282: Phil Torsney and Tommy MacDonald – Whitey Bulger Fugitive Hunt (Part 1)

In part one of this two-part episode, retired agents Phil Torsney and Tommy MacDonald review how they were selected for a special assignment in Boston to work the unresolved James Bulger fugitive investigation, aka Whitey Bulger, a Boston organized crime boss and long-time FBI Top Ten Fugitive, who had been on the run with his girlfriend Catherine Greig for sixteen years. 

Bulger was an informant for the FBI for several years. His FBI agent handler, John Connelly, was charged and convicted for revealing to Bulger that he was about to be indicted for RICO by the Massachusetts State Police and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Federal prosecutors later filed a superseding indictment and, in addition to the initial racketeering charges, Bulger was convicted of nineteen murders.

Torsney and MacDonald gathered the evidence that finally led to the capture of Whitey Bulger and Greig by agent Scott Garriola in the LA Division.

Retired Agent Phil Torsney served in the FBI for over 29 years. Most of his career was dedicated to investigating domestic and international violent criminal activity. As coordinator of a multi-agency violent crime/fugitive task force in Cleveland, Ohio, for twenty of those years, he worked with various law enforcement agencies to apprehend violent fugitives, many of whom years had fled the United States. Torsney was also an FBI SWAT operator and twice served on FBI tactical deployments to Afghanistan.

It was during the last 2 years of his FBI career that Torsney was assigned to the Boston Field Office to coordinate the investigative efforts that resulted in the apprehension of Whitey Bulger.

Following retirement from the FBI, Torsney worked as a Special Agent for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. He is currently working as a special investigator with the Bay Village, Ohio Police Department, using his extensive experience investigating crimes against children.

Retire Agent (Retired)

Phil Torsney

1984 – 2013

Retired FBI agent Phil Torsney







“There were people who truly thought the FBI didn’t want to catch Bulger because it would open up all these other doors and information about the corruption. That wasn’t the case. But people thought that.”—Retired Agent Phil Torsney

Retired Agent Tommy MacDonald served as a Special Agent with the FBI for twenty-five years, 21 as a special agent and four as an investigative specialist.

Tommy first office assignment was the New York City Field Office where for eight years he was assigned to the FBI/NYPD Violent Crimes Squad in lower Manhattan, also known as the Joint Bank Robbery Task Force, investigating violent crimes in the five boroughs of New York City.

After working in Boston on the special assignment to capture fugitive Whitey Bulger, he returned to the NYO, where he was assigned to the White Plains Resident Agency as the case agent on a sixty-five defendant RICO gang case in Yonkers, NY.

He later accepted a transfer to the Portland, Maine Resident Agency out of the Boston Division of the FBI, where he was also a member of the Child Abduction and Rapid Deployment Team. He spent his final year before retiring, as the recruiter for the Boston Field Office. Tommy is currently employed in software sales as a Regional Sales Manager for uLab Systems.

Special Agent (Retired)

Tommy MacDonald

May 2000 – June 2021

Retired FBI agent Tommy MacDonald








The following are links to articles and videos about Whitey Bulger fugitive hunt and capture:

Los Angeles Times – 6/28/2011: Whitey Bulger kept cash hidden in apartment and traveled frequently

CBS 60 Minutes – 2001: “Whitey Bulger’s” Capture

CNN – 10/30/2018: 6 surprising facts about Whitey Bulger

People Magazine – 8/22/2022: 3 Men Indicted for 2018 Killing of Mob Boss James ‘Whitey’ Bulger

Tommy MacDonald was previously on FBI Retired Case File Review to review another Top Ten fugitive investigation he and Phil Torsney worked on together: 256: Tommy MacDonald – Fugitive Cop Killer Donald Eugene Webb

James Whitey Bulger wanted flyer
Whitey Bulger was captured after 16 years on the run.
The FBI created this 30-second public service announcement (PSA) featuring images of Catherine Greig, who fled with Bulger in 1995. After they were apprehended, Greig was federally charged in 1997 for harboring a fugitive.
Images of FBI agent Scott Garriola and Whitey Bulger
Retired agent Scott Garriola, a previous podcast guest, captured Whitey Bulger using a ruse to get him out of his condo.
































Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 300 episodes available on all popular podcast apps and YouTube.


  1. Patrick WhalenFebruary 25, 2023

    Jerri, Thank you for these pod casts. I worked out of the Cleveland Division and retired after 41 years of service with the Bureau. I know Phil personally and he was an amazing agent. If he said he was going to find someone, he meant it. I was a TIS ( Technical Investigative Specialist) working on the third shift for over 30 years and worked with Phil on his early morning arrests. He would come in with some info and we would dig it up. He was amazing. I am just honored that I got to know him and work with him.

    1. Jerri WilliamsFebruary 25, 2023

      It was an honor to speak with Phil. He’s such a humble person.


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