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Courtroom drama as mobster Bulger's girlfriend pleads guilty

By Lauren Keiper

BOSTON (Reuters) - Catherine Greig, girlfriend of James "Whitey" Bulger, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges she conspired to help the reputed Boston mob boss charged with 19 murders evade capture during their 16 years on the run.

Greig, 60, dressed in a blue prison jumpsuit, was barely audible as she delivered her "guilty" plea in a packed Boston federal courtroom - the latest chapter in a true-life crime story that has riveted the city.

Shortly before Greig pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to harbor a fugitive, conspiring to commit identity fraud and committing identity fraud, there was a moment of drama from a family member of one of Bulger's alleged murder victims.

Steven Davis, whose sister Debra was allegedly strangled by Bulger in 1981, spoke to the court to brand Greig a "monster" who should not be offered a deal by prosecutors, thus avoiding a criminal trial and possibly getting a lighter sentence.

"She's not what she appears to be. She's a monster under all that skin of hers," Davis said.

The plea deal had been expected after court papers released by authorities on Monday, including a statement in which the former dental hygienist described her "close, personal relationship" with Bulger and many details of their years in hiding, including using multiple false identifies.

Greig's sentencing was set for June 12. She had earlier pleaded not guilty on related charges and had been expected to stand trial starting May 7.

Bulger and Greig were arrested in June in Santa Monica, California, along with a huge cache of firearms and over $820,000 in cash hidden in the walls of their apartment hideout a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean.

Bulger's alleged murders include gunning down a series of gangland rivals, and in one case strangling a former associate's girlfriend with his bare hands before pulling out her teeth to make the body, if found, harder to identify.

Among those present in court were Greig's twin sister, Margaret McCusker, and families of some of Bulger's alleged victims from the 1970s and 1980s.

ATTORNEY: "GREIG IS NO VICTIM"

Greig could face up to five years in prison on each of three counts. The government has not yet said what it will recommend, but indicated to reporters outside the courthouse it would be "significant" given the charges.

"From the government standpoint Catherine Greig is no victim and she stands right now a convicted felon," said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

"There was no deal, certainly no sweetheart deal," she said, adding the government could call her to testify in Bulger's trial.

Greig's attorney Kevin Reddington offered no comment as he left court.

Greig's document included many details about the life she and Bulger led after they fled Massachusetts, including their ability to create and maintain various false identities.

Authorities allege Greig used a total of 10 different aliases to shop, pay bills and obtain medications for Bulger.

At the time of their arrest, Bulger and Greig had been hiding in plain sight, living as the fictional Charles and Carol Gasko for some 15 years.

As part of her plea deal Greig forfeited the intellectual property rights to her story so she cannot profit from any retelling.

Bulger's story was the inspiration behind Martin Scorsese's 2006 crime thriller, "The Departed," winner of four Academy Awards.

(Writing by Ros Krasny; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Greg McCune)

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