James "Whitey" Bulger's capture could cause a world of trouble inside the FBI.
The ruthless Boston crime boss who spent 16 years on the run is said to have boasted that he corrupted six FBI agents and more than 20 police officers. If he decides to talk, some of them could regret the day he was caught.
"They are holding their breath, wondering what he could say," said Robert Fitzpatrick, the former second-in-command of the Boston FBI office.
The gangster, 81, was captured Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif., where he apparently had been living for most of the time he was a fugitive. He appeared Friday afternoon inside a heavily guarded federal courthouse in Boston to answer for his role in 19 murders.
Bulger, wearing jeans and a white shirt, looked tan and fit and walked with a slight hunch at back-to-back hearings on two indictments. He asked that a public defender be appointed to represent him, but the government objected, citing the $800,000 seized from his Southern California apartment and his "family resources."
"We think he has access to more cash," said prosecutor Brian Kelly.
At the second hearing, Bulger took a swipe at prosecutors after Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler asked him if he could afford to pay for an attorney. "Well, I could, if they would give me my money back," he replied in his unmistakable Boston accent, prompting laughter in the courtroom.
Kelly implied that Bulger's cash came from illegal activities.
"He clearly didn't make that on a paper route on Santa Monica Boulevard," he said.
Prosecutors asked that Bulger be held without bail, saying he is a danger to the community and may try to threaten witnesses.
"He's also, quite obviously, a risk of flight," Kelly said.
Kelly also said Catherine Greig, Bulger's longtime girlfriend who was arrested with him, told court officials that Bulger's brother may be willing to assist him in posting bail.
When Bulger walked into the courtroom, he saw his brother William, the former powerful leader of the State Senate, seated in the second row. Whitey Bulger smiled at him and mouthed, "Hi." His brother smiled back.
Greig appeared in court a few minutes later on charges of harboring a fugitive. She asked for a hearing to determine whether she can be released on bail, and one was scheduled for next week.
Bulger, the former boss of the Winter Hill Gang, Boston's Irish mob, embroiled the FBI in scandal after he disappeared in 1995. It turned out that Bulger had been an FBI informant for two decades, feeding the bureau information on the rival New England Mafia, and that he fled after a retired Boston FBI agent tipped him off that he was about to be indicted.
The retired agent, John Connolly Jr., was sent to prison for protecting Bulger. The FBI depicted Connolly as a rogue agent, but Bulger associates described more widespread corruption in testimony at Connolly's trial and in lawsuits filed by the families of people allegedly killed by Bulger and his gang.
Edward J. MacKenzie Jr., a former drug dealer and enforcer for Bulger, predicted that Bulger will disclose new details about FBI corruption and how agents protected him for so long.