The arrest of James "Whitey" Bulger earlier this week may resonate most deeply in South Boston, but the reverberations can be felt here in Gloucester.
In 1984, on a September night, the swordfish boat Valhalla left Gloucester Harbor.
Her captain, Robert Anderson of Gloucester, had filled her tank with 8,000 gallons of fuel at Gloucester Marine Railways, iced up with 30 tons, and purchased 7,000 pounds of bait mackerel and squid from Quality Seafoods.
Anyone who saw her leaving port probably thought she was headed out to fish.
About two weeks later, the Valhalla stopped in Boston before coming home to Gloucester. The ship was seized there by US Customs officials.
Authorities said Valhalla's crew had offloaded 7 1/2 tons of automatic rifles, submachines guns and hand grenades worth $1 million destined for the Irish Republican Army to another ship off the Irish coast during its trip. While the second ship and weapons were seized and its crew arrested by Irish authorities, the Valhalla was in international waters and coould not be stopped. She headed back out to sea, albeit under surveillence.
Irish officials said at the time that it was the largest seizure of IRA-bound weapons to date.
In Boston, the Valhalla was searched, but no arms except for an empty 9-mm shell casing were found. Anderson and John McIntyre, the Valhalla's navigator, were questioned for hours, but let go.
In April 1986, the U.S. government would accuse Andersen, McIntyre, reputed Irish mob boss Joseph Murray Jr. of Charlestown and Patrick Nee of South Boston of gun-running. Neither Murray nor Nee had been on the vessel, but had flown to Ireland to await the shipment, and then flown back to Boston when they heard of the seizure.
Also indicted was New Yorker John Crawley, an ex-Marine who had been arrested by Irish authorities in September 1984 and convicted of smuggling.
Andersen, Murray and McIntyre were also accused of smuggling 30 tons of marijuana to the United States on the return trip in a British freighter.
Police had Murray, a known smuggler, in custody; Anderson would return from a fishing trip a few days later and turn himself in.
However, Nee, a associate of Bulger's, and McIntyre had fallen off the map.
McIntyre's mother last saw her boat-building son in Quincy on Nov. 29, 1984, when the 32-year-old came to visit his ailing dad for tea. That night his cat was killed and thrown at the family home's front door; he told his mom he was being followed.
Closure of the Valhalla case would come in May 1987.
Andersen, saying he wanted to spare his family the publicity and expense of a long trial, pleaded guilty to exporting the arms, for which Murray and Nee had paid him $10,000, and to importing 36 tons of marijuana into Boston Harbor aboard the freighter Ramsland.
Nee, one of the masterminds of the gun-smuggling operation, had been arrested. He and Murray pleaded guilty to four counts of violating federal firearms and export laws.
Murray, the other mastermind, also pleaded guilty to gun-smuggling and tax evasion, but the government dismissed the most serious charge: racketeering.
The men had faced 22 years in prison and $156,000 in fines. The recommended sentences were 10 years for Murray, seven for Anderson, and six for Nee. The sentences would later be reduced to four years for Nee and Andersen.
Nee would serve 18 months in federal prison. When he was released in 1989, he severed ties with Bulger, saying he was disgusted by McIntyre's murder.
After Nee received early parole, he tried to rob an armored car to fund the IRA and went back to jail for nine more years. He then wrote a book about his life, "A Criminal and an Irishman: The Inside Story of the Boston Mob-IRA Connection," with then Andover school teacher Richard Farrell. Farrell would travel to Ireland with Nee, and to Gloucester, where he tracked down Andersen, the Valhalla's captain.
Based on that talk, "A Criminal and an Irishman" provided the first published account of the Valhalla's return voyage from Ireland to Boston, Farrell said.
"He told me day by day what happened," Farrell added of Andersen.
While Bulger was clearly tied to the Valhalla gun caper, Nee has said the mobster didn't like how passionate Nee was in helping the IRA because the risk in trading guns was great while the profit was low.
"Whitey did have something to do with the Valhalla, but he tried to derail it," Nee told the Boston Globe.
A later Globe article was more specific. It theorized that Bulger had compromised the Valhalla operation, after taking a hefty profit from it, by tipping off the CIA.
However, Bulger clearly felt invested in the Gloucester operation. He first heard of the foiled deal on Boston's Channel 7 News. "That's our shipment. That's ours!," a Drug Enforcement Agency bug installed in his home recorded him saying.
Investigators say then Boston FBI agent John Connolly Jr. leaked McIntyre's identity to Bulger. The FBI agent learned it from either Customs agents the fisherman spoke to the day the Valhalla was seized in Boston or from Quincy cops after McIntyre spilled the beans while drunk during an arrest.
Bulger was so angered by the seizure and the betrayal that he ordered Nee to bring the Quincy man to a South Boston house in November 1984.
Nee has admitted bringing McIntyre to the home, saying Bulger, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi and Kevin Weeks were waiting to "just talk" to the fisherman. Nee said he returned to house to find the three burying the body. McIntyre had been tortured, and Weeks and Flemmi would both later say Bulger shot the man in the head.
Soon after, Connolly would tell Bulger he would be indicted on racketeering charges.
Bulger fled, and his name climbed the FBI's most wanted list.
Of the 19 counts of murder Bulger now faces, a judge found the FBI liable for three. One of those killings was that of McIntyre.
Connolly would be convicted for tipping Bulger off about the indictment.
A judge awarded McIntyre's family $3.1 million, found that Connolly was the "proximate cause" of McIntyre's death and said the federal government should be held responsible.
Connolly is serving 40 years in prison.
Andrea Holbrook may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.