Former rival and associate of James "Whitey" Bulger tells all. After returning from Vietnam where he served as a combat Marine, Pat Nee fought a gang war against Whitey Bulger. When members of Nee's Mullen gang killed the leader of Bulger's Killeen faction, Nee arranged for the dispute to be mediated by Howie Winter and Patriarca crime family captain Joseph Russo. The two gangs joined forces, with Winter as overall boss. When Winter was convicted of fixing horse races in 1979, Bulger became leader, and Nee responded by concentrating his energy on raising money and smuggling guns to the Provisional IRA. Disgusted by Bulger's brutality, and increasingly focused on the Irish cause, Nee distanced himself from his former ally. Ultimately it was revealed that, for years, Bulger had served as an FBI informant.
A Criminal and an Irishman is the story of Pat Nee’s life as an Irish immigrant and Southie son, a Marine, a convicted IRA gun smuggler, and a former violent rival and then associate of James "Whitey" Bulger. His narrative transports the reader into the criminal underworld, inside planning and preparation for an armored car heist, inside gang wars and revenge killings. Nee details his evolution from tough street kid to armed robber to dangerous potential killer, and discloses for the first time how he used his underworld connections and know-how as a secret, Boston-based operative for the Irish Republican Army. For years Pat smuggled weapons and money from the United States to Ireland – in the bottoms of coffins, behind false panels of vans – leading up to a transatlantic shipment of seven and a half tons of munitions aboard the fishing trawler Valhalla. No other Southie underworld figure can match Pat’s reputation for resolve and authenticity.
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About the Author
Richard Farrell won the du Pont—Columbia Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism for his film High on Crack Street. He covered the war in Bosnia, has directed several award-winning films, and has written articles for the Boston Globe and numerous other publications. He lives in southern New Hampshire.
Michael Blythe, like his good friend Pat Nee, is a lifelong South Boston resident who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a screenwriter and father of six.
Read an Excerpt
A Criminal and an Irishman
The Inside Story of the Boston Mob-IRA Connection
By Patrick Nee, Richard Farrell, Michael Blythe
Steerforth PressCopyright © 2006 Patrick Nee, Richard Farrell, Michael Blythe, and Thomas Lyons
All rights reserved.
HOW TO ROB AN ARMORED CAR
My mother always said that the biggest mistake she ever made in her life was not throwing me off the back of the Britannic as we crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1952. She said it would have been very easy to pull off — me being so small, I would have hit that dark, cold blanket of water in the middle of the night and no one would have been the wiser.
"If only I had known, back then," she'd say. "If I had any notion you'd turn out to be a gunslinger, I would've saved your father and me a lot of headaches. If I could have seen the future, you would have been on the bottom of the Atlantic."
Warring is all I'm really good at. I was born in Ireland during World War II, came to America at the beginning of the Korean conflict, saw action in Vietnam as a U.S. marine, and fought in the Mullen-Killeen gang war for control of South Boston's underworld during the 1970s.
So it was only natural that I would take my military expertise back to my homeland and engage the enemy, the British.
Some might think I'm overstating my role in helping the IRA kick the English out of Ireland. Let me explain by beginning at the end: the day my role in the IRA's fight came to a conclusion.
Engaging the enemy was all I knew. That's why I decided to take down an armored truck on a suburban street outside of Boston. Military precision was the key to my success — or my complete failure.
You never hit an armored truck that has more than a driver and a messenger inside. I was the lead charger. My job was to surprise the driver before he stepped out of the truck and had a chance to react. I'd rip his gun out of his holster, force him back toward the driver's seat, stick a .357 Magnum in his ribs under his Kevlar vest, and give him the order to drive. Everything had to be perfectly synchronized. The two rear chargers had to startle the messenger before he could communicate with someone inside the bank, move him quickly inside the truck, and close the back doors at the same instant I ordered the driver to go. We had three to five minutes to snatch the truck, clear the area, and get the truck to a place where we could rob it "discreetly." We wouldn't want to rob a truck in full view of bank employees and passersby.
Like any other risky endeavor in life, the secret to a successful heist is proper planning. Proper execution is the result of doing your homework. If you do it well, nobody dies — and almost as important, everyone gets rich. The asshole robbers who kill guards needlessly are mostly whacked-out drug addicts. I was a criminal with a passion: to drive the British out of Ireland. I didn't want anyone to die needlessly in that pursuit.
