Who is Whitey Bulger?

These 1984 file photos originally released by the FBI show James "Whitey" Bulger.
Whitey Bulger arrested after 16 years on run
These 1984 file photos originally released by the FBI show James "Whitey" Bulger.
AP Photo/FBI

(CBS/KCBS/AP) SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger was on the run for almost 16 years before he was finally captured in Santa Monica Wednesday, according to authorities.

Pictures: Whitey Bulger arrested

Bulger, nicknamed "Whitey" for his shock of bright platinum hair, grew up in a South Boston housing project and went on to become Boston's most notorious gangster.

He led the violent Winter Hill Gang, with Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, a largely Irish mob that ran loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets in the Boston area.

According to U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, the two were "responsible for a reign of intimidation and murder that spanned 25 years."

The government has connected Bulger to a series of ruthless killings. One victim was shot between the eyes in a parking lot at his country club in Oklahoma. Another was gunned down in broad daylight in a South Boston street to prevent him from talking about the killing in Oklahoma.

The FBI has wanted Bulger in connection with as many as 20 killings, money laundering, extortion, racketeering and narcotics distribution, reportedly spanning nearly 20 years, reports CBS station KCBS.

His evasion from the law sparked an international manhunt and served as a major embarrassment to the FBI as Bulgar, their onetime informant, continued to evade the authorities.

He provided information to the FBI in 1995 on a rival gang when a former agent told him he was about to be indicted.

After he fled, Bulger became one of the country's most-hunted fugitives. Bulger earned a spot on the "Ten Most Wanted" list, right next to Osama bin Laden. He had a $2 million reward on his head.

Over the years, the FBI has received reported sightings of Bulger and his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig from all over the United States and parts of Europe. In many of those sightings, investigators could not confirm whether it was Bulger who was spotted or a lookalike.

Bulger, now 81, was the inspiration for Martin Scorsese's acclaimed 2006 film "The Departed." Bulger has also been the subject of several books.

Bugler now faces a series of federal charges including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, narcotics distribution, extortion and money laundering, while 60-year-old Greig is charged with harboring a fugitive