Three men, including a Mafia enforcer, were charged nearly four years ago with the death of Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger at a West Virginia federal prison in an attack that exposed rampant violence and stunning security flaws in the prison system. brought.
Fotios “Freddy” Geas, 55, Paul “Pauly” DeCologero, 48, and Sean McKinnon, 36, were charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, federal authorities said Thursday.
Geas and DeCologero are accused of hitting Bulger multiple times in the head in October 2018 while incarcerated in Hazleton prison. Geas and DeCologero were also charged with complicity in first degree murder along with assault resulting in serious bodily harm.
Geas is charged separately with murder by a federal prisoner serving a life sentence, while McKinnon was charged with making false statements to a federal agent.
Known as one of the country’s most notorious criminals and fugitives, Bulger led a violent crime gang in South Boston from the 1970s to the 1990s, known as the Winter Hill Gang.
Bulger was also one of the country’s most pursued criminals until his arrest in 2011, after evading federal authorities for 16 years. At the time of his death, the 89-year-old crime boss had become frail and was confined to a wheelchair while serving a life sentence for 11 murders and other crimes.
Immediately after his death, federal prosecutors admitted they were investigating the case as a homicide.
At the time, prison officials said one of the suspects who were abruptly moved to segregation pending the outcome of the investigation was Geas, a well-known mafia agent who — like Bulger — was serving a life sentence for a spate of violent crimes, including murder. .
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Geas and his brother were involved in the 2003 murder of then-Springfield, Massachusetts crime boss Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno. Geas’s conviction was won largely on the testimony of informants, a role Bulger had once embraced for federal authorities to avoid prosecution for his own violent crimes.
Bulger was found in his cell by two officers after it was noted that the elderly inmate had not arrived for breakfast.
When they found Bulger in his bunk bed wrapped in blankets, the officers initially thought he was asleep. When Bulger did not respond to their presence, the officers removed his bed cover to reveal a bloodied and badly beaten face and upper body.
“It was a blow,” said one of the employees who examined the body. “It could have been done with fists or with a lock in a sock.”
The staffer referred to a popular improvised weapon in prison in which ordinary padlocks are placed in socks and forcibly swung to hit designated targets.
Video surveillance showed that at least two inmates entered the cell and later left before the body was discovered by the officers, the staffers said.
The unit was accessible, the staffers said, as cell doors open early in the morning in preparation for breakfast, and remain open until late in the afternoon, just before the evening inmate count.
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Prior to his transfer to West Virginia, Bulger was housed in the country’s largest federal prison complex in Coleman, Florida, where he had served a fairly quiet term.
However, in early 2018, he was sanctioned for threatening a health worker, according to prison records. An employee familiar with the incident said Bulger referred to a “day of reckoning.”
Bulger was then moved to safer housing until his transfer to West Virginia.
The aging mobster was widely known among the staff there, though his risk of violence as a longtime mob boss had largely faded with his increasing vulnerability.
Geas is still stuck with USP Hazelton. DeCologero is no longer being held in USP Hazelton, but remains housed in the federal prison system. McKinnon had been released under federal supervision at the time of the indictment and was arrested in Florida on Thursday.
The murder of Bulger drew increasing attention to widespread problems within the federal prison system and was closely followed by the suicide in 2019 of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
Plagued by ongoing security, violence and personnel problems, the Justice Department last month appointed longtime Oregon Department of Corrections chief Colette Peters to head the sprawling federal prison system.
Bulger’s family had previously filed a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and 30 unnamed prison system employees for claiming not to protect him. Bulger was the third inmate to be murdered in six months at USP Hazelton, where workers and lawyers had long warned of dangerous conditions.