I was born in Ireland and came to the United States as a kid. In my thirties I developed tremendous respect for the Irish Republican Army's mission. So I had two defined goals when I began robbing armored trucks. I wanted to continue helping the IRA get the English out of Ireland, and I wanted to acquire enough money to accomplish that goal. The way I saw it, the more money I had the more help I could give the IRA.
I had already been assisting the IRA in any way that I could. Since the early 1970s I'd been sending weapons to the freedom fighters in Ireland; in January 1989 I was released from Danbury Federal Correctional Institute after serving eighteen months for orchestrating the largest shipment of guns ever smuggled to Ireland. On September 29, 1984, acting on a tip-off, two Irish Naval Service ships seized a fishing trawler, the Marita Ann, some two hundred miles off the west coast of Ireland. Inside the hull they found 163 assault rifles, 71,000 rounds of ammunition, one ton of military explosives, a dozen bulletproof vests, rocket ammunition pouches, 13 military-surplus weapons, weapons manuals, and military operation manuals. My friends and I had amassed the 7.5 tons of weapons, valued at some $1.2 million — all slated for the IRA.
For seven months following my release from federal prison I sat in the Coolidge Halfway House on Huntington Avenue in Boston, just biding my time and being a citizen. In fact, while I was there I completed a sixteen-week class in Irish studies at the University of Massachusetts. That was the great thing about living in the halfway house: I had the freedom to attend classes with regular students at the Boston campus.
It was only a few months after I finished my stay at the Coolidge House that I jumped back into the service of the IRA. I got a call one evening that an IRA man needed to see me in Quincy, just south of Boston. When I got there he told me he'd spent the last six months looking up and down the East Coast for a list of desired handguns. For some reason he just couldn't put them together. I looked at the list and fought hard not to show that I was very, very pleased: I had every weapon the IRA needed.
It took me about an hour to gather them up. All I had to do was drive to South Boston and raid my private stash. Many of those guns belonged to James J. "Whitey" Bulger, the notorious South Boston mobster turned informer. Whitey loved being associated with the IRA and the cause of Irish freedom; it seemed to give him a sense of purpose. In raiding Whitey's cache there was satisfaction for me in knowing how much every IRA man who'd ever met Whitey distrusted him while Whitey sucked up to them and thought that being associated with them gave him some legitimacy. That was all the incentive I needed. Besides, every day I spent in Southie convinced me more and more that I had to pull away from Whitey Bulger.
There was just no way around it — Whitey was no good. He was a paranoid control freak with psychopathic and homicidal tendencies. Whitey clearly derived sexual pleasure from torturing and killing. He was smart and calculating, yes, but he was also a seriously sick fuck. Besides, by now I knew that Whitey Bulger was a rat; it was just a matter of time before the rest of the world knew it too. It just wasn't safe to be close to him anymore.
The IRA had come to Boston in the 1960s to explore the possibility of robbing banks and armored cars to support their cause. They'd been doing it in Ireland and England for years and they were interested in seeing if it would be easier to do in the States. Both Irish and British intelligence agencies had marked many of the IRA men and had even assassinated one of them, Larry McNally. With those IRA men out of the picture, and with the criminal scene in Southie having changed so drastically since my release from prison, I had to rethink the situation.
I decided to hold up armored trucks in order to send money to my IRA contacts. Clearly I had to balance the risk of getting caught with the potential for huge reward, along with the possibility of having to kill a guard, but I was confident that with the right planning, and more importantly the right guys, we could be successful.
There was one major obstacle, though. I wasn't an armored car man. I had to find guys who were. Mick McNaught, then forty-five, was an experienced IRA operative. And what experiences he'd had. I'd met Mick years earlier when I was running guns to the IRA; we called him Irish Mick. Mick loved Irish music, good food, and beautiful women. If you knew anything about Ireland, the instant you heard his brogue you'd know he was a Derry man. He was on the run, having left Ireland because he'd been targeted by British intelligence. Once the British Special Air Services know who you are and what they think you've done, it's best to leave town.
