Federal prosecutors on Friday said the judge who sentenced James “Whitey” Bulger to life in prison does not currently have to set a payment schedule for the $25.5 million restitution order levied against the gangster, because he has other debts to settle first.
The prosecutors were responding to a recent filing from US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper. She proposed ordering Bulger to pay a percentage of his prison canteen, or commissary, account toward restitution to his victims’ families, on an ongoing basis.
Casper had received a letter from the Federal Bureau of Prisons stating the agency could not begin collecting restitution from Bulger, in part because the judge had not set a specific payment schedule.
In the prosecution filing Friday, the government said that establishing a set schedule for restitution is not necessary, since Bulger first must pay off a separate $3,100 fine, followed by a $25.1 million penalty in forfeited property, including cash.
But prosecutors also said that if Casper sets a payment schedule, a rate of at least $25 per quarter is appropriate under the relevant case law, which allows for a higher amount based on an inmate’s ability to pay.
Bulger, prosecutors said, has enrolled in a federal program that helps inmates develop a payment plan. They said failure to enroll “precludes an inmate from obtaining certain privileges.”
Authorities have recovered just a fraction of the money that Bulger owes, including $822,000 seized from the Santa Monica, Calif., apartment that he shared with his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, while the couple lived as fugitives before their capture in June 2011.
Bulger, 84, is serving two life sentences in a Tucson prison. He is appealing his August 2013 conviction in federal court in Boston. Jurors found that he participated in 11 murders, among other crimes.