Las Vegas man seeks reward that led to capture of mafia boss

A Las Vegas man is waiting for the FBI to respond to his claim of a $2 million reward for his tip that he says led to the capture of mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.

Tipster Keith Messina, who has lived in Las Vegas for 20 years, said he deserves at least part of the reward, despite plans the FBI has to give it to a woman from Iceland.

Messina's claim was officially filed Friday and is now under review, his attorney Michael Gowdey said.

"I suspect I'll probably hear something next week," he said.

Bulger, who led Boston's Irish mob for decades, was wanted for 19 murders, money laundering, extortion and drug dealing, according to his profile on the "America's Most Wanted" website.

Bulger had been in hiding since 1995, and had continuously made the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List since 1999. The 16-year global manhunt made him the inspiration for the movie "The Departed."

Messina said he was vacationing with his family in Santa Monica in June 2008, and saw Bulger reading a book on the pier. He said Bulger was with a woman, and the couple approached him, starting a conversation about Boston and the Celtics.

"That pretty much triggered it," said Messina, who watched "America's Most Wanted" nearly every time it aired before the Fox show was canceled last month. "I was, like, 'It is him. Holy crap.' "

Messina, who is in his 40s, said he went home to Las Vegas, checked a picture of Bulger on the Internet and called in the tip to the FBI. He said he left his contact information, but never heard anything. Bulger was arrested, along with his girlfriend Catherine Greig, on June 22 in Santa Monica.

"The FBI can acknowledge that my client gave information that led to the arrest of Whitey Bulger," said Gowdey, who noted the alleged mobster was caught just three blocks from where Messina spotted him. "Or they can acknowledge they ignored the tip and spent millions of dollars searching for Whitey Bulger all over the world for three years."

Contact Jessica Fryman at jfryman or 702-383-0401.