paintings that don’t belong to him, we’re friends and I quite enjoy talking to him.
ARCA Blog: Myles J. Connor Jr., an art thief, has authored a book about his adventures, including the theft of a Rembrandt painting on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. What characteristics do you think Connor and Monday share as art thieves?
Anthony Amore: Myles and Al share a unique characteristic that sets them apart from virtually all other art thieves, and that is that both of them appreciate fine art and are knowledgeable on the subject. While this sounds admirable, in many respects it makes their crimes all the more worse, since they have a better understanding of the cost to society than a common criminal. And make no mistake: though they art aficionados, they stole art strictly for profit, not to enjoy it.
ARCA Blog: Carl Earnest Horsley agreed to speak with you about a 1973 theft in Cincinnati. He was under surveillance when he collected the ransom and left two stolen art works. Anthony, why do you think he finally agreed to speak about his role in the theft? What do you think he had in common with Monday and Connor?
Anthony Amore: I believe that Carl saw an opportunity to get his story out but also to let the world know that he has turned his life around and is now a legitimate businessman. I see Carl as an exception to the rule that people never change. He seems to have made an earnest attempt to go straight.
ARCA Blog: After looking at all these thefts, do you feel any closer to creating a profile of the thieves who robbed the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990?
Amore: Absolutely. I’ve felt that I have a clear picture of the sort of criminal who pulled off the Gardner heist.
ARCA Blog: Recently you were interviewed by John Wilson for BBC's "Front Row." On his blog, he speculates about the arrest of James "Whitey" Bulger and whether or not Boston's former crime boss has knowledge of the whereabouts of the paintings. Do you share Charley Hill's opinion (according to John Wilson) that the paintings have been in Ireland with some faction of the IRA?
Anthony Amore: I have the utmost respect for Charley Hill. His career is amazing, and, aside from being a wonderful guy, he is among the greatest art recovery agents in history. However (and Charley knows I feel this way), I do not share his belief regarding the IRA. I share the opinion of the Assistant US Attorney Brian Kelly that Bulger was not involved in the theft and has no information about it to share. We’re fortunate at the Gardner to have AUSA Kelly as the lead prosecutor for our case, as he is also the lead prosecutor in the Bulger case. He has put away all of Bulger’s cohorts, all of whom admitted to dozens of murders and other heinous crimes and have described all of Bulger’s exploits for juries and book readers alike. One would have to suspend an enormous amount of disbelief to think they wouldn’t admit to even the slightest knowledge about the Gardner theft. Add that to the fact that there’s not even the slightest bit of evidence pointing to an Irish connection, and I put that possibility very low on the list of likelihoods. Of course, all that being said, the paintings are still missing, so we cannot rule anything out. And if a person from Ireland shows up at our door with the art this afternoon, I’ll be very glad to admit that I was wrong!

June 26, 2011

The Boston Globe Continues the Tease with the headline "Bulger may yield clues to Gardner Museum Art Heist"

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.

June 25, 2011

LA Times' Jason Flech on "Can Whitey Bulger help solve biggest art heist in U. S. History?"

Los Angeles Times reporter Jason Flech has written an article, "Can Whitey Bulger help solve the biggest art heist in U.S. history?", which talks about why robbing the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 would not have been the type of crime Bulger would have committed; the hope that Bulger does know who did the theft; and what publicity could do to recover the paintings. Jason Flech is the co-author of "Chasing Aphrodite", the story of The Getty, stolen antiquities, and the fall of Marion True.

Image to the left copied from the article as published by The Los Angeles Times online.

June 24, 2011

In Less than 10 Minutes, FBI's "Most Wanted" James "Whitey" Bulger Agreed to be Held Without Bail and to Be Sent Back to Boston

Assistant U. S. Attorney Robert Dugdale speaks to the press
 after the arraignment of James "Whitey" Bulger
 and his girlfriend Catherine Grieg.
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

LOS ANGELES, CA - In the U. S. District Court Arraignment Room 341, it took only six to seven minutes for James "Whitey" Bulger and his girlfriend, Catherine Grieg, to agree to be held without bail and to be sent back to Boston to face criminal charges he had fled more than 15 years ago. In addition, the fugitive who was thought to be living off of millions of dollars and who was once, albeit briefly, considered to be behind the world's largest art theft (the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum involving Vermeer's The Concert and Rembrandt's Storm of Gaililee), filled out the paperwork to get a court-appointed public defender.

Camera trucks lined along Judge John Aiso St.
 just south of the Edward Roybal Federal Building
 in downtown Los Angeles.
The hearing, which began fairly promptly at about 2 p.m. was over by 2:14 p.m. Only 22 seats in room 341 had been allowed and journalists had a problem getting in, lining outside the hearing room, corralled by the U. S. Marshalls. One woman sitting on a bench outside the arraignment room, complained loudly on her cell phone that she had been waiting since 9:30 this morning to enter the room, but that she and her friend had been excluded from those let into the hearing room. She was one of the many family members waiting for the others regularly scheduled to see the judge (after Bulger and Grieg had seen the judge, the family members were counted by the U. S. Marshalls and told to go sit back down until they were called again, apparently to be seated after the media had vacated the court room).

