By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - A sterling silver skull ring, a fake Stanley Cup ring and a pen holder shaped like a rat have drawn the most interest from bidders in Saturday's auction of former Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger's possessions, officials said.
Those items and hundreds more, including dinner plates with Queen Elizabeth's image, a punching bag shaped like a man's torso and head and a copy of the Bible, were among those seized when the FBI caught up with Bulger in hiding in a Santa Monica, California, apartment in June 2011.
Bulger, now 86, ruled Boston's underworld for a quarter-century before fleeing in 1994 after a corrupt FBI agent tipped him that arrest was imminent. He survived 16 years on the lam - many atop the bureau's "10 Most Wanted List" - before agents found with him with $800,000 in cash and a small arsenal of weapons.
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It is unclear how much the items will sell for, said Jason Martinez, assistant program manager for asset forfeiture at the U.S. Marshals Service, which is overseeing the auction. Proceeds will be paid out to Bulger's victims.
"Our goal is to maximize the profit for the victims; we hope his notoriety adds to that," Martinez said Friday.
Buyers placing bids online ahead of the auction had pushed the price of the rat mug to $2,600, the fake Stanley Cup ring to over $3,000 and the skull ring to $4,400, Martinez said.
Patricia Donahue, whose husband Michael was slain by Bulger's gang, said she was skeptical that the auction would raise much money.
"This is a joke. This is flea-market material," she said, standing in front of a table bearing back issues of "Soldier of Fortune" magazine. "This is an insult to the victims."
Bulger was convicted in 2013 of crimes including 11 murders he either committed personally or ordered. He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, which he is serving at a federal penitentiary in Sumter, Florida.
His longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig, who lived in hiding with Bulger, was sentenced to eight years for harboring a fugitive, a sentence that was extended by another 21 months in April after she refused to answer questions as to whether anyone helped the couple while in hiding.
Mob stories have long fascinated Americans, as reflected in the success of books and movies ranging from Mario Puzo's "The Godfather" to "Black Mass," a book chronicling Bulger's rise to power and eventual flight which was turned into a 2015 film starring Johnny Depp as Bulger.
Martinez said he was not worried if Bulger's items were bought by people who viewed gangsters as glamorous.
"What they do with this after they buy it is out of our control," he said.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and David Gregorio)