The international manhunt for American underworld boss James “Whitey” Bulger, who has been charged with 19 murders as godfather of the notorious Winter Hill Gang, recently came to Sihanoukville, an agent with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed on Wednesday.
Robert Cahill, FBI legal attache in Bangkok, said he traveled to the Cambodian beach resort in June to chase down a reported sighting of the globe-trotting 75-year-old mob boss, who has been on the run since 1995 and shares the dubious distinction of being on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
But the reported sighting, which Cahill said came from a “very well-vetted source,” turned out to be a Bulger lookalike acting suspiciously in an Irish bar.
“The information was fairly specific,” Cahill said from the Bangkok FBI office. “There was a good chance it could have been him…. It looked promising.”
Almost all of the reported Bulger sightings, which have come in from every continent except Antartica, have turned out to be elderly white men who fit the fugitive’s generic physical profile: Thinning white hair, blue eyes, medium build and average height.
Cahill said that it’s possible that Bulger, who has a $1-million reward on his head, could be in Cambodia or in other Southeast Asian countries, which he said were “fertile ground” for corralling fugitives.
“One of [Bulger’s] co-defendants talked about coming to this part of the world,” Cahill said.
But in Cambodia and the rest of the region, “guys who look like Whitey Bulger are a dime a dozen,” he said.
Bulger, the older brother of the former president of the state Senate and the University of Massachusetts, is a crime legend in Boston, where he grew up poor in the clannish Irish-American neighborhood of “Southie,” to become the region’s top crime boss.
He ratted out his gangland rivals in the Italian mafia for years as an FBI informant. The relationship with his FBI handler became so cozy that when he went on the run in 1995, it was special agent John Connolly who gave Bulger and his right-hand man Stephen “Rifleman” Flemmi the heads-up that they were on the verge of being indicted. The renegade FBI agent, who was raised on the same public-housing block as Bulger, is now serving 10 years in federal prison for racketeering and obstruction of justice for tipping off the Irish-American mob figures.
The online FBI Most Wanted List describes Bulger as a ruthless killer who also happens to be a fan of historic sites, libraries and animals. He is believed to be traveling with his 54-year-old girlfriend, Catherine Greig.
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