Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal by Lehr, Dick, O'Neill, Gerard (2012)
Some things are necessary evils,
some things are more evil than necessary.
JOHN LE CARRÉ,
THE RUSSIA HOUSE
On a November day that warned of winter a state cop took a slow drive by a forbidding brick building with iron bars on the windows and an oversized Schlitz Beer lantern above the front door. Detective Joe Saccardo began nodding to himself as he rolled by slick cars on a skid row. Too many Cadillacs for downtown Chelsea, he thought. Heller’s Café is a bookie joint all right.
But inside the tavern the proprietor was doing more than logging betting slips. Michael London was shuffling checks, tallying part of the $500,000 in paper he converted into cash each week for the region’s biggest bookmakers. London was just hitting his stride as a back-alley banker in 1983. Starting with a small book in a barroom inherited from his father, London had moved up the gambling chain by turning hot checks into cold cash. Bookies now called him “the Check Man.” At the beginning of the 1980s he began shifting away from a local clientele to the big sports-betting network run by Jewish bookmakers with ties to Winter Hill and, to a lesser extent, the Mafia. London had become the man to see when bookies and businessmen wanted to hide profits from the Internal Revenue Service.
When Saccardo pulled over to a curb, he did some tallying of his own. He had a dozen license plate numbers from the sleek cars that ringed Heller’s Café. Back at the office the state police computer took the numbers and spat out a who’s who of Boston bookmaking: Chico Krantz, Jimmy Katz, Eddie Lewis, Howie Levenson, Fat Vinny Roberto. Even Joey Y—Joseph Yerardi, a wiseguy more than a bookie who put money on the street for Winter Hill and was allowed to collect rents of his own.
Bingo. Saccardo had found much more than a bookie joint; he had discovered the mob’s bank, a place where gamblers’ losses—in five-figure checks made out to cash or joke names such as Ronald Gambling or Arnold Palmer—were converted into payouts and profits. At its height the bulletproof teller booth in the back of a saloon converted $50 million a year into cash. It also yielded about $1 million in fees to London, who was raking it in on a back street under a tired bridge in a run-down city.
Fittingly, it was left to Joe Saccardo of the Massachusetts State Police to target Boston’s version of Meyer Lansky. London juggled two accounts in a local bank with about $800,000 in family money and withdrew up to that amount each week as the checks cleared. It was a good deal all around. The local bank got use of the money without having to pay interest, and it winked at London having to report cash transactions of more than $10,000 to the IRS. He worked the system to buy a house in Weston, the wealthiest suburb in Massachusetts, and a summer home in West Hyannisport not far from the Kennedy family’s compound.
Though most of London’s bookmaking customers were affiliated with Bulger’s gang, he was drawn to the brash braggadocio of Vincent Ferrara, a flashy capo who became such a regular at Heller’s that he had his own table. London saw Ferrara as a comer in the Mafia and hitched his red tavern to Vinny’s rising star.
London and Ferrara were simpatico, understanding enough about money to see it as more than cash in the pocket and a new car. London began helping to round up freeloader bookies for Ferrara, giving them intimidating pep talks. “You gotta pay one side or the other these days,” he told them. “I’m just letting you know how it works so ya’ don’t get hurt.” Over time London became the poor man’s version of the Wall Street broker who pushes clients toward an investment banker who gives him kickbacks. The two men had similar tastes. They both bought the same silver two-seater Mercedes, and Ferrara convinced London to take one of the small boutique dogs he bought in New York for $5,000. They also shared loan-shark profits.
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After Joe Saccardo brought the who’s who license plate printout to his bosses, they knew what they had. Instead of settling for a fast gaming raid, they called for reinforcements. A task force of state police investigators and FBI and IRS agents was formed. At times the various agencies did little more than get in each other’s way. It took three years of fits and starts before bugs were spliced into the teller’s cage inside Heller’s Café and taps were placed on two phones. Investigators monitored bugs from a nearby construction trailer for the last two months of 1986. When it ended, no one was quite sure what they had, though they knew this much: Vinny and Mike had a problem. In December the police team rousted the bar, pushing everyone against the wall. But the jammed-up clientele was nothing compared to the boxes of checks carted away to FBI headquarters in Boston.
