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Prosecutors detail life on the run

At hearing, say Greig hid with Bulger at will

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By Maria Cramer and Milton Valencia
Globe Staff / July 12, 2011

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James “Whitey’’ Bulger and his longtime companion, Catherine Greig, used at least 15 aliases, including one embossed on an AARP card, during their 16 years on the lam, federal authorities said yesterday.

The couple also lived in a home where the reputed mobster stocked his bedroom walls with assault rifles and hid three loaded guns behind books on his shelf, according to testimony during Greig’s bail hearing yesterday.

During a proceeding that at times felt like a rehearsal for trial, a federal prosecutor questioned an FBI agent about the various ways Bulger and his longtime girlfriend tried to elude authorities. The answers - part of a 2 1/2-hour hearing in US District Court in South Boston that was continued until tomorrow - revealed new details about the pair’s life in Santa Monica, Calif., where they were arrested last month.

Bulger and Greig appeared to live in separate bedrooms and, according to testimony yesterday, relied on several false documents, including Social Security cards, a military service certificate, and birth certificates. Some of the identities belonged to real people, according to the testimony, although it is not clear how Bulger obtained them.

In his bedroom, Bulger cut holes in the walls to hide some of the 30 weapons authorities found, FBI Special Agent Michael Carazza testified.

Late yesterday, the US attorney’s office in Boston released pictures of the weapons found in the two-bedroom apartment. The images showed at least one assault rifle, shotguns, what appeared to be a hand grenade, handcuffs, dozens of rounds of ammunition, and knives in black cases.

In another hole cut into the wall, Bulger hid stacks of cash - about $822,000 was found - then covered the hole with a mirror, Carazza said.

“A lot of the evidence seems to suggest the extent to which Mr. Bulger and Ms. Greig went to develop new identities to avoid law enforcement,’’ Assistant US Attorney James Herbert said. The specific aliases they used were not released.

It was clear yesterday that prosecutors intend to argue that Greig could have left Bulger at any point, eliciting testimony from Carazza showing that Bulger was not constantly at her side during their time on the lam.

Prosecutors want to make sure Greig, a 60-year-old dental hygienist, is not released on bail as she awaits trial on charges of harboring a fugitive. But at points, Herbert appeared to be arguing a case against Bulger.

Greig’s lawyer, Kevin Reddington, objected to questions about Bulger’s attempts to elude police, including about setting up safes in cities across the United States and Europe. The existence of such safes has been reported in the past.

“It does seem rather tangential to the issues before us,’’ US District Court Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal agreed, before asking Herbert to focus on Greig.

Some of the relatives of Bulger’s 19 alleged murder victims are expected to give statements when Greig’s hearing resumes, a development several legal observers said is highly unusual because Greig has not been convicted.

In court yesterday, Reddington said that the victims are alleged to be Bulger’s, not Greig’s. He has described Greig as a “kind, gentle person with a loving personality’’ in court filings.

Relatives of the victims said they want to speak out against her possible release on bail. “Why should she get a break?’’ said Thomas Donahue, son of alleged Bulger victim Michael Donahue. “She knowingly and willingly hopped in the car with him and went on the run with him for 16 years. You can’t say that she was either forced or she didn’t like it, she was threatened for her life. She was traveling the world, going to Vegas, walks on the beach. She was living a good, comfortable life.’’

A spokeswoman for Carmen M. Ortiz, US attorney in Boston, said that victims’ loved ones have the option to give a statement at any point, even before trial.

“Maybe you don’t see it that often because some people don’t choose to do it,’’ said Christina Sterling, Ortiz’s spokeswoman. “But it’s certainly something they’re entitled to. They certainly are always informed of their right under the statute.’’

Stephen G. Huggard, former chief of the public corruption unit for the US attorney’s office, said prosecutors probably want to show Boal that by not turning in Bulger, Greig hurt the victims’ families.

“I don’t think anyone’s alleging she participated in any acts of violence,’’ said Huggard, now a criminal defense lawyer in Boston. “I suppose what they’re trying to say is she caused them pain by helping Bulger remain a fugitive all these years. They suffered without him getting caught.’’

Greig appeared composed in court yesterday. She smiled broadly at her sister, Margaret McCusker, who sat in the front row.

Small and thin, Greig, who wore a drab blue prison outfit and white sneakers, calmly sipped water and looked at court papers as Herbert questioned Carazza, who served on the Bulger Task Force, investigators from state and federal agencies that hunted Bulger.

McCusker appeared less calm as Carazza testified that she spoke several times to her sister in the mid-1990s when the couple was on the run. Bulger and Greig lived off and on in Grand Isle, La., between 1995 and 1996 and traveled to New York and Chicago, Carazza said. The pair’s life in Louisana had been previously described by authorities and people who knew them there.

At one point yesterday, Herbert asked Carazza about Greig’s life in Louisiana. “People indicated that Catherine Greig would at times walk the roads and beaches in Grand Isle alone,’’ he replied.

McCusker shifted in her seat and shook her head as Carazza described the phone calls between the sisters.

At one point, he testified, McCusker and another woman, Kathleen McDonough, went to the home of McDonough’s aunt in Braintree to talk to Greig.

When the relative asked why they needed to talk to Greig from her house, the women replied with “words to the effect, ‘You never know who’s listening,’ ’’ Carazza said.

In 1999, McCusker admitted in federal court that she lied when she told a grand jury she had spoken to her sister three times, not four.

McCusker and McDonough, who was 30 at the time, pleaded guilty to perjury and obstruction of justice and were sentenced to six months’ home confinement and probation.

After the hearing, McCusker was mobbed by reporters seeking comment. “Please,’’ she exclaimed as she tried to get away.

Much of yesterday’s testimony focused on the first two years of Bulger’s disappearance, details that had already come out in the late 1990s, when the mobster’s former associates began testifying against him in exchange for lighter prison sentences. Still not public are the details of the period between 1997 and 2011, when Bulger was finally captured.

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com.