One male journalist from ABC actually left the hearing room before it began to give up his seat for other print journalists. He explained to the line of journalists against the wall that his company already had radio and TV representatives in the room. Another journalist along the wall was told that if he was seeing giving a stare down again, he'd be removed from the building.

A reporter for Channel 7 in Boston left the hearing room and phoned in his observations: Bulger had been 'unfazed'... his 60-year-old girlfriend looked 75 even with her unlined surgically altered complexion because her hair was so white and she looked so thin...Bulger was unrecognizable ... Bulger answered the questions clearly. He agreed to be immediately "forthwith" transported by the U. S. Marshall Service back to Boston to face charges.

The U. S. Magistrate Judge was John McDermott and he was from Los Angeles as were all the personnel involved with the case. However, many of the press had boarded an early morning flight in Boston to arrive in Los Angeles for the afternoon hearing.

On the street, credit was given to the FBI for publicizing the image of Bulger's girlfriend on television shows purportedly of interest to women who might frequent beauty salons and other places that Bulger's girlfriend would visit -- the FBI played to the tendency for women to pay attention to how other women look.

Here are some updated links:

according to ABC, Whitey Bulger has lived in Santa Monica since 1996;

and Channel 7 in Boston filed it's report here online;

and to the Financial Times for how the FBI advertised for a fugitive's girlfriend.

Judge Arthur Tompkins, one of our ARCA Lecturers, just send me an email highlighting an anecdote in The New York Times about the lifestyle of a fugitive:
Janus Goodwin, 61, who lived on the same floor as Mr. Bulger and Ms. Greig, came to know the couple in 1999. She said Mr. Bulger rarely left the apartment. 
“When I would be invited in, he would always be lying on the sofa, watching TV,” Ms. Goodwin said. “He was very proud of his little art pieces, which were cheap knockoffs of Monet and Van Gogh.”
Judge Tompkins writes: "Makes you wonder, in an idle moment, if he had a stray but genuine Rembrandt or Vermeer lurking around somewhere ..."

Osama Bin Laden is dead, James "Whitey" Bulger has been captured, it would be nice if the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum found its stolen paintings.

June 23, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - , No comments

James "Whitey" Bulger Scheduled to Appear in the Federal District Court (Central District) at 2 p.m. in Los Angeles

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

James "Whitey" Bulger will appear at 3 p.m. today in the Federal District Court (Central District) in Los Angeles. The Irish-American gangster is rumored to have attended mass at  Saint Monica Catholic Church, the most popular parish for the Westside of Los Angeles and a place of worship for many politicians and law enforcement.

This is the FBI's press release -- quite understated -- released today:

FBI Agents have arrested Top Ten Fugitive, James J. "Whitey" Bulger, and his companion, Catherine Greig, in California.

Recent publicity produced a tip which led agents to Santa Monica, California, where they located both Bulger and Greig at a residence early this evening.
Bulger and Greig were arrested without incident. Both are currently scheduled for an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California (downtown Los Angeles) on Thursday.
Here are some more links on the story, highlighting the FBI's successful publicity campaign to find the fugitive and his beauty-salon loving girlfriend: 

Spoiler Alert: FBI's Most Wanted James "Whitey" Bulger Has Been Arrested in Santa Monica, CA

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

UPDATE: The New York Times reported that Bulger and his girlfriend Catherine Greig were arrested at a private residence.  The FBI had launched a specific campagin to find Greig who frequented places offering teeth cleaning, beauty salons and plastic surgery.

The Los Angeles Times reported at 8:35 p.m. Pacific Standard Time that the FBI arrested James "Whitey" Bulger this evening in Santa Monica, California. The former FBI informant and Boston criminal has been a fugitive since 1994. Bulger became the most wanted after the death of Osama Bin Laden. A $2 million reward was offered for information leading to his arrest.

The FBI has not yet released an official press release but their website for their "Ten Most Wanted" shows "Captured" under Bulger's photo.

In Ulrich Boser's book, The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft, the author reports that at the time of the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, that "Bulger was one of the most powerful gangsters in Boston, the head of the infamous Irish-American mob, the Winter Hill Gang, and during the 1970s and '80s, Bulger controlled the New England underworld with savage brutality."

Basically, although Bulger was not thought to have orchestrated the largest art theft in American history, such a crime could not have happened in Boston without him knowing about it. Maybe the 81-year-old Bulger would be willing to exchange information about the location of the paintings in exchange for leniency?

We can only hope.

Image of James "Whitey" Bulger above is from the FBI website.