Inmates Accused of Killing 'Whitey' Bulger Knew He Was Being Transported to Prison Ahead of Time: Prosecutors

Whitey Bulger
Massachusetts-based organized crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger, 89, was beaten to death just hours after being transported to USP Hazelton in October 2018. Getty

Prosecutors say that the inmates of the notorious jail in West Virginia, including others connected to New England mobs, were prepared for Bulger's arrival, adding a new layer to the details around his murder.

Evidence reportedly suggests that inmates at the West Virginia prison where James "Whitey" Bulger was beaten to death knew that he was being transferred to the facility before he arrived. 

Massachusetts-based organized crime boss Bulger, 89, was beaten to death just hours after being transported to USP Hazelton in October 2018. Bulger had ran what the FBI called the Irish mob in Boston in the 1970s and 1980s, but he also served as an informant for the bureau, disclosing information about the gang’s primary rival before later becoming one of the nation's most-wanted fugitives before being arrested and convicted of 11 murders and other crimes. He was serving a life sentence in prison when he was killed. 

Bulger always maintained that he was not involved with the FBI. On an intake screening form he filled out after arriving at Hazelton, Bulger answered "no" when asked if there were any reasons he should be kept out of the general population, and also answered "no" in a section asking if he ever assisted law enforcement in any way, CBS News reported.

Sean McKinnon, another inmate at Hazelton, is accused of acting as a lookout while Fotios "Freddy" Geas, 55, and Paul DeCologero, 48, allegedly beat Bulger to death, according to CBS. DeCologero, who is a member of a Massachusetts gang led by his uncle, was convicted of buying heroin that was used to attempt to kill a teenage girl his uncle feared would speak to the police against their gang, Fox News and The Boston Globe reported. When the heroin did not kill her, another man broke her neck, the outlet reported. 

Geas, authorities say, was a known Mafia hitman who, along with his brother, was sentenced to life in prison for the 2003 murder of Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, a Massachusetts-based boss within the Genovese crime family, among other crimes. McKinnon, who was Geas' cellmate, pleaded guilty in 2015 to stealing dozens of handguns from a firearms dealer in Vermont, Fox reported. 

All three men were charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in connection with Bulger's death, according to the Associated Press.

Geas and DeCologero are also charged with aiding and abetting first-degree murder alongside assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Geas faces a separate charge of murder by a federal inmate serving a life sentence, according to the outlet. 

McKinnon had a detention hearing regarding his conspiracy charge on Monday, according to the outlet.  

Shortly before Bulger came to the facility, McKinnon told his mother on the phone that inmates had been preparing for a "higher profile person” to arrive, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hannah Nowalk said at a hearing in Ocala, Florida, according to a transcript obtained by AP News

McKinnon told her that the person was Bulger and when she told him to stay away from him, McKinnon told his mother, "I can't,” prosecutors said according to the transcript. According to the transcript, prosecutors said his mother warned her son about getting in trouble and McKinnon replied, "Don't worry. Oh, I don't plan it.”

McKinnon’s mother also told the Boston Globe that her son told her he didn’t know anything about Bulger's killing.

Surveillance video showed Geas and DeCologero entering Bulger's cell around 6 a.m. the morning he was killed, with McKinnon sitting at a table that faces Bulger's cell while the other two men were inside, authorities said. Nowalk said Geas and DeCologero were in Bulger’s cell for about seven minutes, and Bulger was found dead in his bed about two hours later, according to the court transcript.

An inmate witness also told the grand jury that when he asked McKinnon and DeCologero if they were who killed Bulger, they confirmed to be who were responsible for Bulger's death, according to the AP. According to Nowalk, that same witness "then indicated that Pauly (DeCologero) told him that Bulger was a snitch…as soon as they saw Bulger come into the unit, they planned to kill him.” 

“And then Pauly (DeCologero) told this inmate witness that Sean McKinnon was the lookout," she said, according to the transcript.

Prosecutors say McKinnon told federal agents he was unaware of what happened to Bulger. He was on supervised release in Florida when he was arrested last week. He faces charges including conspiracy to commit first-degree murder as well as a separate charge of making false statements to a federal agent.

The transcript showed that McKinnon’s attorney, Christine Bird, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Philip Lammens that the phone call does not show he was involved in a plot to kill Bulger, saying that "the entire unit was alerted that Whitey Bulger was coming to the unit,” according to the outlet. 

"The fact that his roommate was a henchman has nothing to do with him. He didn't select his roommate. The fact that he knew that doesn't really tell the Court that he was involved in the conspiracy," Bird said.

According to the outlet, during Monday’s hearing, the judge ruled that McKinnon should remain behind bars until his trial due to both his potential as a flight risk and threat to the community. 

DeCologero has since been moved from Hazelton to another federal prison facility and Geas remains at Hazelton, according to the outlet. 

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