Whitey Bulger killers were tipped off about mobster’s prison arrival and murdered him within six minutes

Whitey Bulger killers were tipped off about mobster’s prison arrival and murdered him within six minutes

Rachel Sharp

Wed, 24 August 2022 at 8:26 pm

The three men accused of murdering James “Whitey” Bulger were tipped off about the notorious mobster’s arrival at the prison, plotted in advance to kill him and then bludgeoned him to death just six minutes after cell doors opened for the day, according to prosecutors.

Fotios “Freddy” Geas, 55, Paul “Pauly” DeCologero, 48, and Sean McKinnon, 36, were indicted last week on charges of conspiracy to commit first degree murder.

The charges came almost four years after the infamous leader of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang was savagely beaten to death inside US Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia.

The three suspects were all behind bars at the prison when Bulger was transferred there on 29 October 2018.

The next morning, the 89-year-old mob boss was found by prison guards wrapped in blankets and posed to appear as if he were sleeping. He had been beaten to death and was left almost unrecognisable.

While almost four years passed with no charges brought over his death, the brutal murder has also raised questions about the failings of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to protect one of its most high-profile inmates who had a target on his back as a mobster turned FBI informant.

In court on Monday, new details emerged about the timeline of the killing and some of the evidence said to tie the three suspects to the crime.

Assistant US Attorney Hannah Nowalk said that Bulger’s killers – a former mafia hitman, a mobster involved in the murder and dismemberment of a 19-year-old girl, and a convict with no known mob ties who was released from prison just three weeks ago – somehow learned about his arrival at the prison in advance.

Then, “as soon as they saw Bulger come into the unit, they planned to kill him”, she said.

Following his death, the three suspects then allegedly confessed to carrying out the attack to other inmates in the lockup.

FBI Most Wanted Poster of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (AP)
FBI Most Wanted Poster of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (AP)

A jailhouse phone call between McKinnon and his mother was played to the court, revealing that the inmate had advance knowledge of Bulger’s transfer to the penitentiary.

“We’re getting ready to get another higher profile person here tonight,” McKinnon said in the call.

“No, I mean, you should know the name… Ever heard the name Whitey Bulger?”

When McKinnon told his mother who the high-profile inmate was, his mother Cheryl Prevost urged him to stay clear of him.

“Stay away from him, please,” she said.

McKinnon told his mother “Ah, I can’t”, saying that his cellmate Geas was “a henchman for a mob family out of New York and Boston”.

His mother warned him that “you get in trouble”, to which he replied: “Don’t worry. Oh, I don’t plan it.”

The call was made at around 3.30pm on 29 October 2018 – around five hours before Bulger arrived at the prison at 8.30pm that night.

Ms Nowalk said the phone call proves that the inmates knew about Bulger’s impending arrival and began immediately plotting to kill him.

Foitos Geas is accused of striking Bulger in the head multiple times (Collier County Sheriff)
Foitos Geas is accused of striking Bulger in the head multiple times (Collier County Sheriff)

It is not clear who tipped the inmates off about Bulger arriving at the penitentiary.

At 6am the next morning, all the cell doors in the prison block were unlocked and Geas and McKinnon – who were cellmates – were captured on surveillance footage meeting DeCologero in their cell.

Just six minutes later – at 6.06am – surveillance footage allegedly captured Geas and DeCologero entering Bulger’s cell.

McKinnon is accused of positioning himself at a table outside to act as a lookout.

It took just seven minutes to murder the mobster who was 89 years old and wheelchair bound at the time.

At 6.13am, Geas and DeCologero left Bulger’s cell and the three suspects returned to Geas and McKinnon’s cell, prosecutors said.

Prison guards discovered Bulger dead in his cell two hours later at 8.07am.

He had been at the prison for less than 12 hours.

Sean McKinnon was heard on a jailhouse phone call to his mother talking about Bulger’s arrival at the jail (Family handout)
Sean McKinnon was heard on a jailhouse phone call to his mother talking about Bulger’s arrival at the jail (Family handout)

Ms Nowalk told the court that three jailhouse informants had come forward to reveal that the suspects admitted to killing Bulger.

One of the informants said DeCologero told him he and Geas beat the 89-year-old to death with “a belt with a lock attached to it” while McKinnon was a lookout.

The motive for Bulger’s murder remains unclear.

One of the jailhouse informants said that DeCologero told him that Bulger was a “snitch”, according to prosecutors.

At Monday’s hearing, a federal judge ordered McKinnon to be held behind bars ahead of trial.

McKinnon had been released from prison just three weeks earlier on 27 July after serving eight years for stealing and trading guns for heroin in Connecticut.

He had no known mob ties.

As well as the conspiracy to murder charge, McKinnon is also charged with making false statements to a federal agent.

Paul DeCologero  is currently serving a 25-year sentence for his part in the 1996 murder of 19–year–old Aislin Silva (Family handout)
Paul DeCologero is currently serving a 25-year sentence for his part in the 1996 murder of 19–year–old Aislin Silva (Family handout)

Meanwhile, Geas and DeCologero are also charged with aiding and abetting first degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury.

Geas is also facing a separate charge for murder by a federal inmate serving a life sentence.

Geas and DeCologero – who both have mob ties – are accused of striking Bulger in the head multiple times and causing his death.

Geas is still behind bars at the Hazelton penitentiary and DeCologero is currently being held at a separate federal prison facility, prosecutors said.

DeCologero was a member of organised crime gang the DeCologero Crew which reigned over the North Shore of Massachusetts and is currently serving a 25-year sentence for his part in the 1996 murder of 19–year–old Aislin Silva.

Geas is a longtime hitman and associate of the Genovese Organized Crime Family based in Springfield, Massachusetts.

He is currently serving a life sentence for the murders of mob boss Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno and mob associate Gary Westerman and the attempted murder of a union boss Frank Dabado.

At the time of his murder, Bulger was serving two life sentences for the murders of 11 people, as well as a string of other charges including extortion, money laundering and drug dealing.

During the 70s and 80s, Bulger terrorised the streets of Boston as the notorious leader of the Winter Hill Gang, while also acting as an informant for the FBI.

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger was killed in prison in October 2018 (AP)
James ‘Whitey’ Bulger was killed in prison in October 2018 (AP)

He famously went on the run in 1995 – one day before he was to be indicted on federal racketeering charges – and evaded justice for the next 16 years, 12 of which he was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

In 2011 – at the age of 81 – he was finally arrested in Santa Monica, California, and was convicted of 11 murders in 2013.

Right up until his death, Bulger continued to deny that he was ever a government informant.

Prison officials and Bulger’s own family slammed the decision to move Bulger from a safer prison in Florida to the troubled West Virginia prison known to be dangerous to snitches, where he was also placed among the general population.

In 2020, Bulger’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and 30 prison employees, saying that he was “deliberately placed in harm’s way”.

The suit, which sought $200m in damages, claimed that Bulger was “subjected to a risk of certain death or serious bodily injury by the intentional or deliberately indifferent actions” of prison officials.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in January.

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