FOX UNDERCOVER - The first two witnesses in the Whitey Bulger trial are veteran Mass. State Police investigators who saw first-hand how corrupt law enforcement protected Bulger for decades.
Retired State Police Det. Lt. Bob Long, the first witness called by prosecutors, was part of a team that put together a case in 1980 that could have brought down the leadership of organized crime in Boston. They were set up in a flophouse across the street from the Lancaster Street Garage, the secret headquarters of the Bulger gang, and watched as Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi met with a who's who of mobsters.
"We saw money exchange hands. We saw people coming in being threatened. We knew if we could start monitoring their conversations that we were going to have an opportunity not just to take down the Winter Hill gang, not just to take down the Italian Mafia, we were going to get them all together," he told FOX Undercover in 2009.
"Finding that place, did you think you'd hit the jackpot?" asked investigative reporter Mike Beaudet.
"Absolutely," Long replied. "Solid gold."
But the investigation was compromised after state police planted a bug in the garage.
"Right after that happened, they showed up for a day or two and just did nonsense talk in there about what a great job the state police do out on the Turnpike and that type of thing. Then they stopped showing up," Long recalled.
"Looking back now, who do you think compromised that investigation?" Beaudet asked.
"It appears the information initially came from an individual on our job by the name of Richard Schneiderhan," Long replied.
Schneiderhan went on trial in 2003 for obstruction of justice charges, and was ultimately convicted. Mob turncoat Kevin Weeks testified, according to court records, that "Jim Bulger basically said that (Schneiderhan) had saved our ass a hundred times."
FOX Undercover caught up with Schneiderhan on the South Shore back in 2009.
"Kevin Weeks says you tipped off Whitey Bulger and his associates repeatedly," Beaudet asked him then.
"Not true. Not true," Schneiderhan replied.
"Just trying to get your side of the story, sir," Beaudet said.
"You don't have it," Schneiderhan replied.
"Well, we'd like to get it," Beaudet said.
"Oh, I can imagine you would," Schneiderhan said.
The government's next witness against Bulger was retired State Police Colonel Tom Foley, who had his own investigative efforts stymied.
In a 2006 interview, he recounted the difficulty he had pursuing the case.
"We knew something was wrong. We weren't getting much cooperation from the FBI and even people within the U.S. Attorney's Office fought that indictment. We had to pressure them to do it.
We were targeting two informants of theirs. And I think some people in the FBI didn't realize how deep maybe John Connolly was involved in this thing and some of the other agents," Foley said.
But Foley was able to finally break the case, flipping Bulger cohorts Kevin Weeks and John Martorano. Weeks led investigators to the death pits, where the bodies of alleged Bulger victims were found, and to their weapons, which state police showed FOX Undercover in 2006.
"It's an arsenal. It's grease guns, it's machine guns, it's handguns with silencers. They were ready for anything. And being in law enforcement at that time for 20 years, over 20 years, it's something I had never seen before," Foley said. "They were ready to go to war if they had to."
Not surprisingly, the two sides in the Bulger trial have a different take on why Bulger was able to operate for so long without prosecution.
Bulger's defense attributes it to widespread law enforcement corruption. Prosecutors acknowledge corruption existed, but their questions to Foley also suggest the FBI had another motive: wanting to keep secret, the identity of their top echelon informants.