Soon afterward London told Jimmy Katz, a bookie whose own day would come, “It’s gonna be a big problem. Not, not immediately. But it will happen.” London knew that the boxes of checks from 1980 to 1986 would tally $200 million.
Though the confiscated boxes of checks and reels of tape were as rich a vein of evidence as police could have carried away, the whole case bogged down at the FBI in 1987. The bureau was sure there was a Mafia capo in the big stack of stuff but was halfhearted about investigating further. In the US Attorney’s Office, Jeremiah O’Sullivan had just finished the Angiulo case and was ready to take on reckless newcomers. As federal prosecutors reviewed the tapes, O’Sullivan cherry-picked them for his strike force and tossed the rest back. His assessment: we’ll take Vinny, and somebody else really should do London. And, oh, there might be some other stuff in here too.
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Indeed there was. Only doing Ferrara meant taking a pass on the bookies in the line at Mike London’s cashier window who Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi were extorting. London once told Chico Krantz, the premier bookmaker with a long-term deal with Bulger, to “shop Italian.” “Stevie can’t hold [Vinny’s] jockstrap. Vinny will work for ya . . . a collection agency, personal protection. Stevie don’t do nothin. This guy here will go to bat for you.” In another Mike London speech a bookie nicknamed “Beechi” got the sad facts of life: pay Ferrara or “the other guys are gonna get your name . . . Stevie and Whitey.” But nobody in federal law enforcement seemed excited about the evidence implicating Bulger and Flemmi.
After O’Sullivan culled Vinny out of the tapes, the boxes of checks collected dust. Several prosecutors had taken one look at the evidence room and kept on going. No one wanted to wrestle a messy paper case to the ground to convict a Chelsea tavern owner. Joe Saccardo finally prevailed on a young eager prosecutor named Michael Kendall to take a look.
If the storage room was overflowing, the quality of the seized evidence was remarkable. Kendall had the patience to assemble the paper and prepare a chart showing how $200 million in gambling losses and loan-shark payments got turned into cash. Two years later London was convicted of money laundering and racketeering and sentenced to fifteen years.
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Chico Krantz was only a footnote in the London indictment, but Saccardo began to lobby for a second wave of prosecutions out of Heller’s Café—all the bookies who were paying rent. He didn’t know what the crimes should be, but he began to wonder if something in the mix could be used against Bulger. Kendall begged off, however, citing his caseload.
Then one of those mundane but magical things happened. Kendall recalled that Fred Wyshak had done a similar check-cashing case and went to talk to him about Chico Krantz. As luck would have it, Chico was just coming into focus out of a separate broad-based bookie investigation by state police in the Special Services Unit headed by Sergeant Tom Foley. The state police had set out to find bookies who dealt with Whitey Bulger, and as in Heller’s Café, Chico was at the head of the line.
Suddenly Chico, the whiz kid of betting lines, was overlapping himself as the perfect witness against Whitey Bulger. He had been paying tribute to the insular Bulger for nearly twenty years. He was one of the first to know about the new system of monthly rent payments when Bulger explained it to him in 1979. Bulger threatened him with death when Chico dragged his feet on paying a debt to another bookie. And his long history of payments to Bulger measured the expansion of Whitey’s empire. Over the years Chico’s monthly rent had climbed from $750 to $3,000.
Chico’s undoing began just about the time Mike London was indicted in 1990. State police targeted a bookie network with Mafia ties. Fat Vinny Roberto and his brothers handled daily action from thirty-five bettors who wagered up to $500,000 a week. But the big payoff from the Roberto investigation was the discovery that Krantz was his everyday boss, even setting the Roberto brothers’ work hours. Best of all, undercover state police followed Roberto to Chico’s suburban home, where he dropped off a package. A search warrant got them inside Krantz’s home, where they found keys to bank deposit boxes that were filled with $2 million in cash.
After Krantz was arrested on gaming charges in 1991 at the state police barracks outside Boston, he sought out Sergeant Foley. “How come the police went to my house this time?” Krantz asked.
“Where’s this thing going?”
Foley shrugged again.
About a week later, with Krantz out on bail, Foley met with the master bookie at his Florida home, and they talked for two days about bookmakers and the Bulger gang. Krantz didn’t give up too much, talking in general terms about Flemmi, George Kaufman, and Joe Yerardi. But Krantz did agreed to be a “CI,” or a confidential informant.
