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US subpoenas seen on Bulger's family in phone call probe

In an effort to find out who took a phone call from a London bank where fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger had stashed $50,000 in cash, federal prosecutors have subpoenaed the wife and children of Bulger's brother William, according to several people involved in the case.

The 1997 phone call was made to the Bulgers' South Boston home because James Bulger had listed his brother as the contact for the London safe deposit box.

When asked about the box and the phone call during testimony before a congressional committee in June, William Bulger said that he was unaware of the box and that nobody in his family "recalls such a call."

Bulger testified under a grant of immunity before the committee investigating the FBI's relationship with informants like his brother, but he could be prosecuted for perjury if it can be shown that he lied.

William Bulger's wife, Mary, and their children were among those who received subpoenas ordering them to testify before a federal grand jury in Boston, according to several people familiar with the investigation. But instead of appearing before the grand jury, Mary Bulger and the children were privately interviewed last month by a federal prosecutor with their attorneys present, the sources said. The Bulgers have nine children, the youngest of whom is 29.

Boston lawyer Thomas R. Kiley -- who represents William Bulger, his wife, and children -- said yesterday that he wouldn't discuss the ongoing investigation or efforts to get the Bulger family to assist in the hunt for James Bulger.

One person familiar with the investigation said investigators are trying to determine who answered the telephone at William Bulger's South Boston home in 1997 when a London bank official called looking for his gangster brother.

According to law enforcement officials, James Bulger opened the safe deposit box in the summer of 1992 and listed his brother, William, then president of the Massachusetts Senate, as the contact person on bank records.

When the bank relocated its offices to another building five years later, when James Bulger was a fugitive running from federal racketeering charges, bank officials called William Bulger's home to report that the box was being moved. Bank records indicate that an unidentified person who took the call advised the bank that James Bulger couldn't be located, according to law enforcement officials.

The existence of the box remained a secret for years, and the box was finally opened last October by inspectors from New Scotland Yard and the FBI, who found $50,000 in assorted currency, personal documents, and a key to another safe deposit box in Dublin, according to officials.

Bulger also told the congressional committee that two FBI agents had appeared at the door of his home June 10 seeking information from his wife and daughter, who reported that one of them told her, "If we can get someone in the family, just one person, to drop, to say something that will help us arrest the fugitive James Bulger, it will be over like that."

The agent, according to Bulger's daughter, Kathleen Webb, said Whitey Bulger's capture would help rebuild her father's reputation.

Whitey Bulger, 74, fled to avoid a January 1995 federal racketeering indictment and was later charged in another indictment with killing 19 people. The fugitive, who is on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, talked by telephone with both of his brothers since he has been in hiding.

Governor Mitt Romney and Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly both called for William Bulger's resignation as president of the University of Massachusetts after it was disclosed that he testified before a federal grand jury two years ago that he had a prearranged telephone call with his fugitive brother in early 1995, but that he felt no obligation to help authorities capture him.

William Bulger resigned as UMass president in August.

Bulger's other brother, John, 65, was sentenced last month to six months in prison for lying to federal grand juries about being in contact with his fugitive brother and failing to reveal that he had paid rent on another safe deposit box that James had in Florida. He's serving his sentence at the federal prison in Ayer.

In recent weeks, federal prosecutors have also been questioning people who have admitted in the past that they had telephone contact with Whitey Bulger since he's been on the run.

"It's about leaving no stone unturned," said one person familiar with the investigation, adding that investigators are asking people if they've had any recent contacts with the fugitive gangster.

One of those recently questioned by prosecutors is Kathleen McDonough, who was sentenced to probation in 1999 after pleading guilty to charges that she lied to a federal grand jury about conversations she had with James Bulger's girlfriend, Catherine Greig, who has been on the run with the gangster and is wanted on charges of harboring a fugitive.

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