Whitey Bulger Trial Begins Today: a Lesson in Real Life Mafia Crime and How Organized Crime Works (and Succeeds).

Whitey Bulger's Mugshot
Whitey Bulger goes on trial today and while I haven't been following this case before now, I'm suddenly fascinated with what is happening up in Massachusetts starting this week. So I'm going to be posting about the case, sharing what I'm learning with you, Dear Reader.  

Today, the trial begins in a Boston federal courtroom for James (”Whitey”) Bulger, who was on the lam for 16 years before getting nabbed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Santa Monica, and it’s a big deal.

He’s facing charges of racketeering as well as 19 separate murder charges and his pretty blonde girlfriend, Catherine Greig, has been busted too (she already been convicted and sentenced to eight years incarceration for helping Whitey hide from the law).

Starting tomorrow, 675 people who make up the jury pool will begin the process of making their way to the Moakley Courthouse each morning as the judge and attorneys on both sides work to find 18 people out of that group to serve as the 12 jurors and 6 alternates in a trial that is sure to take months and months to complete.

Whitey Bulger Story is a Fascinating Story to Many:  Best Sellers, Big Movie 

This is a big deal for many people, in many ways. There’s already a couple of bestselling books detailing the life of this alleged mobster, and there’s also a big time movie in the works. (Johnny Depp was cast to play the role of Whitey, but he quit this week in an apparent salary dispute.)

The details of this federal trial are going to be a real-life education for many of us that heretofore learned about organized crime through Mario Puzo’s and Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather series or perhaps watching the TV series, The Sopranos

 No fictionalized version of things this time. Follow this trial carefully and it may prove better than any award-winning fiction.  This is the real deal, and it's pretty darn spooky (and this from reading only the pleadings filed in the public record.)

Lessons in Real World Organized Crime: The Structure of the "Cosa Nostra"

Consider this from the live pleadings, the Fourth Superceding Indictment, where I for one learned lots of different descriptions for what the movies refer to as the “Cosa Nostra” in the movies and how the organization works, as well as the charges that have been brought against Whitey Bulger. 

 Summarizing from the first few pages of this indictment:

1. Since1965, both in Massachusetts along with other parts of the country, there has been a “secret criminal organization” which has several nicknames among its membership including:

  • "La Cosa Nostra"
  • "stu Cosa"
  • "The Mafia"
  • "This Thing of Ours," and
  • “This Thing”.  (Who knew?  I never heard of "this thing" for the Mafia before, did you?)

2. The secret criminal organization is efficiently structured into groups called “Families" which operate all across the United States. The Families are overseen at a national level by a national “"commission" which is headquartered in New York City. The Commission’s membership are the leaders of each “Family” known as their "Bosses."

3. The indictment describes one of these Families as follows:

  • “The Patriarca Family of La Cosa Nostra (the "Family"), which operated in the Districts of Massachusetts,on July 11, 1984 and who was then succeeded by his son, Raymond J. Patriarca, aka "Junior," until he was succeeded by the defendant FRANCIS P. SALEMME.“
  • “The Patriarca Family existed and acted in conformity with the rules of La Cosa Nostra (LCN).“

4. Within the the Patriarca Family, the organizational chart involved the following:

  1. The head man (or CEO as it were) is the "Boss."
  2. His right hand man is the "Underboss."
  3. His advisor and counselor is the Family’s "Consigliere."
  4. Below the Underboss are a number of "Capo Regimes" or "Capos", men who are each in charge of a group of members who are their “crew.”
  5. Within the crew, each member is a “made man” known as a “Soldier.”
  6. Associates to the family are those who help the organization succeed and act with the Family members but these Associates are not officially “made” members of the Family.

5. The Family’s business operations were definitely for profit. According to the indictment, this Family gained revenue from a variety of illegal operations such as “…illegal gambling, extortion, loansharking, and narcotics distribution businesses and the collection of unlawful debts.

6. In Massachusetts, there was a separate criminal organization known as "The Winter Hill Gang" and "South Boston." James “Whitey” Bulger was the Boss of the Winter Hill Gang.

7. The Winter Hill Gang acted with “...the purpose of controlling, supervising, financing, and otherwise participating in and deriving income from illegal activities, including illegal gambling, extortion, loansharking, and narcotics distribution businesses and the collection of unlawful debts.

8. The Winter Hill Gang was competing with La Cosa Nostra in the New England area in these illegal marketplaces (gambling, extortion, drugs, etc.)for many years, viciously and successfully.  Things got ugly.

More in my next post.