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3 charged with murder of gangster in prison in 2018

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Three people have been charged in the 2018 prison murder of notorious mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, federal authorities said Thursday.

Photos 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 North West Virginia said in a statement.

A prison guard found Bulger’s body at 8:21 a.m. on Oct. 30, 2018, in his cell at Hazelton U.S. Prison in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, less than 12 hours after he arrived on a transfer from a federal prison in Florida.

Fotios “Freddy” Geas appears in court in April 2009 in the Al Bruno murder trial in Springfield, Massachusetts.Don Treeger / The Republican via AP file
Sean McKinnon.
Sean McKinnon.Family photo

Prosecutors accused Geas and DeCologero of fatally hitting Bulger in the head several times.

Geas and DeCologero were also charged with complicity in murder and first-degree assault resulting in serious bodily harm, the statement said. McKinnon was charged with 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 prime suspect in Bulger’s murder. Federal prosecutors say he was an enforcer for the New England Mafia in the 1990s and 2000s, making him a rival to Bulger, the leader of the Irish mafia in Boston and an undercover FBI informant.

McKinnon was Geas’s cellmate in Hazelton, where he was serving an eight-year term for stealing guns from a firearms store in Vermont. Both men – along with DeCologero – were placed in solitary confinement in the hours after Bulger was beaten to death.

McKinnon, who was released from Hazelton in February and had lived in a shelter until moving in with his mother in July, said last year he was innocent.

His mother, Cheryl Prevost, said on Thursday she was stunned when she received a call from the FBI on Thursday evening that he had been arrested. McKinnon thrived in his new life in Florida, Prevost said, where he worked for a manufacturing company that produced generators.

“He just got a big bonus because he was there for three months and didn’t miss any time,” said Prevost. “He had started paying off his fines. He did so well.”

McKinnon called her from his detention center and told her he was afraid of losing his job.

“He calls it a federal witch hunt,” Prevost said. “But he’s just trying to go with the flow because he can’t do anything.”

DeCologero was serving a 25-year sentence for racketeering and witness tampering when indicted.

It was not 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 inspired Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Departed” — was on the run for 16 years when he was captured in Santa Monica, California, in 2011. was sentenced to life in prison in 2013.

In 2019, Bulger’s family filed a $200 million wrongful death suit, alleging authorities “deliberately” endangered him when he was transferred to Hazelton. A judge dismissed the lawsuit last year.

CORRECTION (August 18, 2022, 8:30 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article was misrepresented when Sean McKinnon said in an interview that he is innocent of Bulger’s murder. He said it in March 2021, not earlier this year.

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