FOIA Update
August 19, 2022

WASHINGTON — Empower Oversight received an allegation that while Whitey Bulger was one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives, the Bureau ignored a lead based on physical evidence reported by a local homicide detective in the area where Bulger was hiding and was eventually arrested.

Empower Oversight filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, one request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a second request with the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General (DOJ-OIG) seeking records related to the homicide detective’s tip to the FBI about a firearm that was allegedly connected to infamous crime boss James Joseph Bulger Jr., also known as Whitey Bulger.

The requests were filed just as Bulger’s 2018 death while in custody resurfaced in the news, with three men finally being charged for his murder. The government’s failure to protect Bulger has been in controversy and the subject of a lawsuit by his family.

According to a complaint filed with the DOJ-OIG in 2011, Sergeant Gary M. Steiner of the City of Santa Monica Police Department witnessed the attempted sale of a firearm with the serial numbers removed and allegedly related to Bulger at Oaktree Gun Club in Los Angeles, California. As Steiner’s complaint to the DOJ-OIG and Empower Oversight’s related FOIA requests explain in detail, Steiner ensured that this potential lead related to an FBI most wanted fugitive was reported to the FBI. However, the FBI refused to follow up to obtain and examine the firearm.

Following Bulger’s arrest in that area, the FBI denied to Steiner that it had any record of his contacts with the agency, failed to retrieve an audio recording of Steiner’s 2008 contact, and refused to obtain or examine the firearm. In an unsigned letter, DOJ-OIG refused to open an inquiry into the issues that Steiner raised.

Empower Oversight is requesting documents from the FBI and DOJ-OIG between April 1, 2008 and October 1, 2011 relating to Sergeant Steiner and the information he reported on multiple occasions, as well as FBI personnel records related a senior FBI official in the Los Angeles Field Office while Bulger was living as a fugitive in the area.

If you have first-hand information you’d like to disclose to assist Empower Oversight with these inquiries, please contact us confidentially here.