With an ambivalent Krantz waiting in the wings, prosecutors and state police began to chase down leads from the Heller’s Café tapes and the related Middlesex County case that started with Fat Vinny Roberto. Wyshak soon focused on four check-cashing operations in greater Boston, including Heller’s. The investigators collated boxes of checks, much as Kendall had done in the London prosecution, isolating and tallying rafts of checks that exceeded the $10,000 limit that have to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.
Now the pressure on Krantz went up a notch. The state dropped the gaming charges against him in 1992 and turned the evidence over to the US Attorney’s Office. In September Foley told Krantz that he and his wife, who cashed checks for Chico while he was sick, were going to be indicted for money laundering. Foley even showed him draft copies of indictments. Chico sighed and asked to sleep on it.
The next day Krantz got a new lawyer and finally stopped playing games. He graduated from CI status to the witness protection program. He filled in holes in his earlier statements and finally talked about Whitey Bulger and his one-way loyalty.
In November Chico and seven other bookies from Heller’s Café were indicted for money laundering in a massive check-cashing scheme. About the same time that London was sentenced in 1993, Chico Krantz slipped into another federal courtroom under tight security and pled guilty. He formally forfeited his $2 million in cash, with a wink and a nod on half of it that the government agreed to give back if he cooperated. And he admitted guilt on washing $2 million in checks, much of it at Heller’s. He also became number one on the witness list in the developing case against Bulger and Flemmi.
Jimmy Katz, who had also washed big money through Heller’s, found himself mired in the quicksand between Fred Wyshak and Stevie Flemmi. Just before Katz went to trial, Flemmi met him at a hamburger joint in downtown Boston. Flemmi offered him the parable of Eddie Lewis, another bookie in the Chico camp. Lewis had refused to give immunized testimony to a grand jury about rent and had gone off to do eighteen months for contempt. Stevie then got to the point: if Katz went off quietly to jail like stand-up Eddie, he would be well taken care of in prison. It would be worth his while.
They parted, and Katz went to trial. But he lost and was sentenced to four years. As his wife and daughter cried quietly beside him in the courtroom, Katz said he was standing on principle by refusing to cut a deal with Wyshak. “I won’t do that,” he said. “The government is turning everyone into rats. It’ll become Russia. Every other day they call me: ‘You wanna go with Chico?’”
Katz went off to prison in Pennsylvania. After he settled in and made a few friends, he was abruptly transferred to a spartan holding cell in Massachusetts. He was put in front of a grand jury to answer questions about rents. If he refused, it would mean eighteen more months in prison.
After a year in jail Katz rolled, deciding he did “wanna go with Chico” to the witness protection program after all. He became another key witness against Bulger and Flemmi.
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Joe Yerardi was next up in the march toward Winter Hill. Going after Joey Y was cutting closer to the bone. Krantz and Katz paid to be left alone, but Yerardi was a leg breaker who worked for Bulger and Flemmi, putting over $1 million of their money on the street and collecting their debts. Yerardi did run some bookies, but loan-sharking was his thing. And his criminal record was far different from the other customers at Heller’s. There were firearm violations and several assault and battery convictions in state court.
Yerardi’s main line of work had become handling usurious loans for the bad-to-the-bone Johnny Martorano. His formal ties with Flemmi and Martorano made him a prime target for Wyshak as he assembled his witness list. Yerardi knew that too. And so did Stevie and Whitey.
By the middle of 1993, with Krantz in hand and Katz up against it, the writing was on the wall. A grand jury was going strong, and indictments were in the air. Whitey pulled Stevie aside: time for a vacation. Stevie lit out for Canada, just as he had two decades earlier. Bulger took one of his slow drives across America with Teresa Stanley.
And Yerardi fled too, heading to Florida with $2,500 Martorano sent him. But he made the mistake of using an old alias from Massachusetts, and six months after he was indicted the Massachusetts State Police found him living in Deerfield Beach as Louis Ferragamo. The fatalistic if bumbling Yerardi asked the troopers, “What took you so long?”
Joey Y became the Gordon Liddy of Heller’s Café. He continued making loan collections while under house arrest and never complained about the United States becoming Russia. He could have croaked Flemmi, with whom he had extensive dealings. In fact, Stevie was on a tapped line talking business with Yerardi. But Yerardi stood up, taking an eleven-year sentence as the price of saying no to Wyshak, and law enforcement had to move forward with Chico and Katz and others who lined up at the cashier’s cage in Heller’s Café.
