James “Whitey” Bulger’s Social Security benefits, his replica Stanley Cup ring, and $50,000 he stashed in a London safe deposit box have been added to a growing pile of assets that were seized from the gangster and will be divided among the families of his victims, according to court filings.
Federal prosecutors urged a judge Monday to issue an order paving the way for an auction by the US Marshals Service of dozens of items seized from Bulger’s Santa Monica, Calif., apartment following his capture in June 2011.
Profits from the auction, along with $822,000 in cash found stuffed in the walls of Bulger’s California apartment, will be divided among the families of 20 people murdered by the gangster or his associates and by several people he extorted, according to court filings. In addition, the group will split Bulger’s Social Security payments and an unspecified amount of cash seized from safe deposit boxes and bank accounts in England and Ireland.
Court documents unsealed Monday revealed for the first time that the government was seizing Bulger’s past and future Social Security earnings and money he had abandoned, which was turned over to the Massachusetts Unclaimed Property Division while Bulger was a fugitive.
Last week, the state treasurer’s office gave federal authorities the gangster’s unclaimed 1996 tax refund, which totaled $441 with interest, and another $4,249 from a checking account he abandoned at a Florida bank, according to Massachusetts Assistant Treasurer Mark Bracken.
That money will also be distributed among Bulger’s victims, according to court filings.
A spokeswoman for US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz’s office declined to comment on the total amount of cash seized from Bulger’s bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, and Social Security benefits.
Bulger was hired as a janitor at the Suffolk County courthouse in the 1960s after serving nine years for bank robbery, then was fired for being a no-show.
Patricia Donahue, whose husband, Michael, was shot to death by Bulger in 1982, said she was pleased that the government was continuing to track Bulger’s assets and surprised to hear that the notorious gangster was eligible for Social Security.
“I never knew the man worked,” Donahue said. “Nothing surprises me when it comes to ‘Whitey’ Bulger.”
Bulger, 86, who is serving a life sentence at a federal penitentiary in Florida, was convicted in 2013 of participating in 11 murders while running a sprawling South Boston-based criminal organization from the 1970s to the 1990s. Jurors found him not guilty of seven other murders and were unable to reach a verdict on whether he strangled 26-year-old Debra Davis in 1981.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court upheld Bulger’s conviction, rejecting his claim that he did not get a fair trial.
US District Judge Denise J. Casper, who presided over the trial, ordered a $25.2 million forfeiture judgment against Bulger, allowing the government to seize current and future assets.
Bulger, who spent much of his trial trying to rebut evidence that he was a longtime FBI informant, fled Boston just before his 1995 racketeering indictment after being warned by a corrupt former FBI agent that he was going to be arrested.
After his capture, the gangster did not contest the government’s seizure of the $822,000 in cash, 30 weapons, and other items from the California apartment he shared with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig, but he wanted to keep his Stanley Cup ring.
Bulger claimed in court filings that the ring from the Montreal Canadiens’ 1986 championship was a gift from a friend.
However, the ring, a replica previously valued by the government at about $3,000, has been forfeited and will be offered at the auction, according to court filings.
The Globe reported in 2013 that other items seized from Bulger’s apartment included his gold and diamond claddagh ring, his collection of hats and hoodies, a boxing mannequin, and a rat-shaped cup he used as a pencil holder.
In Monday’s court filings, prosecutors asked Casper to issue an order authorizing the sale of Bulger’s assets. They also filed a settlement agreement signed by the families of his victims and the several people he extorted, detailing how Bulger’s assets will be split.
“It’s not going to make a difference as far as what’s happened in their lives,” said Donahue, who raised three sons alone after her husband was slain. “But, maybe it will help a little.”
Prosecutors did not indicate how much money was seized from Bulger’s bank accounts and safe deposit boxes in Ireland and England. However, the FBI announced in 2002 that it had seized $50,000 from Bulger’s safe deposit box in London.