About the Author
John Sedgwick is the author of ten books, including two celebrated novels and the family memoir In My Blood. A longtime contributor to GQ, Newsweek, and the Atlantic, he wrote the first national expose of the exploits of Whitey Bulger in GQ in 1992.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
At Christmas in 1991, we were about a year into the Bulger investigation. I was with a few guys from my team at Joe Tecce’s, the big, splashy restaurant in the North End. Big John Tutungian, Sly Scanlan, our hookup guy Chuck Hanko, and a few others. It was the annual Christmas party of the Boston office of the FBI for a lot of law enforcement people around New England.
FBI special agent John Connolly, one of the bigger showboats, always played the host. Remember, this was when the local FBI and the State Police were supposedly working night and day to get Whitey Bulger arrested and sent away. Guess where the booze came from. A liquor store called the Rotary Variety in South Boston that was owned by Whitey Bulger himself. That was the rumor back then, that Connolly picked it up there himself, and it turned out to be the truth: we were drinking Whitey’s booze.
My guys were bothered by the idea, needless to say. We drank, sure, but the beer did not go down easy. But, starting with Connolly, a lot of FBI agents seemed to think it was a matter for a few jokes, some hearty claps on the back, and maybe another round on Whitey.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston also had some law enforcement people in from around New England for a little get-together from time to time. A bunch of FBI agents swung by for one of them that year, 1991, and some “Staties,” including me. By then, we’d started to make some serious progress on the Bulger investigation, and I was feeling good about how things were coming along. A couple of agents clanged beer bottles together and yelled for quiet and then they announced they wanted to make a presentation. They did it up big, asked all of us to crowd around, and got all solemn. When everyone was quiet, one of the FBI agents called out: “Everyone, this is a very special occasion for all of us here, and we’d like to present an award to a distinguished trooper from the State Police. Would Corporal Tom Foley please step forward?”
There was a little too much tittering in the crowd. My friend Fred Wyshak, the assistant U.S. attorney, had been given an “award” from the feds just the year before, and he didn’t appreciate his very much. So I stayed right where I was.
“Tom Foley, please?” one of them repeated.
By now, the room was dead silent. I still didn’t move, so the feds came toward me, and drew many of the attendees, many of them my superiors in the State Police, in a ring around us. One of the agents made a little unfunny speech about my investigative zeal in the Bulger case. That got some laughs, but not many.
Then the two agents handed me my award, which was wrapped up in tissue paper. “Go ahead, Tom, open it up,” one of them told me.
I pulled the tissue paper away, and scanned the plaque. It read: “The Most Hated Man in Law Enforcement.” It had a picture of me with my name underneath.
They wanted me to read it out to the crowd, but no way. So one of them did the honors, while I just glared at him.
The FBI agents in the crowd got a chuckle out of it, but not too many other people did, and I certainly didn’t. Still, the agents shook my hand, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “Congratulations, Trooper, you’ve earned it.”
I still have that trophy someplace, and whenever I want to remember what it was really like to work on that case, I take it down and look at it. Then everything comes rushing back.
The most hated man in law enforcement. I’m proud of that, prouder of that than I have been of any other award I have ever received. This book is about how I earned that honor. It’s the story of my twenty-year quest to bring Whitey Bulger to justice when hardly anyone outside my little band of overworked State Police investigators—like Tutungian, Scanlan, and Hanko; and a dogged agent from the DEA named Dan Doherty; and a few others who came later—gave a shit, quite frankly, and the FBI did about everything in its power to stop us.
In 1990, when our investigation kicked in, Whitey Bulger was by far the most dominant figure in the Irish mob. The Mafia had started to flame out, leaving the Irish mob about the only mob with any impact in Boston. Steve Flemmi, or Steve “The Rifleman” Flemmi, as the newspapers always put it (so named for his lethal shooting skills as a paratrooper during the Korean War), came in second to Whitey. Flemmi was up there largely because he was tight with Bulger; Whitey would have ranked regardless. Still, Flemmi was the only mobster Whitey trusted, had ever trusted, or even spoke to on any kind of regular basis. Third was probably “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, so named for his favorite car, who had recently emerged from prison to claim control of what was left of the New England Mafia. He’d relied on Flemmi for help in getting established, which meant that he was drawing on Whitey’s reputation, too. In the Boston mob scene, Whitey had all the power—others simply borrowed it. But all three of these men were woven in tightly to our case.
By 1990, Bulger was sitting on a criminal empire the newspapers pegged at $50 million. It came from his marijuana smuggling, cocaine dealing, extortion, illegal liquor distribution, pilferage, racketeering, gaming, and loan-sharking, but he’d do about anything if enough money was on the table. Although he was rarely seen around town, even in South Boston, his presence was everywhere. If there was a crime anywhere in the city that involved scaring the crap out of someone, it was probably Whitey’s doing. If there was a legitimate business to be muscled in on, Whitey again. If someone needed to be made an example of, Whitey.
Whitey was just plain smarter than the other mobsters, better connected, with keener instincts. But most important of all, he was utterly ruthless. More than most gangsters, Whitey could always think several steps ahead, sure. But it was his ability to scare the shit out of people that made the difference. Terror was his business. It wasn’t just killing people. All mobsters killed people. By now, Whitey’s official tally is up to nineteen, but the real count is probably twice that, if you add up all the virtual unknowns from the gangland wars earlier on when he was making a name for himself as a killer. Those victims weren’t widely missed after their bodies were dropped into the trunk of a car, or dumped in some alley. But more than the numbers, it was the way he killed, at extremely close range, the tip of the gun right up in the victims’ faces, so that last thing they saw on this earth was Whitey Bulger hovering over them, relishing it, before he blew them away, the blood splattering on him, like that brought him the greatest satisfaction there was. People who were there told us that Whitey liked to lie down afterward, and a weird calm would descend over him. “Like he’d taken a Valium,” one of them said. And the whole scene was so grotesque, so horrible, he knew that word would get out about what he’d done, and that this would be good for him, too. Do that enough, and you have to do it less. Whitey Bulger has to be the most cold-blooded killer in Boston’s history. If he isn’t, I wouldn’t want to know the guy who is.
None of this was a big secret in Boston. Most people knew the basics of what Whitey was about. But until we came along, no one in law enforcement had been able to do what law enforcement is supposed to do—get a bastard like that off the street before he kills somebody else. Whitey had been at large since 1965, when he emerged from his only prison stint, served mostly in Leavenworth and Alcatraz for a string of bank robberies, the last one in the Midwest. Since then, he hadn’t been touched by law enforcement. Never questioned, never indicted, never arrested. Not once. It was as if Whitey Bulger was a model citizen.
To the FBI, it was like Bulger didn’t matter. Despite his fearsome reputation, he had nothing to do with anything. Well, we thought differently. There are plenty of things to say about the FBI, but I’ll save most of them for later. For now, I’ll just say that I have never known any other organizations, or any individuals, where what they said and what they did had so little to do with each other. But the funny part is that the FBI thinks this is fine, even now. Since I got that Most Hated award, federal judges, congressional committees, and countless newspaper accounts have all agreed that the FBI’s problems go very deep. They did here. The feds stymied our investigation of Whitey, got us investigated on bogus claims, tried to push me off the case, got me banished to a distant barracks, phonied up charges against other members of the State Police, lied to reporters, misled Congress, drew in the president of the United States to save themselves, nearly got me and my investigators killed, and—well, I’ll tell you and.
The Most Hated Man in Law Enforcement, indeed.