Nichols College News

Lead Investigator Describes Saga of Mobster’s Capture

For 20 years, former lead investigator Thomas Foley led a criminal investigation that resulted in the capture of mob chief, James “Whitey” Bulger, and his indictment for 19 murders. Foley shared his experiences to a captivated audience of current Criminal Justice Management majors, accepted students and interested staff and faculty in the new Fels Student Center on December 4th.

Foley was invited to campus by Nichols Director of Public Safety, Jack Caulfield, who served on the Massachusetts State Police force with Foley for 25 years. “I thought Tom would be a perfect speaker for the CJM students and for the entire student body to convey to them the integrity and perseverance that is necessary to overcome obstacles in the way,” Caulfield stated. “When you are pursuing the truth, even when you feel that you are fighting the entire system, there are always other good people who are willing to help and do the right thing.”

Foley recently authored the book, Most Wanted: Pursuing Whitey Bulger, the Murderous Mob Chief the FBI Secretly Protected. During his talk, Foley shared with the audience the ups and downs of tracking Bulger and his associate Stephen Flemmi, which he termed an experience he had “never anticipated happening during his career.”

Amidst leaks from the state police and the FBI and sabotage by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Foley became so disillusioned with the investigation that he went back to working as a road trooper.

However, it was a short-lived assignment when he was called back to take over the Special Services Division within the Massachusetts State Police and return to pursuing Bulger, long-considered one of the most dangerous criminals in New England. Foley described the change in assignment, telling students, “In the criminal justice field, you don’t always have much to say about where you are going.”

However, Foley persevered. “This investigation was meant to be, a long time in coming. It’s important to know where the potholes and landmines are in the business,” he said. “The system still worked. You just have to find those people who still care and are honest and align yourself with them.”

Through it all Foley was motivated by two core principles, his desire to find justice for the families of the victims and his desire to change the system. “If you aren’t willing to stand up and be vocal, nothing is going to change,” he told students.

In 2004 upon his retirement, Foley was awarded the United States Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service for his role in the Whitey Bulger/John Connolly investigation. Since then, Foley has taken on a new role, teaching criminology to college students at the University of New Hampshire. In his talk, he praised the value of being prepared and encouraged CJM students to continue their education. “Your training prepares you for the risks,” he concluded.