Three people have been charged in the 2018 prison killing of the notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, federal authorities said Thursday.
Fotios Geas, 55; Paul J. DeCologero, 48; and Sean McKinnon, 36, were charged Wednesday with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Northern West Virginia said in a statement.
A prison guard found Bulger’s body in his cell at 8:21 a.m. Oct. 30, 2018, at U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, less than 12 hours after he arrived in a transfer from a federal penitentiary in Florida.
Prosecutors accused Geas and DeCologero fatally striking Bulger in the head multiple times.
Geas and DeCologero were also charged with aiding and abetting first-degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury, the statement said. McKinnon was accused of making false statements to a federal agent, it said.
Geas and DeCologero were behind bars when they were charged. The FBI took McKinnon into custody in Ocala, Florida, an FBI spokesperson said.
Authorities have described Geas — who is serving a life sentence for murder — as the central suspect in Bulger’s slaying. According to federal prosecutors, he was an enforcer for the New England mafia in the 1990s and the 2000s, making him a rival of Bulger, who was the leader of Boston’s Irish mob and a secret FBI informant.
McKinnon was Geas’ cellmate at Hazelton, where he was serving an eight-year term for stealing guns from a Vermont firearms store. Both men — along with DeCologero — were placed in solitary confinement in the hours after Bulger was found beaten to death.
McKinnon, who was released from Hazelton in February and had lived at a halfway house until he moved in with his mother in July, said last year that he is innocent.
His mother, Cheryl Prevost, said Thursday that she was stunned when she got a call from the FBI on Thursday evening saying he had been arrested. McKinnon was thriving in his new life in Florida, Prevost said, where he was working for a manufacturing company that produced generators.
“He just got a big bonus for being there three months and not missing any time,” Prevost said. “He had started paying off his fines. He was doing so good.”
McKinnon called her on the phone from his detention facility and told her he was concerned about losing his job.
“He’s calling it a federal witch hunt,” Prevost said. “But he’s just trying to go with the flow because there’s nothing he can do.”
DeCologero was serving a 25-year sentence for racketeering and witness tampering when he was charged.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether he or Geas have lawyers to speak on their behalf.
Bulger, who was in a wheelchair when he was fatally beaten — and who was the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Departed” — had been on the run for 16 years when he was captured in Santa Monica, California, in 2011. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2013.
In 2019, Bulger’s family filed a $200 million wrongful death suit, claiming that authorities “deliberately” placed him in harm’s way when he was transferred to Hazelton. A judge dismissed the suit last year.
CORRECTION (Aug. 18, 2022, 8:30 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when Sean McKinnon said in an interview that he is innocent in Bulger’s killing. He said it in March 2021, not earlier this year.