Prison jumpsuit with 'Whitey' Bulger signature gets $25,000 bid

Former mob boss and fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger, who was arrested in Santa Monica, California on June 22, 2011 along with his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig, is seen in a combination of booking mug photos released to Reuters on August 1, 2011. REUTERS/U.S. Marshals Service/U.S. Department of Justice/Handout

BOSTON (Reuters) - A jumpsuit allegedly worn by notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger during his time in a Massachusetts prison has drawn bids as high as $25,000 at auction, even though authorities believe the uniform is a fake.

Phil Castinetti, who runs New England memorabilia shop Sportsworld, said he put the jumpsuit up for sale after buying it last year from a man who claimed to be Bulger’s former cellmate.

“He said Whitey gave it to him and signed it saying ‘Get your life started, you’ll get some good money for this,’” Castinetti said.

The auction of the jumpsuit, which runs until Oct. 4, was timed to coincide with the release of film Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp, about Bulger’s time in South Boston, Castinetti said.

Bulger was convicted in 2013 of charges including committing or ordering 11 murders in the 1970s and 1980s while running the widely feared Winter Hill crime gang.

John Birtwell, a spokesman for the Plymouth County Sheriff’s office, said he believed the jumpsuit was not authentic because Bulger had no contact with other prisoners during his time in prison during his trial and because the signature on the suit includes the word “Whitey,” a moniker the gangster despised.

“The only time he had to interact with other individuals is if he was being escorted to medical to have his blood pressure checked. So, I’m about 99.4 percent sure it’s a fake,” Birtwell said, adding he thought Castinelli’s auction was “pretty deplorable”.

During trial, Bulger’s corrupt relationship with federal agents and prosecutors in Boston was revealed. They turned a blind eye to his crime in exchange for information about the Italian mafia.

Bulger fled Boston in 1994, spending 16 years on the lam, before his capture in California in 2011. He is now serving two life sentences.

Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Sandra Maler