‘Whitey’ Bulger auction to benefit victims’ families
Colm Dunphy bid $23,000 bid for notorious gangster’s claddagh ring
A skull ring once belonging to James ‘Whitey’ Bulger and being offered for auction is seen in an undated picture released by the US Marshals Service.
Guests look at items belonging to notorious Boston mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger are displayed during before an auction in Boston, Massachusetts on Friday. Photograph: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg
But Tiger did not repay the kindness, leading, unwittingly, to the duo’s arrest in 2011 after a former neighbour, who knew them as the cat’s protectors, recognized them from FBI photos and turned them in.
A framed picture of Tiger that hung on their wall was one of hundreds of items that were sold Saturday at an auction of Bulger’s and Greig’s belongings.
A friend of the Greig family bought it, along with several other pictures of the cat, for $110, with the intention of giving them to Greig (65) who is expected to finish serving a 10-year prison sentence in 2020.
Bulger (86) who was sentenced to life in prison, was one of America’s most vicious, coldblooded and notorious crime bosses and at one time ranked just below Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. He was convicted in 2013 of a sweeping array of gangland crimes, including 11 murders.
But the auction of his and his girlfriend’s mostly mundane belongings had an odd way of minimizing the brutality of his decades-long reign of terror in his native South Boston. The proceeds - a modest $109,295 - will go to the families of his victims.
And it brought out people who, while fully versed in the Bulger legend, seemed to look past the murders, the drug dealing and the corrupt relationship with the FBI and instead saw the harmless retired couple that Bulger and Greig pretended to be for 16 years.
Take John Kelley (54) who owns a limousine company and lives in Andover, Massachusetts. He paid $4,300 for a boxing dummy wearing a safari hat that Bulger kept in his window and $5,200 for Bulger’s “psycho killer” skull ring.
“These people got hurt, and the money will help them out,” he said of the families. Asked what he thought of Bulger, Kelley shrugged. “He is what he is,” he said. “I don’t have opinions. Back in the day, those people, the syndicators, that’s what they did. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. That’s what they did. It was their craft.”
Colm Dunphy (52) a South Boston real estate developer, whose $23,000 bid won him Bulger’s claddagh ring, the most expensive item at the auction, similarly had nothing bad to say about Bulger.
“I thought he was a good guy,” said Dunphy, who still has the lilt of his native Northern Ireland. “I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me, but he helped a lot of people.”
Kathy Driscoll (70) who grew up in the same housing project with Bulger, said she had a hard time squaring the meager remains of the gangster’s life with his outsized reputation and could hardly comprehend that someone with so much money and power had lived such a crimped, little life.
She and her daughter, Katy Kroll (41) spent $55 for two rolling shopping carts that Bulger and Greig used to carry their groceries. She reminisced fondly about her days in the Old Harbor project in Boston, where Bulger was 16 years her senior.
“He was the pied piper,” she said. “He’d throw silver dollars at the kids. You’d go by him in the street and he’d throw money. There were always stories about him buying people food if they were in the supermarket and kids shoes, but you were a little bit afraid of him.”
The proceeds of the auction, along with $822,000 in cash that Bulger had stuffed into his apartment walls, will be divided among the families and estates of 20 murdered people connected to Bulger and his associates, and three whom the crew extorted in their criminal enterprise.
“We can’t bring back the victims,” said Thomas J. Abernathy III, assistant chief inspector of the asset forfeiture division of the US Marshals Service, which held the auction.
“This is better than destroying the property, and it’s some compensation for the victims.”
Steve Davis, who maintains that Bulger strangled his sister although the jury in the 2013 trial reached no conclusion on that charge, agreed. Davis even bid on some items as a strategy to raise the final prices.
“All the damage has been done,” he said. “All the families can do now is get financial help.”
At one point, as he milled around the fringes of the auction hall, Davis met Kelley, the bidder who had won the mannequin and the ring. The two men hugged. “I saw he almost had tears in his eyes, he felt so bad for us,” Davis said. “He said he didn’t want to feel like he was insulting us. It’s like he was making a donation to a cause he believes in.”
There was little sentimentality on the part of the bidder who won one of the auction’s few amusing possessions, a ceramic cup in the shape of a rat, a creature for which Bulger, despite being an FBI informant, has expressed infinite disdain.
The bidder, a 47-year-old trucker who did not want to give his name, won the rat for $3,600. Asked what he thought of Bulger, he minced no words. “I was scared of him,” he said. “Everyone was.”
The New York Times