Federal officials are crediting a tip from a recent publicity campaign for the arrest and capture of the nation's most-wanted mob boss, James "Whitey" Bulger, who evaded authorities for 16 years over his alleged role in 19 murders.
The FBI said Thursday that a tip led them to begin surveillance Wednesday on an apartment in Santa Monica, Calif., where the 81-year-old Bulger was living with longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig.
The arrest came just days after the government launched a publicity campaign to locate the fugitive crime boss by circulating pictures of Greig on daytime TV and on billboards, the FBI said during a press conference Thursday.
Bulger and Greig are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California later Thursday.
After the public service announcements, the FBI received a tip that appeared promising and began surveillance on the apartment complex at just after 4 p.m. on Wednesday, federal officials said. They said agents soon spotted Bulger and Greig, and using a ruse, lured Bulger out of his apartment. They then arrested him without incident, and then arrested Greig, officials said.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said the pair were using the aliases Charles and Carol Gasko.
Bulger had a $2 million reward on his head and rose to No. 1 on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list after Usama bin Laden was killed.
One clear plastic bag removed Thursday morning contained boxes of .357 Magnum bullets, and another bag was labeled miscellaneous firearms and accessories.
Numerous other pieces of evidence in paper bags were also carried out and placed in a law enforcement truck.
Bulger faces a series of federal charges including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, narcotics distribution, extortion and money laundering, while the 60-year-old Greig is charged with harboring a fugitive.
An inspiration for the ruthless gangland boss in the 2006 Martin Scorsese movie "The Departed," Bulger was wanted for 19 murders -- which included gruesome mutilation murders of other gangsters and even former girlfriends, the Boston Herald reports.
Prosecutors say Bulger went on the run after being warned by John Connolly Jr., an FBI agent in Boston who had made Bulger an informant 20 years earlier. Connolly was convicted of racketeering in May 2002 for protecting Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, also an FBI informant.
Bulger's "criminal activities have been marked by the corpses his killers and associates have left behind in car trunks and alleyways," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement Thursday. "After a 16 year delay, I will be working to ensure that a Miami Jury has the opportunity to look him in the eyes and determine his fate just as we did with his associate, ex-FBI agent John J. Connolly, Jr."
One of Bulger's alleged victims was shot between the eyes in a parking lot at his country club in Oklahoma. Another was gunned down in broad daylight on a South Boston street to prevent him from talking about the killing in Oklahoma. Others were taken out for running afoul of Bulger's gambling enterprises.
"He left a trail of bodies," said Tom Duffy, a retired state police major in Massachusetts. "You did not double-cross him. If you did, you were dead."
At the same time he was boss of South Boston's murderous Winter Hill Gang, a mostly Irish mob, Bulger was an FBI informant, supplying information about the rival New England Mafia. But he fled in January 1995 when an agent tipped him off that he was about to be indicted.
That set off a major scandal at the FBI, which was found to have an overly cozy relationship with its underworld informants, protecting mob figures and allowing them to carry out their murderous business as long as they were supplying useful information.
A congressional committee, in a draft report issued in 2003, blasted the FBI for its use of Bulger and other criminals as informants, calling it "one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement."
After an international manhunt, Bulger was found living on the third floor of The Princess Eugenia, a three-story, 28-unit building of one and two-bedroom apartments three blocks from a bluff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Neighbors said the couple did not stand out.
Barbara Gluck, who lives on the same floor as Bulger and Greig, said she didn't know their names but recognized them from photos on the Internet after she heard about their arrest.
Gluck described Greig, a former dental hygienist, as "sweet and lovely" and said they would have "girl talk" when they ran into each other in the building. Bulger became angry whenever he saw the two of them talking, and would say, "Stop talking to her," Gluck said.
"He was nasty," she added. "At one point, (Greig) said (Bulger) has a rage issue."
Bulger's arrest brings an end to a manhunt that received worldwide attention as the FBI received reported sightings of Bulger and 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.
The investigation touched the highest level of Massachusetts politics. Bulger's younger brother, William, was one of the most powerful politicians in the state, leading the Massachusetts Senate for 17 years and later serving as president of the University of Massachusetts for seven years. He resigned his post in August 2003 amid pressure from Attorney General Thomas Reilly and then-Gov. Mitt Romney, who issued a statement Thursday, saying Bulger's capture "brings to a close a sad and sordid chapter in recent Massachusetts history."
William Bulger had told a congressional committee that he spoke to his brother shortly after he went on the run in 1995 but had no idea about his whereabouts.
For many years, William Bulger was able to avoid any tarnish from his brother's alleged crimes. But in August 2003, he resigned his post as president of UMass amid pressure from then-Gov. Mitt Romney and Attorney General Thomas Reilly.
Bulger, nicknamed "Whitey" for his shock of bright platinum hair, grew up in a gritty South Boston housing project, and went on to become Boston's most notorious gangster.
Along with Flemmi, he led the violent Winter Hill Gang, a largely Irish mob that ran loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets in the Boston area. U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern said in 2000 that the two were "responsible for a reign of intimidation and murder that spanned 25 years."
Bulger spent almost all of his 16 years on the lam in the same Santa Monica apartment complex, paying his rent in cash every month while he and his girlfriend hid from one of the biggest manhunts in U.S. history, the property managers said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report