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I had just about finished reading Frank M. Ahearn's "The Digital Hit Man His Weapons for Combating the Digital World" ( when I came across two news items that reinforced Ahearn's thesis that the wired world has robbed everyone of privacy. One was about Boston fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger, captured last year in California, and the other was really weird -- about the two wives of a Washington state bigamist discovering each other on Facebook.
Under the headline "Reputed Mass. mobster's girlfriend rethinking plea" the Associated Press story, datelined Boston, said that the brother of one of Whitey's alleged murder victims -- Whitey's been accused of 19 murders -- says he's been told by a representative for federal prosecutors in Boston that Bulger's girlfriend Catherine Greig is thinking about pleading guilty to a charge of helping the mobster evade capture.
The AP story said that "Greig has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. Prosecutors said last fall they were considering filing additional charges against her. She has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Wednesday. Her trial is scheduled for May 7."
The story adds that "Bulger and Greig were captured in June 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., after 16 years on the run. He has pleaded not guilty in connection with 19 killings. Bulger headed Boston's Winter Hill Gang and was an FBI informant against the rival New England Mafia. Bulger's former FBI handler, John Connolly Jr., was convicted of racketeering for warning Bulger that he was about to be indicted just before Bulger fled Boston in late 1994."
If Whitey sounds like a character from movies like "The Departed" or "The Town" it's because filmmakers have modeled their characters on Whitey Bulger.
Ahearn discusses the case of Whitey Bulger and his girlfriend, who lived in a Santa Monica apartment with $800,000 in cash and an "arsenal" of weapons, in his latest book, which is a sequel to his 2010 book "How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish without a Trace."
In the new book, in Chapter 25, beginning on Page 114 -- the whole chapter is devoted to Whitey Bulger. Ahearn says Whitey did many things right, as the length of his period of freedom would seem to indicate, but he also made the mistake of including Greig in his escape plan.
One of the things he did right was stash money in safe deposit boxes around the world. A no-no: he was spotted in 2002 in London's Piccadilly Circus, one of the most popular tourist sites in the city. Ahearn's advice: stay away from tourist traps. Another mistake he made was buying prepaid calling cards and prepaid, throwaway cell phones when he was on the run, in 1996, rather than buying them prior to the run. The convenience stores in Oklahoma and elsewhere, Ahearn writes, where the cards and phones were purchased, all have cameras that could have identified Whitey and his car. "Cash is king!" Ahearn asserts, suggesting that maybe Whitey would have been better off using pay phones. "Even prepaid credit cards can get one busted."
About that part of including his girlfriend on his run from the law, Ahearn says you're only as strong as your weakest link and that link could result in your capture, even if she doesn't actually drop the dime on you. In January 2000 "Greig is spotted at a hair salon in Fountain Valley, CA [Orange County] where she has her hair dyed while Bulger waits in a car parked outside," Ahearn writes. "This is a huge blunder. Never go on the run with another person."
In a story that could only have happened in the digital age, the AP reports under the headline "Facebook suggested a Washington state man's two wives 'friend' each other" reporter Deborah Netburn writes:
"Bigamists beware: Thanks to Facebook, keeping your wives from finding out about each other is almost impossible these days.
Corrections officer, and alleged bigamist, Alan L. O'Neill learned that lesson the hard way when Facebook suggested his two wives "friend" each other -- leading wife No.1 to discover a picture of her husband and his second wife standing in front of a wedding cake.
"Now O'Neill is facing bigamy charges in a Pierce County court in Washington state. If convicted he faces up to a year in jail. O'Neill, who used to be known as Alan Faulk, married his first wife in 2001. According to court documents cited by the AP, he moved out in 2009, but neither he nor his first wife ever filed for divorce. Then, in December 2009, Faulk changed his name to Alan L. O'Neill and a few weeks later married wife No. 2. The first wife was apparently totally in the dark about Faulk/O'Neill's second marriage until Facebook listed wife No. 2 under the "People You May Know" feature. Wife No. 1 clicked through to wife No. 2's Facebook page, and that's where she saw the telltale cake picture. O'Neill's first wife confronted him about the second marriage. Court documents say he acknowledged that he was in two marriages and asked her not to tell the authorities until he was able to fix the situation. But, what do you know, she did tell the authorities and now O'Neill is due in court later this month."
It goes without saying that Ahearn is vehement about staying away from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and anything that accumulates information and photos about you, your family and your friends, and offers ways of counteracting this case of too much information.
Ahearn's book is all about combating digital information and intrusion. Ahearn modestly (actually, he doesn't do modesty!) says that his book, along with the older one, are the only books "that teach people how to create and use deception for the purpose of combating sites that violate your on-line privacy, be it scandalous information, negative information or the long-lost skeleton that digitally stepped out of the closet, now making your life miserable."
As a skip-tracer, Ahearn has located thousands of people from all parts of the world, including celebrities, royalty and the infamous. He says he was the go-to guy for the UK tabloids in his heyday of skip-tracing, and prior to the phone hacking scandal. As a social engineer, he has obtained confidential phone records, bank records, airline records, credit card records and other sensitive information that he will take to the grave. As a disappearing artist, Frank operated his own private witness-protection program, and assisted victims of stalkers and others who needed to disappear from danger. Since there is no delete button you can use to rid negative on-line information, Ahearn now uses his skills of pretext and digital manipulation to combat the invasion of your privacy.