Ex-FBI agent: Bulger arrest "inevitable"

Alleged Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger - on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list for his alleged role in 19 murders - was captured Wednesday near Los Angeles after living on the run for 16 years.

James "Whitey" Bulger
Timeline of James "Whitey" Bulger's life

In 1995, authorities say, Bulger, now 81, was leader of the Winter Hill Gang and an FBI informant for 20 years when he suddenly disappeared, after a tip from an FBI contact that he was about to be charged with racketeering.

According to reports citing a law enforcement official, Bulger was arrested along with his longtime girlfriend, 60-year-old Catherine Greig, in the early evening at a residence in Santa Monica, Calif.

The arrest was based on a tip from a recent publicity campaign by federal authorities, according to the official.

Former FBI special agent John Gamel, who was involved in the Bulger investigation, said on "The Early Show" he thought it was inevitable that the fugitive would be caught.

Gamel said, "I was pretty sure, not knew, but pretty sure that he was alive and well somewhere, and that the bureau was working very, very hard to find this man, and eventually they did."

"Whitey" Bulger arrest ends 16-year FBI manhunt

"Early Show" co-anchor Chris Wragge asked about Bulger's reputation in his heyday.

Gamel said, "He was alleged to be a very violent man, probably committing as many as 19 murders or being responsible for those. In addition, he had lots of other violent crimes in which he was a part. He was a very intimidating person for many people."

The FBI, Gamel said, had received "an information" - a formal accusation by a government attorney that the defendant committed a misdemeanor - in late 1994. He explained the legal situation was "just short of an indictment."

"That's when he disappeared," Gamel said. "So we were pretty close, but what we learned thereafter or after we started looking for him was that he came back to Boston, dropped one girlfriend (in Boston) and took off with Catherine Greig, and then ... became a fugitive at that point."

The fugitive situation, Wragge noted, was quite an embarrassment for the FBI, not only because Bulger was an informant, but because he'd been tipped off by one of the FBI's own, former agent John Connolly.

So how does the FBI put it all behind them?

Gamel said the bureau essentially already has because the people involved are no longer with the organization.

"This is a tremendous thing to have happened finally," he said. "As I say, I knew it was going to happen. If you look backward historically, any of the people involved with this man going back into the '70s, '80s and '90s, any of the people in the FBI are long gone from the FBI. There's been a complete change in personnel over the years, so it's good to get this over with, and let's go forward from here."

As for Gamel, he said the capture has given him a sense of closure.

"I knew that phone call that I got at 1:20 a.m. this morning was coming someday," he said. "And you know, I was surprised that I was not more ecstatic about it. I just thought it was inevitable."

An FBI public service announcement released just days ago, Wragge pointed out, led to his arrest.

Gamel said the FBI likely weren't working from a tip about him, they just were trying to get information about him from the public.

"I tend to think that if they had some inkling that he was in Santa Monica as he and Catherine Greig were in Santa Monica, I don't think they would have gone to the effort to create that campaign... I tend to believe, it's like any of those crime shows like 'America's Most Wanted,' you put out a tip like that or put out some information like that and literally the tips start coming in immediately, and you start looking at all of them and that's what they did."

Wragge asked the former FBI agent what he would like to say to Bulger.

Gamel replied, "Welcome back to Boston."

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