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The bookie brigade had become the soft underbelly of the Bulger gang. It kept Whitey and Stevie on the firing range and shifted the prospect of indictments from the outlandish to the inevitable. And it left the FBI scrambling for a piece of the action, if only to avoid the embarrassment of sitting on the sidelines while the Massachusetts State Police lost a major case against the renowned gangsters in Boston. The bureau saw the train leaving and jumped on board at the end.
By the middle of 1994, with London and Yerardi in prison and all the Heller Café tapes deciphered, prosecutors began assembling the rest of the racketeering case that involved historical evidence from 98 Prince Street, Vanessa’s Italian Food Shop, and the 1989 mob induction. This required the FBI to designate someone to help round up the material, and that job fell to Edward Quinn, the hero of the Angiulo case who now headed the Organized Crime Squad.
Though Quinn commanded respect from other investigators, the intramural jockeying continued and showed itself in a spate of news stories—several from the FBI—that reported promising developments in the quest for Bulger. Stories with unnamed sources said, “It’s getting close to Bulger, but it’s not quite there.” The analysis could be read as a warning for Bulger to stay gone. And behind the news stories John Connolly had been keeping Bulger and Flemmi updated on grand jury progress. In particular, they discussed the Yerardi investigation, which had veered toward Bulger’s gang.
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Though bookies were the mainstays in the percolating case, prosecutors also finally broke through the South Boston code of silence. In addition to Timothy Connolly’s testimony, there was the momentous flip of true believer Paul Moore, a skilled boxer and renowned street fighter whose nickname “Polecat” derived from his fast hands and feet. Moore had headed one of Bulger’s cocaine distribution networks and was the real deal, a genuinely tough guy who had pled guilty in the 1990 drug case. He went off to do nine years at a federal prison in Pennsylvania, tight lipped but buoyed by expectations that were also part of the code—a good lawyer, family support, home insurance. But after a few years in prison he felt that his questions about an appeal were falling on deaf ears. His wife was not getting the support she needed. And a bank foreclosed on his home.
In 1995 Moore had the epiphany that comes to those sitting in a prison cell while other more deserving candidates are walking the streets back home. By this time he was hearing stage whispers from the prison network that Whitey was a rat. He began asking himself the rhetorical question that prosecutors count on: what am I, an asshole? The process accelerated when Moore was hauled before a grand jury and faced another year and a half in prison if he didn’t answer questions about Bulger. Breaking with Whitey the Rat was the easy part; the code was a different story. But Moore had had enough. He asked one thing: put me near the water so it will be as much like South Boston as a modest house and a small shoreline can make it. He entered the witness protection program as someone who would testify against Bulger.
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As the doggedly determined prosecution moved forward, the strategy remained the same, even as the witness list was reshuffled. Katz and a half-dozen bookies replaced Krantz, who was diagnosed with the leukemia that eventually killed him. Paul Moore and loan officer Timothy Connolly replaced the adamant holdout Yerardi as belly-of-the-beast witnesses.
But the heart of the matter remained the mundane business of Bulger and Flemmi shaking down vulnerable bookies from Heller’s Café. Though the bookies had dealt mostly with Bulger’s out-front man, George Kaufman, most had endured at least one moment alone with the marble eyes of Whitey Bulger or the unfriendly smile of Stevie Flemmi. The “other” crimes that supported racketeering charges against the pair reached back into the ancient history of Bulger’s early work in Winter Hill’s sports-betting network in the 1970s. Flemmi’s racketeering was linked to gangland murders from the 1960s.
Frank Salemme was the next mob figure to get into trouble. Despite his years on the mean streets Salemme remained oblivious about the dangers of his boyhood friend Stevie Flemmi. He had no clue that he had spent fifteen years in jail for attempted murder because Stevie tipped off the Boston FBI about where to find him.
