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Justice Dept. report criticizes Bureau of Prisons for mob boss' murder

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The Federal Bureau of Prisons committed a series of “failures” that led to the death of gangster James "Whitey” Bulger four years ago, according to a Justice Department report released Wednesday. Photo courtesy of the FBI
The Federal Bureau of Prisons committed a series of “failures” that led to the death of gangster James "Whitey” Bulger four years ago, according to a Justice Department report released Wednesday. Photo courtesy of the FBI | License Photo

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The Federal Bureau of Prisons committed a series of "failures" that led to the death of gangster James "Whitey" Bulger four years ago, according to a Justice Department report released Wednesday.

Bulger was found beaten to death at U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia in October 2018, just hours after he was transferred from a Florida prison.

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The report issued by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General also found inmates at the West Virginia facility placed bets on how long the notorious former mob boss would survive after the transfer.

Corrections officials relocated the 89-year-old from a temporary stay at a facility in Oklahoma to the high-security USP Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, W.Va., on Monday. Before Oklahoma, Bulger was been held at U.S. Penitentiary Coleman II in Sumterville, Fla.

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Bulger's transfer was widely known by the prison population before it occurred, the report said.

The report also found inmates later told prison officials that "everyone knew" Bulger would be killed at Hazelton over his label as a "rat." It said the bureau erred in sending Bulger to Hazelton, a lower-level medical treatment facility than the one from which he was being transferred from.

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Given his age and lengthy history of cardiac-related illness, the report found Bulger should have been housed at either a medical care level 3 or 4 institution. Hazelton has a level 2 designation.

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The report's conclusion stopped short of claiming any prison employees acted with malice, but it does issue 11 separate recommendations.

"The BOP agrees with the recommendation. The BOP will reassess policy, training and best practices to determine any procedural changes to inmate placement within local facilities," the report stated.

Bulger was serving two life-in-prison terms plus five years after he was found guilty in 2013 on 31 criminal counts for his involvement in 11 murders across the country during his time as leader of the Boston-based Winter Hill Gang.

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The gang ran roughshod in the city's underworld from the 1970s until the 1990s.

Facing an indictment, Bulger went on the run for 16 years before he was captured by the FBI in 2011.

Though he denied the claims, Bulger was accused of working with corrupt FBI agents, who turned a blind eye toward Winter Hill gang crimes in exchange for information about other criminal elements -- and passed him tips to help avoid arrest.

Several of his former confidants and top lieutenants testified against him during the trial after cutting deals with prosecutors, saying they were shocked when they found out Bulger was working with the FBI.

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In August, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of West Virginia charged three Hazelton inmates in connection with the death.

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