Mick and I had a few successful heists and had sent a good amount of money to the IRA already. Then we decided to pull a job at a bank in Lynn, Massachusetts. We'd been watching the place for over four months — it was a perfect set-up. Both guards were creatures of habit: they were always on time; neither ever removed their guns. The bank was downtown, surrounded by buildings that created natural cover, and the getaway routes were plentiful and accessible. But we needed another guy for logistics.
We approached Michael Habicht. Michael had so many complicated facets to him that not even a writer could invent him. He was thirty-three years old, German on his dad's side and Italian on his mom's, with dark, Mediterranean looks — tall and slim with a GQ sense of style. I always felt like I was wearing overalls when I stood next to Michael. He was a solid guy, a real old-school criminal: competent, vicious, and loyal to his friends. He was also an intense IRA sympathizer.
Michael seemed like a perfect partner, but once I approached him all our plans for the Lynn job were put on hold. Michael said he'd get involved but he needed our help first. He informed us that for the last three months he and three experienced partners had been planning a job at a Bank of New England branch in Abington, Massachusetts. They were short two guys. Mick and I were itching for something big, and Abington was bigger than Lynn. Michael was smart, loved what the IRA was doing, and — most importantly — I trusted him. He was one of those guys who immediately conveys solidness and loyalty. But what really convinced us was this detail: the armored truck would carry up to two million dollars. Michael said it was a six-man job. I was good at math; once I secured a promise from Michael that the IRA could have twenty percent of the take, Mick and I were in. Out of roughly two million dollars, the IRA would get $400,000 and each us would pocket over $260,000.
And here was the best part: Michael and his partners had recently met someone who knew a guard on the Abington truck who said he could arrange a handover. The guard would get a cut too, and to everyone's great advantage. When you take the guards' itchy trigger fingers out of the equation, you increase the odds of success dramatically.
How could we say no?
The job satisfied my ultimate goals: money for the IRA and money for my lifestyle. Besides, Mick and I were both growing impatient for anything that would get our juices flowing again. We were both action junkies, looking for the thrill that comes from doing things that are risky as hell — and the cash that comes with them.
Michael and his crew had been watching the armored truck delivery to the Abington bank since September 26, 1989. On January 6, 1990, he asked us in; the job was set to go down just three days later. On the same day, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation declared the Bank of New England insolvent. Both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald carried prominent stories concerning the bank's difficulties and the lengthy lines of depositors wanting to withdraw their funds. Michael figured the Bank of New England would be delivering larger amounts to each of its branch offices to cover the dramatic increase in withdrawals. He said they couldn't wait any longer. The time to hit the bank was now.
The only thing I didn't like, right from the get-go, was the lack of time I had to prepare. I had this churning in my gut. You always get anxious before a job, but something in this equation just didn't add up. Of course, the reminder that two million dollars was involved weighted the mental balance sheet real fast. Every job had its potential downside: somebody could get killed or you could get caught. But when you looked at it overall, the potential rewards of the Abington job far outweighed any consequences, especially when you weighed the handover aspect. If the job went as planned there would be no need for bloodshed — either for the guards or us. I couldn't pass it up.
I'd known the other three members of Michael's crew for years; they were seasoned criminals and sympathetic to the plight of Catholics in Northern Ireland. That's why my request for 20 percent going to the IRA was so readily accepted. Bobby Joyce, thirty-seven, was a serious man and a fierce street fighter who owned a "bucket-of-blood bar" in Dorchester. Jimmy Melvin, at forty-eight a year older than me, owned a nightclub in Boston. He was an upbeat, robust guy with a vicelike grip. He was also a good family man; he was always talking about his kids and how well they were doing in school and sports. Jim Murphy was forty-eight; the most memorable thing about him was this weird tic he had with his tongue. He'd be talking straight at you and suddenly he'd squish up his face and jet his tongue out like a frog chasing flies. Mick and I didn't like or trust Murphy much. It wasn't that we'd thought he'd rat us out or anything, he was just so weird!
Jimmy Melvin and the boys had done their homework. That's the monotonous part of sticking up an armored truck. The first thing you've got to do is watch the truck's delivery schedule for three to six months. You watch for weaknesses; you watch and study habits. Do the guards keep the safety strap on their holsters snapped? Does the driver unsnap his, or do they take their guns out of their holsters and carry them? You've got to know these details. The slight difference between snapped or unsnapped safety straps changes your entire approach. And if the guards carry their guns in their hands, you fold it up and find another truck to scout.