After his 1988 release from prison Salemme soon began taking the easy money that Stevie pushed his way from independent bookies who had broken free from the Ferrara network. It left Salemme as vulnerable to bookie extortion charges as the Bulger gang. But Salemme fell into another deep hole on his own: about a year out of prison he began working on an ill-advised deal his son brought to him. He allegedly began extorting a Hollywood production company that wanted to avoid paying expensive union workers as it made a movie in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. For a price, Salemme got the Teamsters to go along. The fatal catch: the head of the production company was an undercover FBI agent. The spider’s web had caught Cadillac Frank.
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By the middle of 1994 prosecutors had assembled a sturdy, intricate mosaic to support racketeering charges. The plan had been to arrest Bulger, Flemmi, and Salemme in rapid succession to avoid escapes by any of them. But although, by mid-December, Salemme could still be found at his usual haunts, Stevie and Whitey had been in and out of town for several weeks. The FBI insisted that Salemme, as the Mafia man of the moment, be arrested first. But top officials at the US Attorney’s Office overruled the agents, concluding that the case was about Bulger and Flemmi. Indeed, most of the evidence concerned Flemmi because he was the man in the middle, standing at the junction of Bulger and La Cosa Nostra. Fittingly, the arrest warrant for Flemmi charged him with extorting money from Chico Krantz.
As 1995 got under way the latest law enforcement intelligence was that Flemmi had been seen at Quincy Market, a tourist shopping center in downtown Boston where Flemmi’s two stepsons were renovating a restaurant. It was staked out by state troopers Thomas Duffy and John Tutungian and DEA agent Daniel Doherty, who were all part of the ad hoc team that had first gathered in Fred Wyshak’s office. Their orders were to arrest Flemmi the minute he “went mobile” by getting in a car.
In winter’s enveloping nightfall the arrest team moved into action when Flemmi and a young Asian woman left Schooner’s Restaurant and got into a white Honda at 7:00 p.m. The team boxed them in with two cars and then raced at the Honda with guns drawn. After instinctively trying to hide under the dashboard, Flemmi calmly got out of the car and asked for permission to call his lawyer. The detectives relieved him of a knife and some mace and unsuccessfully tried to persuade the woman to accompany them to FBI headquarters, if only to keep her from warning others. But she knew the drill and refused to go without a warrant.
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Although the FBI had brought in its elite Special Operations Group to do surveillance on Salemme with a helicopter, he escaped that night. Cadillac Frank fled to West Palm Beach, Florida, a favored sanctuary for mafiosi on the run. He would eventually be arrested there eight months later, but his easy escape fueled the barely suppressed anger of investigators working the same case. One denounced the Special Operations Group as an over-the-hill gang. “They suck,” he said bitterly. “It’s part of the facade over there. Those guys are looking for retirement homes. And they’re nine-to-five. Once their shift ends, they’re out of there. They have no personal interest in the case.”
For his part, Stevie Flemmi was an unflappable presence inside FBI headquarters, a calmness rooted in his belief that thirty years of FBI service would save him. He was expecting a quick bail and a night flight to Montreal. It was only as the night wore on with no side door opening that he realized he was all alone in his adversity. He thought that John Connolly or Paul Rico would help, as they had in the past. But Flemmi was like the Hollywood celebrity arrested for drunken driving. Protests about his importance would only make things worse. No one could save him now—he belonged to trooper Tom Duffy.
Flemmi had expected more because Connolly had kept him posted on grand jury developments throughout the year, at times using his continuing contact with the bureau’s Organized Crime Squad. But both Connolly and Morris, who was also close to retirement and working in Los Angeles, had left the scene and taken their early warning system with them.
In fact there had been a wholesale changing of the guard within the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI that left Bulger’s barrier beach unprotected—but hardly abandoned.
Bulger had become a dirty little secret that evolved into a tacit policy administered by new players who may not have fully understood the history but held fast out of institutional loyalty. They viewed any attempt to change the system as a challenge by upstarts who had the bad taste to urinate inside the tent. The lingering commitment became grounded in the fear that Bulger had become a time bomb by attracting too much public attention, especially after the 1988 Boston Globe article. The fierce personal friendship of John Connolly was replaced by the knee-jerk protectionism of one special agent in charge after another. The credo became: Bulger may be a skunk, but he’s our skunk.
But Flemmi’s arrest by state police told the FBI that the gig was up. And when it realized what had happened, the bureau backed away as quickly as it could. The only contact Flemmi had with his old allies after his arrest was when he hailed agent Edward Quinn at a bail hearing. The awkward encounter made Flemmi realize that he was no longer a prized informant; he was just another unhappy wiseguy in a courtroom.
