- The Associated Press

BOSTON – Reputed gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was a “hands-on killer” responsible for “murder and mayhem” in Boston for almost 30 years, a federal prosecutor told a jury Wednesday as Bulger’s highly anticipated racketeering trial began.

Bulger’s lawyer acknowledged that Bulger made millions through drugs, illegal gambling and loan-sharking, but told the jury that three former mobsters who have pinned murders on Bulger cannot be believed. Each of the men received “extraordinary” deals from prosecutors in exchange for their cooperation, defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr. said.

The defense also denied prosecution claims that Bulger was an FBI informant for years and provided information on the rival New England Mafia.

Bulger, now 83, was one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives when he fled Boston in 1994 after receiving a tip from his former FBI handler, John Connolly, that he was about to be indicted. He was finally captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had been living with his longtime girlfriend in a rent-controlled apartment.

The defense went after the three once-loyal Bulger cohorts who are expected to be the prosecution’s star witnesses: convicted hit man John Martorano, former Bulger partner Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi and former Bulger lieutenant Kevin Weeks.

Kelly said Bulger headed the Winter Hill Gang, which “ran amok” in Boston for three decades, killing 19 people, extorting millions of dollars from drug dealers and others, and corrupting police and FBI agents.