If Whitey had been standing on his balcony, he would have been able to hear the “USA! USA!” chants floating up from the Third Street Promenade. But if the news of bin Laden’s death led to spontaneous celebrations in Santa Monica and across the country, it had a different effect on Whitey: With bin Laden off the FBI’s Most Wanted list, he was arguably now the bureau’s most notorious target. And for information leading to his arrest, it was willing to pay $2 million, the largest reward it had ever offered for a domestic target.
The caution that had defined Whitey’s last 16 years — indeed, his entire criminal career — suddenly transformed into paranoia. He became even more of a recluse. He stopped circling items in the paper’s police blotter for neighbors. He stopped pestering the young woman in the building whose personal safety had so concerned him. He stopped cornering Josh Bond, the building’s property manager, for idle conversation.
Greig now had to come up with new excuses for Whitey’s absence. For years, his health problems — some real, some invented — had been convenient cover for the rarity of his forays outside the apartment and his sometimes cranky behavior. Now she leaned on it even more. The descriptions of his illnesses were all over the map. Greig told neighbors they hadn’t seen Charlie because he was sick. He had been hospitalized. It was emphysema. It was his prostate. It was Alzheimer’s. Neighbors noticed that a handwritten sign appeared on the couple’s door, asking people not to knock.
Whitey’s heightened paranoia forced Greig to alter her routine. He didn’t want her leaving him alone. When she finally showed up at her hairdresser, Farnetti was shocked at her disheveled appearance. As Greig sat in the salon chair, Farnetti looked at her crestfallen face in the mirror. “What’s wrong?” Farnetti asked. “You don’t know,” Greig replied. “You just don’t even know.”
Although Whitey’s fears ebbed as the weeks passed, he had been right to be nervous. By spring 2011, the authorities were sure that the best way to get to Whitey was through Greig. She was more distinctive-looking than her companion, more likely to be out and about, and not nearly as hard-wired to caution. With $50,000, the FBI commissioned a 30-second television ad. It aired in 14 different markets during shows like The View and Live With Regis and Kelly, whose audiences were overwhelmingly female. The premise was that a woman might recognize Greig from a supermarket or a hair salon or somewhere else.
The plan worked. Anna Bjornsdottir was sitting in her apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland, watching a CNN report on the FBI’s change in strategy when a face flashed on the screen. She realized immediately it was Carol, the nice woman she knew from visits to California. On June 21, Bjornsdottir called the FBI’s Los Angeles office, leaving a message on an answering machine. The couple was Carol and Charlie Gasko. They were in Santa Monica.
The next afternoon, Greig returned a missed call from Bond, the property manager. “Josh, it’s Carol,” she said. “Did you just call?” Bond said the couple’s storage locker had been broken into and offered to meet them to inspect the damage or to call the police for them. Greig suggested that it would be best if her husband met Josh at the locker. Whitey grumbled, but he went down.
It was about 5:45 p.m., and Whitey was walking through the garage when FBI agents and Los Angeles police officers rushed up and surrounded him with their guns drawn. After they handcuffed him, an agent dialed Greig and held the cellphone up to Whitey’s mouth. “Stay in the apartment,” he told her. “I’ve been arrested.”
Later, a neighbor saw Greig talking to FBI agents. She looked calm, even relieved.
EVEN AS HE approached his 82d birthday, Whitey Bulger was treated as a high-security risk at Plymouth County Correctional Facility. A guard sat outside his cell 24 hours a day. His food, almost always cold, was passed through a slot. A camera in the 8-by-12-foot cell watched his movements. He slept on a thin mattress with a rubberized cover. Attached to the opposite wall was a stainless-steel toilet. Despite occasional bouts of defiance, he was coldly realistic. “Chances are I’ll die in this cell.”
Still, Whitey was preoccupied with his reputation, especially among those who knew him as Charlie Gasko. He wrote to friends and neighbors in Santa Monica, insisting he was not the monster he was being portrayed as, complaining about his treatment, professing his love for the woman everyone knew as Carol, wishing they were back at the Princess Eugenia, strolling the Third Street Promenade at dusk. “Funny but the happiest years were the 16 years on the lam,” he wrote. “Quiet life, no crime, like a 16 year honeymoon. . . . Memories keep me sane.”Continued...