“What’s going on here?” Flemmi asked the startled Quinn as he walked by. “How about a break on bail?” Flemmi persisted in a plea that meant, “Get me outta here.”
But all Quinn could do for him was get him a Coke.
Even then, as Quinn edged away and the government’s lawyer got in between them, Flemmi thought there might be a magic parachute. His mind drifted over the years of FBI intervention, back to how Paul Rico got attempted murder charges dropped in state court. Flemmi remembered being tipped off to state police bugs in the Lancaster Street garage and the time he and Whitey were let out of the race-fixing case. And how the FBI in Boston helped cover up Winter Hill murders in Boston, Tulsa, and Miami. Surely his friends, Jim Bulger and John Connolly, would “get this all squared away.”
But the most Flemmi ever got were prison visits from Kevin Weeks, Bulger’s friend from South Boston, who conveyed the commiseration of John Connolly. The agent wanted Flemmi to know how badly he felt about the FBI letting them both down.
Flemmi never heard another word from Bulger.
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Bulger quickly adapted to life on the lam. The wild teenager who sought attention by walking a pet ocelot around the Old Harbor housing project had developed the low-to-the-ground discipline of an army ranger hiding in the jungle. When it was clear that indictments were on the way, he cut all ties with South Boston except for an occasional call to prearranged pay phones.
Though Bulger was never known for sentimental attachments, Flemmi was surprised that he never heard another word from Bulger as his partner moved from one small city in middle America to another. Still, Bulger had done more for Flemmi than he did for most. He had warned him to stay out of Boston, and Flemmi had foolishly ignored him. It was a dumb mistake, and Whitey didn’t make those.
But Bulger had almost slipped up too. In January, shortly after trooper Tom Duffy put his gun to Flemmi’s temple, Bulger had been driving toward Boston himself. Teresa Stanley had grown tired of traveling on their extended “vacation.” Since the fall of 1994, while Bulger waited to see what would happen in Boston, they had traveled to Dublin, London, and Venice and then toured the southwestern United States. But Stanley was bored with sightseeing and tired of being alone with the aloof Bulger and his long silences. She missed her children and South Boston. In the last couple of weeks Stanley had hesitated to even ask simple questions like, where are we going now? It would only start an argument.
So in January 1995 they were making their way to the edge of Boston in stony silence, driving along route 95 in Connecticut, when Stanley heard a radio report about Flemmi’s arrest. Bulger took the next exit and headed back to New York City, where they checked into a Manhattan hotel. Bulger hung out at the hotel pay phones, getting whatever information he could. Teresa didn’t bother to ask him what was going on.
The next day they drove to a parking lot south of Boston where Stanley got out to wait for her daughter. Bulger said, “I’ll call you,” as he roared off forever. She never heard from him again.
Instead of heading off alone, he picked up his other girlfriend, Catherine Greig, and disappeared into rural America as a balding retired everyman with a younger wife.
On the road again with a different woman, Bulger lived for a while in the Louisiana bayou country and was reportedly seen in the Midwest, Florida, and even Mexico, Canada, and Ireland. Investigators traced phone calls he made from a New Orleans hotel and a restaurant in Mobile, Alabama. He stayed in touch with Kevin Weeks and some family members and even ventured back to the Boston area on a couple of occasions to rendezvous with Weeks. The meetings, later in 1995 and in 1996, enabled Weeks to provide Bulger with some false identification and new intelligence about the ongoing investigation. Kevin O’Neil did his part too, funneling nearly $90,000 into Bulger’s bank account soon after Bulger was forced to flee. But no one outside his tight circle heard from him once he dropped off Teresa Stanley.
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Except John Morris.
Morris’s last FBI station before retiring at the end of 1995 was training director at the FBI Academy in Virginia. One October afternoon his secretary told him that an insistent “Mister White” was calling. Ten months on the lam, the brazen Bulger was calling from a pay phone on the road.
He had a short message for Vino: if I’m going to jail, you’re going to jail.
“I’m taking you with me, you fuck,” Bulger said.
“I hear you,” said Morris. That night John Morris suffered a major heart attack. Bulger had nearly killed him with a phone call.