It's their attitudes that you're studying. Guns carried in their hands means they're frosty, wired up, looking and ready for trouble. Usually it's the younger guards who approach their deliveries this way. The older guys who haven't experienced a robbery in years — or maybe ever — they're usually laid back, sloppy. When you see those young bucks, bright eyed and with comically fierce expressions on their faces, and they have their guns out, you think, "Let's find something easier."
The ideal situation is a bank on a corner with a street that runs along two sides. Conditions are perfect when you have that right angle. The armored truck pulls up on the left side. You park and get set up on the right, out of their sight. With the bank building itself forming a natural hiding place for your vehicle, the guards don't see you until you charge. But you have to be very careful when you scout. The FBI watches videotapes of these deliveries. They can spot familiar vehicles and familiar faces. Scouting is an art; in fact, it's probably 90 percent of the crime. Scout it right, plan it right, do it right, and you will make a lot of money.
Michael Habicht and his guys had actually videotaped a delivery to this Bank of New England branch. Jimmy Melvin had driven a stolen van to a strategic parking place across from the armored truck's delivery spot. A video camera was mounted inside the side window of the van. Jimmy got out of the van and went shopping in Abington while the camera recorded the entire two hours prior to the delivery. The tape showed us everything in living color. It was the perfect tool to prepare for the most critical moment — the charge.
The day before the job Irish Mick and I met up with the boys in Quincy. The six of us drove to Abington in final preparation. We spent eight hours running the plan, detailing it to the exact second. We drove the route until it became second nature. The bank was not situated on a corner; it was not an ideal location. Abington was a rural community and most of the businesses were in strip malls or were sparsely scattered along Route 139. Jim Murphy had borrowed his daughter's car, and even though Mick and I didn't like him, we trusted his skill. He was a master at escape routes.
"Do state police patrol this highway?" I asked.
"No. The nearest barracks are miles away," Murphy responded.
Mick jumped in. "Michael, how about the locals. Is there a pattern?" "Yep, the police cruiser has been spotted most days on the other side of town getting coffee. The guy is pretty habitual," Habicht said.
Jimmy Melvin and Michael had studied the area for months. You had to plan for any possible situation. There could be no surprises. Anything left to chance could come back to bite you in the ass or shoot you in the chest. You needed to have at least one alternate escape route. It was all about procedure.
"Well, well, will you look at that," Mick suddenly pronounced with a [right arrow]deep grin. He'd spotted a beautiful young lady near our bank. She had long blonde hair and a clearly defined figure. His talk seemed to get thicker whenever women were involved. "That prick," I used to think, "what an advantage that enviable brogue gives him." "I can't figure out what they see in you, Mick," I shot back. "That mug of yours should scare the hell out of them."
Actually, Mick wasn't ugly at all, but he sure wasn't good looking as Irishmen go. Actually, he looked like he should be lecturing on logic or philosophy at some college. He certainly didn't fit the British stereotype of an IRA volunteer — a hard-hewn man with rugged features and a scally cap. Mick had an almost gentle appearance, although he was in fact far from gentle — he was a hardcore IRA operative.
"You're just jealous, Nee" he said with a devilish grin. "I've got women figured. I know what they want."
"What do they want, Mick?" Bobby Joyce asked curiously.
Excerpted from A Criminal and an Irishman by Patrick Nee, Richard Farrell, Michael Blythe. Copyright © 2006 Patrick Nee, Richard Farrell, Michael Blythe, and Thomas Lyons. Excerpted by permission of Steerforth Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. How to Rob an Armored Car,
4. The Mullen Gang,
5. The Stuttering Marine,
7. A War We Should Have Won,
8. Crime Pays,
9. Peter Nee,
11. The Southie Gang War,
12. "The Truce",
13. A Criminal and an Irishman,
14. The Long Journey Home,
15. The Birth of Valhalla,
16. Seven Tons of Guns,
17. The Atlantic Ocean,
18. Circle of Green,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very good insight into the real Whitey Bulger world. written by a true American Veteran and an Irishman.
Although Pat Nee is indeed a Marine Corps veteran he is not a very good writer. Nee comes off as a petty thief who loves the thrill of being important. His desire to aid the IRA in their struggle was noble but somewhat trivial. I liked reading about how his Marine Corps background helped him to make decisions. Its an ok read...