Whitey Bulger's cellphones could hold key to his life as a fugitive
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
FBI agents are analyzing two cellphones found at the Santa Monica apartment of Whitey Bulger, hoping they can provide clues as to whether the Boston mobster received help during his 14 years as a fugitive.
In court papers filed this week, U.S. prosecutors said the phones as well as other undisclosed items were found at the apartment.
Authorities are trying to figure out how Bulger -- one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted -- was able to live fairly openly in Santa Monica. One key question is whether he got financial help. The FBI found more than $800,000 in cash inside the walls of the apartment.
In an interview with the FBI on a flight from Los Angeles to Boston, Bulger admitted that he “previously stashed money with people he trusted." But he did not say whether anyone was hiding assets for him now, according to the court records.
In court Friday in Boston, Bulger asked for a government-paid defense attorney, saying he didn't have the money to hire his own. Prosecutors scoffed at that notion.
“He was found with $800,000 in cash," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Brian T. Kelly. “We think he has access to more."
The cellphone could also help explain how Bulger was able to communicate with his associates without his true identity being discovered by those he saw every day.
The 81-year-old is allegedly responsible for numerous crimes, including 19 killings, and faces two separate federal indictments, one from 1995 and the other from 1999.
Court documents detailed statements Bulger made to federal agents during the flight to Boston in which he said he had traveled -- sometimes armed and disguised -- to locations that included not only his hometown but also Las Vegas, San Diego and Tijuana, the court papers said.
In an effort to ascertain his true assets, Ortiz urged the court to further inquire about the matter by interviewing the accused mobster's brothers, John Bulger and William M. Bulger, who is former president of the Massachusetts state Senate and president of the University of Massachusetts.
"James Bulger stands accused of an avalanche of serious charges," U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz wrote in the five-page response to Bulger's claim that he could not afford a lawyer. She noted, "[H]e has every incentive to lie and stick the taxpayers with the bill for his defense."
[For the Record, 11:25 a.m. June 28: A previous version of this post incorrectly said $80,000 was found in the walls of Whitey Bulger's apartment.]
-- Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton
Photo: A courtroom sketch depicts James "Whitey" Bulger during his initial appearance Friday in a federal courtroom in Boston. Also depicted are his brother William Bulger, left, and Judge Marianne Bowler. Credit: Associated Press