Since March 14, 1950, the FBI’s top ten list has grown into a cultural icon. A list of the baddest of the bad, from terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden, to an Arizona man who murdered his entire family, they star out at us from posters, and websites, but for the FBI agents tracking these fugitives, the top ten list is more than a collection of most wanted posters.
“The top ten list is one of the most valuable tools we have,” says Warren Bamford, the Special Agent in Charge of the Boston FBI. He says the decision to place a fugitive in the top ten is not made lightly. “What we try to look at is the seriousness of the crime, the type of offender involved. Is this a person who continually offends, a career offender? We also look at, can the media help us? Will publicity help us capture this person,” Bamford says.
The latest Boston-area offender placed on the national top ten, John Schillacci. He made the list in September of 2007 and was caught in Mexico in June of 2008.
“Schillaci was brought into a home of a family in New Hampshire and while he was in that home, he actually molested a small child. And to the law enforcement community, that is, was one of the most heinous acts that could ever take place,” Bamford says.
Since 1952, the Boston FBI has placed 21 fugitives on the Top Ten list. 20 of them have been caught, including Boston cop killer, Ted Otsuki. In 1987, Otsuki shot and killed Boston police officer Roy Sergei during a shootout.
“Clearly when you have a situation that occurred, it showed that he was ready to used deadly force at the drop of a hat. Armed and extremely dangerous,” say retired FBI agent Jay Fallon, who worked the Otsuki case. Nine months after Otsuki made the top ten list, Fallon found Otsuki in Mexico. “It was the highlight of my investigative career, no doubt,” Fallon says.
Out of the 21 Boston fugitives who have made the top ten list over the years, there remains on notable fugitive who has never been caught, South Boston mobster James Whitey Bulger. Special Agent in Charge Bamford tells me the bureau is not giving up the search for Whitey.
“We continue to get leads, we continue to get information that may lead us to him at some point,” Bamford goes on to say, “there is no doubt that he has been quite elusive. There’s also no doubt we’ll continue to try to locate him and bring him back.”
Sixty years ago, former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover started the top ten list as a way to showcase the toughest guys the bureau was after. 463 arrested fugitives later, the top ten list is still going strong. “In 1950, it started with posters in a post office. Now look where we are with the internet, satellite communications, and everything that goes with it in this day and age. Who knows where it will be 50 or 60 years from now,” Bamford says.