By Kate Torgovnick
Catherine Greig, the longtime girlfriend of notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was sentenced yesterday to eight years in prison for helping her love disappear in 1995 and spend more than 16 years atop the FBI’s most wanted list. Greig was found guilty of harboring a fugitive, identity fraud and conspiracy to commit identity fraud. But while many criminals tearfully renounce the actions that changed their lives and landed them on the wrong side of the law, Grieg holds that she doesn’t wish that she had walked away from Bulger when he called for help in the mid-1990s.
“Catherine Greig fell in love with Mr. Bulger, and that’s why she was in the situation she was in,” her lawyer, Kevin Reddington, said while asking the judge for a softer sentence of two years in prison for his client. “He’s the love of her life and she stands by him. Of course she doesn’t regret it … Miss Greig did not believe that Mr. Bulger was capable of these homicides.”
Yes, homicides. Plural. Did I mention that Bulger, the guy who Jack Nicholson’s spine-tingling character in “The Departed” is based on, is awaiting trial for 19 murders?
But let’s back up a little bit. Who is Catherine Greig?
Greig grew up in Boston, the daughter of Scottish and Canadian immigrants, and has often been described as hard-working and intelligent. After school, she became a dental hygienist. Ironically, Greig knew of Bulger as a violent gangster before she met the man in person—her first husband, Bobby McGonagle, believed that Bulger was responsible for the murder of his twin brothers. Still, Greig reportedly fell hard for Bulger when they met in her late 20s, long after she divorced McGonagle. (He died in 1987.) Greig was apparently not deterred by the fact that Bulger had a common law wife at the time, Theresa Stanley. Greig became his girlfriend on the side.
In 1994, Bulger received word—via an FBI informant—that he was to be arrested on Christmas day. And so he fled—with Stanley at his side, not Greig. Stanley spent several weeks on the run with Bulger, but ultimately decided to return home to her children. Apparently at that point, Bulger called for Greig. In early 1995, the blonde dental hygienist left her life in Boston behind and fled with Bulger.
The two traveled widely, first hiding out with a family in New Orleans, then ending up in Chicago, and in 2002 being spotted in London. The two were eventually found in Santa Monica, California, where they had posed as a retired married couple. But these two were not the sweet old couple that their neighbors probably imagined them to be. Grieg and Bulger were found with more than 30 weapons in their apartment, not to mention $800,000 in cash.
Bulger and Greig were apprehended in June of 2011, outside their Santa Monica apartment. Bulger was 81 at the time he was cuffed. It is believed that the two were tracked down thanks to Greig’s fondness for salon treatments, her love of surgical nip tucks, and her insistence on getting monthly dental cleanings. Just weeks before their arrest, the FBI had gone national with a campaign targeted at plastic surgeons, beauty parlor employees and, yes, dental hygienists. It is believed that this campaign brought the FBI to the couple’s door.
So what did Bulger have to say about his girlfriend, who stuck with him on the run for 16 years despite the fact that she wasn’t even his first choice?
“Catherine is a nice person,” Bulger said after his arrest. “A loyal person, compassionate, intelligent. I can’t say enough about her. She’s a good person.”
But during her trial, a very different picture of Greig was painted as several family members of those believed to have been killed by Bulger took the stand. One called Greig a “cold-hearted criminal,” another referred to her simply by an expletive. Another said, “You’re as much a criminal as Whitey and should be treated as such.”
While Greig will spend the next eight years in jail, she still isn’t ready to turn on her boyfriend. Her plea deal gets her out of cooperating in Bulger’s trial.