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FBI thanks ADA, dentistry for help in hunt for fugitive couple

Dentistry and the ADA played a small but praise-worthy role in the worldwide search for James “Whitey” Bulger, one of the FBI’s most-wanted fugitives, who was taken into custody with his long-time girlfriend, Catherine Greig, June 22 in Santa Monica, Calif.

Image: Mug shots of Catherine Greig and James "Whitey" Bulger

The arrests of Bulger, an alleged crime boss from South Boston, and Greig, a former dental hygienist, ended an FBI search that spanned 16 years and tracked the couple through 28 countries.

As part of the hunt, FBI agents reached out to the ADA in 2007, when they contacted the ADA News and asked whether an article could be written alerting dentists to keep an eye out for the fugitives. Agents said they believed the couple might visit dental offices while on the run because of Greig’s interest in her oral health.

“Her teeth are a fascination of hers,” said a Boston-based agent, who asked not to be identified.

The Feb. 5, 2007, ADA News carried a story asking readers with information about the couple’s whereabouts to contact the FBI. The story noted that the agency was offering a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrests of Bulger and Greig. Bulger, now 81, was wanted in connection with 19 murders and other crimes and had been on the agency’s 10 Most Wanted list since August 1999.

Nearly three years later, the FBI contacted the ADA again, this time to purchase a full-page ad that appeared in the May 17, 2010, ADA News, along with a story about the fugitive couple.

The ad included mug shots of Bulger and Greig, now 60 years old, and carried a headline that asked, “Have you treated these fugitives?” The ad noted, too, that the reward for information leading to their arrests had climbed to $2 million.

The article that ran with the ad included a note from the ADA’s Division of Legal Affairs detailing under what circumstances dentists could cooperate with law enforcement authorities without violating a patient’s privacy rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Earlier this week (June 20) the FBI launched a publicity campaign on the couple using public service spots aired on daytime talk shows in 14 media markets, including San Diego and San Francisco.

The spots triggered an anonymous tip that led to the couple’s arrest just two days into the campaign.

The ADA’s cooperation in the search for Bulger and Greig didn’t result in their capture, but it did earn the Association plaudits from the FBI.

“I thought at the time it [the outreach to dentistry] was an excellent idea,” said the Boston FBI agent. “I can assure you that we certainly appreciated the help.”