Published January 13, 2015
The gait is similar. So are the hand mannerisms. The sunglasses and baseball cap look right, too.
But is it Whitey?
The FBI released a photograph and a video Friday that show a couple bearing a strong resemblance to gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, one of the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" fugitives, and Bulger's longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.
The brief video, taken in Italy in April, shows a couple window-shopping in Taormina, a city on the island of Sicily.
U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said a person observed a couple believed to be the fugitive and his girlfriend and videotaped them. But Sullivan's office and the FBI said they have not been able to positively identify the couple as Bulger and Greig.
Gail Marcinkiewicz, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Boston office, said three different facial recognition consultants were unable to determine if the images were of Bulger and Greig.
Still, the FBI said the man in the images resembles Bulger in several ways, including the way he walks, the way he holds his hands and the neat way he's dressed — in crisp khaki pants and a sweater. Bulger has traveled to Italy in the past, including a stop in Venice during a trip to Europe he made in 1994 — the year before he fled Boston — the FBI said.
"Those kinds of things make us say, you know, we have to take a hard look at this particular photograph and video," Marcinkiewicz said.
The FBI would not identify the source of the video. The Boston Globe, citing unidentified law enforcement sources, reported an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration took the video while vacationing in Italy.
Bulger, the former leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang, is charged in 19 murders.
He also was an FBI informant, and authorities say he fled in 1995 after his FBI handler tipped him off that he was about to be indicted on racketeering charges. That former agent, John J. Connolly, Jr., is now serving a 10-year prison sentence and is awaiting trial in Florida for his alleged role in a 1982 gangland slaying.
Bulger apparently planned for life on the run by leaving cash in safe deposit boxes around the world, including Florida, Ireland, England and Canada, authorities said.
Authorities have received hundreds of tips about possible Bulger sightings in more than a dozen countries, but most of the sightings have turned out to be Bulger lookalikes. The last confirmed sighting, according to the FBI, was in London in September 2002.
Tom Duffy, a retired State Police major who spent more than a decade investigating Bulger, said the man in the video bears a striking resemblance to the gangster.
"Just look at the guy. He seemed to have almost a determined swagger about him — the way he carried himself — he seemed to be on guard, too," Duffy said.
"No one can unequivocally say it was Bulger with a 100 percent degree of certainty," he said, "but it certainly appears to be one of the best, if not, the most accurate and authentic sightings of Bulger in the past 12 years."
Marcinkiewicz said agents went to Italy shortly after receiving the video and, working with Italian police, canvassed hotels, banks, marinas and other places to try to identify the couple. They also showed the video to known friends and associates of Bulger, now 78, and Greig, 56.
"Nobody could say for certain. We have some who said, 'Absolutely, it's him, and others who said, 'Absolutely, it's not him,' " she said.
Marcinkiewicz said the FBI decided to release the images now in hopes that someone might be able to identify the couple. Authorities want to speak with anyone who visited that area of Italy in March, April or May 2007 and may have seen the people in the video and photo.
"If (it is) some couple from Iowa who was vacationing in Sicily at that time, we encourage them to come forward and say this is them," Marcinkiewicz said.