Throughout the 1980s, South Boston was thick with snitches. And a surprising number were telling federal, state, and local authorities the same tale: Despite pronouncements to the contrary, James "Whitey" Bulger was at the financial epicenter of drug dealing on his turf.
FBI agents who were using Bulger as an informant generally ignored or disputed the reports, perpetuating the myth that Bulger was an underworld antidrug activist. After repeated failed attempts to nab Bulger on drug-related charges, his 1995 indictment finally pieced together his role in the drug-plagued "Town." Here are some highlights:
In February 1981, a DEA informant known as "C-1" tells DEA agent Steven Boeri that Bulger and his partner, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, are muscling in on drug trafficking in Massachusetts by demanding cash payments or a percentage of profits from drug dealers.
In June 1983, Quincy Police Detective Richard E. Bergeron reports that confidential sources say Bulger and Flemmi are extorting drug dealers for money. One source says they are arranging large drug deals and skimming the proceeds.
In January 1984, informant "C-2" tells DEA agent Albert Reilly that Bulger allows cocaine and heroin to be distributed from the Pit-Stop Bar on Claflin Street in South Boston in exchange for protection money.
In October 1984, FBI agent Rod Kennedy tells DEA agents that two confidential sources are talking about Bulger and Flemmi's drug connections. One says every drug dealer in Boston -- except for two who are exempt -- pays cash tribute to Bulger.
In August 1987 and June 1988, DEA informant "C-1" tells authorities that "Whitey Bulger gave the South Boston cocaine business to George Hogan . . . as long as Bulger received his share of profits from the business." Hogan is later indicted in a 1990 drug sweep; he pleads guilty to one count.
In November 1987, convicted narcotics dealer Patrick Perkins tells the DEA that Bulger arranged for "the purchase of multi-kilos of cocaine" between Hollywood, Fla., and Boston.
If there was one consistent voice disputing the informant reports, it belonged to John Connolly, Bulger's FBI handler.
For instance, an FBI agent from a different squad, James Blackburn, testified recently that in the 1980s he asked Connolly about reports that Bulger was shaking down a drug dealer named Hobart Willis. Connolly's response? It wasn't true, Willis was "crazy" and wouldn't "be worth the aggravation." And so, Blackburn said, he didn't pursue the "street talk."