Bulger, Gandolfini: Mob makes headlines this week

The Associated Press
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James J. "Whitey" Bulger, alleged racketeer, booking photograph obtained by WBUR 90.9 - NPR Radio Boston. (AP Photo)

James J. “Whitey” Bulger, alleged racketeer, booking photograph obtained by WBUR 90.9 – NPR Radio Boston. (AP Photo)

The death in Italy of James Gandolfini, who played Mafia boss Tony Soprano on the popular HBO show “The Sopranos,” was part of an unusual convergence of mob-related news making headlines this week. Here’s a look:

JAMES GANDOLFINI’S DEATH

Gandolfini, whose portrayal of an emotionally delicate mob boss on one of TV’s greatest drama series earned him three Emmy Awards, died Wednesday while on holiday in Rome, HBO and his managers said. Gandolfini, who was 51, played Soprano on the HBO series from 1999 to 2007. He also appeared in movies including “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Killing Them Softly.”

THE SEARCH FOR JIMMY HOFFA

FBI agents with shovels on Monday began combing through dirt and mud in a weed-grown field north of Detroit looking for Hoffa’s remains or clues to the disappearance of the former Teamsters boss, who many people suspect ran afoul of the mob. Detroit FBI chief Robert Foley said Wednesday he was disappointed the excavation failed to turn up anything linked to Hoffa, who’s been missing since 1975.

JIMMY THE GENT’S HOUSE

In New York, an FBI excavation turned up possible human remains at a home once occupied by gangster James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, the inspiration for Robert De Niro’s character in “Goodfellas.” Burke, who according to mob lore orchestrated a nearly $6 million robbery, one of the largest cash heists in American history, at Kennedy Airport in 1978, lived at the home while an associate in the Lucchese crime family. The dig, apparently unrelated to the Hoffa dig, started Monday, and an FBI spokesman confirmed Wednesday agents found organic material they want to test. The FBI isn’t discussing the investigation.

WHITEY BULGER’S TRIAL

In reputed Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger’s racketeering trial, a former hit man who admitted killing 20 people, including a close friend, insisted Wednesday he told authorities the truth when he implicated Bulger in 11 slayings. Earlier in the week, the ex-hit man, John Martorano, was unemotional when describing his work but said he was heartbroken when he learned Bulger had become an FBI informant. Bulger’s lawyers deny he was an informant and say he didn’t kill 19 people.

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