BOSTON (AP) — Three men, including a mob hitman, have been charged with the 2018 murder of notorious Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
The charges against Fotios “Freddy” Geas, Paul J. DeCologero and Sean McKinnon come nearly four years after Bulger’s murder, raising questions about why the known “golden snitch” was placed in the general West Virginia prison population instead of more protective housing. The men have been charged with conspiracy to commit first degree murder.
Authorities have not released a possible motive for Bulger’s murder in October 2018, which occurred hours after he was transferred to USP Hazelton in West Virginia from a Florida prison. He was serving a life sentence for 11 murders and other crimes. Prosecutors allege that Geas and DeCologero struck Bulger in the head multiple times, causing his death.
Bulger, who led Boston’s predominantly Irish mob in the 1970s and 1980s, served as an FBI informant who exposed his gang’s chief rival, according to the bureau. He then became one of the country’s most wanted fugitives. Bulger strongly denied ever being a government informant.
The Justice Department also charged Geas, 55, and DeCologero, 48, with aiding and abetting first-degree murder, as well as assault causing grievous bodily harm. Geas faces a separate charge of murder by a federal inmate serving a life sentence, and McKinnon, 36, is separately charged with making false statements to a federal agent.
Geas and DeCologero were identified as suspects shortly after Bulger’s death, according to law enforcement officials at the time, but remained uncharged as the investigation dragged on for years.
All three have been placed in solitary confinement throughout the investigation, family members told The Boston Globe. McKinnon’s mother told the newspaper that her son, who was Geas’ cellmate at the time of Bulger’s murder, told her he knew nothing about the murder.
Daniel Kelly, an attorney for Geas, said Thursday the charges came as no surprise, but did not justify his client’s continued placement in solitary confinement.
Emails seeking comment were sent Thursday to an attorney for Bulger’s family. It was not immediately clear whether McKinnon and DeCologero had attorneys to comment on their behalf.
Geas remains in jail in Hazelton. DeCologero is being held in another federal prison. McKinnon was released from prison last month after pleading guilty in 2015 to stealing firearms from a gun dealer. He was out on federal supervision when the indictment was handed down and was arrested in Florida on Thursday.
Bulger was the third inmate killed in six months at USP Hazelton, where workers and attorneys had long warned of dangerous conditions at the penitentiary nicknamed “Misery Mountain”.
Bulger’s family sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons and 30 unnamed prison system employees over his death, alleging it appeared the mobster was “deliberately sent to his death.” A federal judge dismissed the family’s lawsuit in January.
Bulger fled Boston in late 1994 after his FBI handler John Connolly Jr. warned him he was about to be charged.
After more than 16 years on the run and with a $2 million reward on his head, he was captured at age 81 in Santa Monica, California, where he was living in a rent-controlled apartment near the beach with his little girl. long-time friend, Catherine. Greg.
He was found guilty in 2013 of all 11 murders, plus extortion and money laundering after a sensational racketeering trial.
His transfer to Hazelton was prompted by disciplinary issues, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press in 2018. The official insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to release details . In February 2018, Bulger threatened an assistant warden at the Florida prison, telling her that “judgment day is coming.”
A prison workers’ union official told the AP that year that sending Bulger to the troubled federal penitentiary that housed other New England mobsters was like handing him a “death sentence.”
But Bulger never admitted to working for the FBI. Court documents released in the civil case brought by his family showed he was questioned by staff after arriving at Hazelton to find out if there were any reasons why he should be kept away from the general population. An admissions screening form signed by Bulger said he answered “no” to questions such as “did you assist law enforcement officers in any way?”
DeCologero was part of an organized crime gang led by his uncle on the North Shore of Massachusetts called the “DeCologero Crew”.
He was found guilty of purchasing heroin which was used in an attempt to kill a teenage girl whom his uncle wanted to kill because he feared she would “betray the crew to the police”. The heroine didn’t kill her, so another man broke her neck, dismembered her and buried her remains in the woods, according to court records.
Geas was a close Mafia associate and acted as an enforcer, but was not an official “made” member because he is Greek, not Italian.
Geas and his brother were sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for their role in several violent crimes, including the 2003 murder of Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno, a Genoese householder in Springfield, Massachusetts. Another mobster ordered Bruno’s murder because he was upset he spoke to the FBI, prosecutors said.