When private investigator Ted McDonough heard that Freddy Geas was suspected by authorities of taking part in the murder of James “Whitey” Bulger, he knew immediately why Geas might have done it.
“Freddy hated rats,” said McDonough, using the slang for criminal informants. McDonough had become friendly with Geas while working for him as an investigator.
“Freddy hated guys who abused women. Whitey was a rat who killed women. It’s probably that simple,” McDonough said.
Fotios “Freddy” Geas — Mafia hitman, career criminal, prison lifer — did not like informants, and was almost certainly well aware of the fact that Bulger had led a charmed life for a long time as an informant for the FBI.
People with knowledge of the investigation said that Bulger had requested to be housed in general population at the federal prison in Hazelton, W. Va., where he had just been transferred from a federal prison in Florida after a brief stop in Oklahoma.
Geas is serving a life sentence at the prison in Hazelton for his role in the assassination of Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno, the onetime head of the Mafia in Springfield, after both the man who ordered him to kill Bruno and the hitman he dispatched to do the murder turned on him and testified against him.
People familiar with the investigation suggest that Bulger was murdered by more than one of his fellow inmates, and that Geas didn’t dispute his role in the killing.
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David Hoose, the lawyer who initially represented Geas in the Mafia killings, said he was not surprised to hear that Geas didn’t dispute his role in Bulger’s killing and refused to identify a possible accomplice.
“He wouldn’t rat on anybody,” Hoose said, “and he had no respect for anyone who would.”
Freddy Geas, 51, and his brother Ty, 46, were a tag team pair of criminals from West Springfield who were well known, and feared, in Western Massachusetts. They have long rap sheets and were known for their violent impulsivity. When Ty Geas was 17, he was sentenced to a year in jail for firing an assault rifle into the air during a high school hockey game. Freddy Geas exhibited what would become a lifelong, violent animosity toward those who cooperate with the authorities, eventually pleading guilty to threatening to kill a witness against his brother.
Freddy Geas’s reputation for sudden, impulsive violence is long established. When a bar fight at a Springfield bar called Sh-Booms spilled onto the street in 1989, Freddy, then 22, wrecked an expensive vintage car parked outside. In 2006, he went to jail for beating a pair of men with a baseball bat at a strip club.
By that time, the Geas brothers were well known to local authorities as the hired muscle for an aspiring Mafia leader named Anthony Arillotta. Because they were Greek, the Geas brothers could not be “made” members of the Mafia, but they carried the mob’s imprimatur, according to Springfield and State Police.
“Nobody screwed with them,” McDonough said. “Freddy, especially.”
In 2009, Freddy Geas was charged with a series of crimes, including the hit on Al Bruno and the 2003 murder of Gary Westerman, Arillotta’s brother-in-law. He was also charged with being the getaway driver in the botched murder of Frank Dabado, a cement union boss in the Bronx. Dabado was targeted for murder after he and Artie Nigro, a Genovese crime family boss, had a fight over some Tony Bennett concert tickets.
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McDonough, the private investigator, said Freddy Geas was crushed to learn that the star witness against him was Arillotta, the Mafia up-and-comer who had groomed him.
Arillotta’s testimony described a chaotic scene right out of a Martin Scorcese movie. After Freddy Geas shot Westerman in the head twice, the mortally wounded Westerman tried to break free from the Geas brothers as they dragged him to a grave. Arillotta testified that he and Emilio Fusco, a Mafia soldier in the Genovese crime family, finished Westerman off by beating him to death with shovels.
Arillotta testified that Freddy Geas complimented the assembled murderers for good teamwork.
Freddy Geas was convicted of hiring the hitman who killed Bruno, who was murdered so that Arillotta could assume control of the Mafia in Springfield. Geas met that hitman, Frankie Roche, in prison and was his friend, police said. But like so many other people who once considered themselves Freddy Geas’s friend, Roche rolled on him.
In a 2007 statement to Springfield police that was obtained by the Globe, Roche admitted that he shot Bruno outside the Mount Carmel Society social club in Springfield.
“Freddy had called me earlier in the day and told me that Al was definitely going to be there,” Roche told police. “I killed Al Bruno because I was paid to do it. Freddy Geas is the person who paid me to do it.”
McDonough said that Geas harbored a special hatred for informants, criminals who saved their own skin by giving up others.
In 2016, Taylor Geas, Freddy’s daughter, wrote a piece for The Republican newspaper of Springfield, recalling that as a child she thought her father was never around because he was in the Army.
“My dad led a double life,” she said.
She could not reconcile the father she knew with the criminal whose exploits were well documented in newspapers and on television.
“The person I know is the father that would tuck me in at night, and tell me funny stories until I fell asleep,” she wrote. “He was the person that taught me how to throw a baseball, and got me my first pair of soccer cleats. When I look in the mirror I see his smile because I have the same one.”
TIMELINE: Bulger’s crimes, escape, capture, conviction, death
McDonough described Freddy Geas as extremely personable, but a committed criminal. They met regularly at the Cafe Manhattan, a bar in downtown Springfield.
“A good conversationalist,” McDonough said. But McDonough was under no illusions. “He liked me because I was his private investigator. You would not want Freddy as an enemy.”
McDonough speculated that if Freddy Geas killed Bulger, it would elevate him in the criminal hierarchy, especially among the Mafia, whose members and associates would have felt duty-bound to kill Bulger after they learned he had fed the FBI information about the Mafia in Boston.
For those whose loved ones were murdered by Bulger, and those who hunted him down and prosecuted him, Bulger’s demise brought a sense of relief — and irony, given that the suspect in his killing was believed to have been motivated by Bulger’s informant status. They said Bulger inflicted similarly terrible ends on others, especially those he suspected of being informants.
Tom Donahue, the son of one of Bulger’s victims, said he always assumed Bulger would die in prison of natural causes. He said he took comfort from knowing that Bulger experienced some of the pain that so many of his victims did.
“I think it’s justice,” said Donahue, whose father, Michael, an innocent truck driver, was murdered by Bulger.
Donahue said he hoped he would be able to put some money into Freddy Geas’s prison canteen account.
Shelley Murphy of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Kevin Cullen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.