LOS ANGELES — James (Whitey) Bulger, a legendary Boston crime boss indicted in 19 murders and who is on the F.B.I.
’s 10 Most Wanted list, was arrested by federal authorities Wednesday night in Santa Monica, ending an international manhunt that had gone on since Mr. Bulger disappeared nearly 16 years ago, the F.B.I. announced.
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FBI, via Associated Press
Photos of James (Whitey) Bulger in 1984 from the F.B.I.
Mr. Bulger was arrested without incident at a private residence in Santa Monica along with his companion, Catherine Greig, who fled with him in 1995, the F.B.I. said. The arrest came after the F.B.I., stymied in its efforts to find Mr. Bulger, had doubled the reward for information leading to the arrest of Ms. Greig, to $100,000, and began broadcasting public service television advertisements on shows geared to women viewers, such as Dr. Oz, as part of an effort to find Mr. Bulger through Ms. Greig.
The case has long captivated Boston, while proving something of an embarrassment to the F.B.I. Mr. Bulger, 81, is a former F.B.I. informant who disappeared early in 1995 after a retired F.B.I. agent alerted him to an imminent indictment.
The arrest was first reported on the Web site of The Los Angeles Times. It was officially announced by Richard DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s office in Boston, and Steven Martinez, the assistant director in charge in Los Angeles. They said the couple had been found based on a tip that resulted from the recent public attention to the case, presumably the information the F.B.I. had distributed about some distinctive habits of Ms. Greig, a dental hygienist.
Ms. Greig, they said, had had multiple plastic surgeries, got her teeth cleaned once a month, frequented beauty salons and loved dogs.
Mr. Bulger had proved elusive despite a $2 million award for his capture, the largest ever for a domestic target. He was an outsize figure in Boston lore, and there have been reported sightings of him over the years from all over the world.
Though Mr. Bulger and his crimes are well known in Boston, the authorities had struggled to raise his profile elsewhere in the nation. The new public service announcement that began airing Tuesday was meant to capture the attention of older women who watch daytime television and might have encountered Ms. Greig, 60, at a beauty salon or elsewhere in their daily lives.
At a Monday news conference in Boston, F.B.I. agents said the agency had bought 350 time slots in 14 cities to run the 30-second announcement. Those cities included San Francisco and San Diego but not Los Angeles, according to a news release.
“There is someone in the United States or elsewhere in the world who knows Catherine Greig as a neighbor, friend or co-worker,” Mr. DesLauriers said.
It was not the first time the F.B.I. mounted a publicity campaign focused on Ms. Greig. Last year, the agency bought advertisements in Plastic Surgery News and the American Dental Association newsletter, asking, “Have you treated this woman?”
When reporters asked on Monday if the F.B.I. was giving up on finding Mr. Bulger alive, Special Agent Richard Teahan, who led the Boston task force searching for him, said it was not.
“There is absolutely no fatigue factor whatsoever,” he said.
The last credible sighting of Mr. Bulger was in London in 2002, Mr. Teahan said at the news conference. He added, though, that there had been “multiple leads” out of California.
One tipster reported spotting Mr. Bulger watching the Boston gangster movie “The Departed” at a theater in San Diego in 2006, according to The Boston Globe. Another said they had seen Mr. Bulger and Ms. Greig at a beauty salon in Fountain Valley, Calif.
It is hard to overstate the role Mr. Bulger and his vanishing played in Boston culture and lore. People there learn his name and story in childhood and make a game of looking for him around town, especially in South Boston, the neighborhood where Mr. Bulger grew up and where his crime operation was based.
He was the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s mob boss character in the movie “The Departed.” And books on Mr. Bulger continue to be published, including a new one by Kevin Weeks, one of his former associates, called “Where’s Whitey?”
William Christie, a lawyer who represents the families of two of the people Mr. Bulger is charged with murdering, said his capture had brought them enormous relief.
“There was a great sense that he had gotten away with it and justice had been denied,” Mr. Christie said. “I don’t think it’s ever left their minds. At some point, they were resigned to the belief that he would never be caught.”
Mr. Christie represents relatives of Edward Brian Halloran, a Bulger associate who as driving home from a bar on Boston’s waterfront in 1982 when Bulger and an unidentified accomplice allegedly opened fire, killing them. He also represents the family of John McIntyre, a Quincy fisherman whom the authorities say was killed by Bulger and an associate in 1984.
The F.B.I.’s role in his disappearance is almost as legend here as Mr. Bulger himself. Recruited as an informant for the agency in the mid-1970s, Mr. Bulger developed a close relationship with the agent he worked most closely with, John Connolly, who is said to have turned a blind eye to Mr. Bulger’s criminal activities in exchange for information on the Italian Mafia in Boston.
Mr. Connolly, who later went to prison, warned Mr. Bulger in late 1994 of his impending arrest, prompting him to flee.
Abby Goodnough contributed reporting from Boston.