Eighteen years ago as a relatively new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) criminal investigator, Sandra Lemanski was assigned to look into the hidden financial activities of the violent and notorious Boston organized crime boss James (Whitey) Bulger.
Although Bulger had fled Boston and was in hiding, Lemanski spent thousands of hours poring over bank and business records, following numerous leads and documenting how the mob boss laundered millions of dollars through a wide range of real estate and commercial transactions, drug dealings and other criminal activities.
All of Lemanski’s painstaking work and the parallel investigations by numerous law enforcement colleagues paid off after Bulger, long a fixture on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted fugitive list, was arrested in California in 2011. He was convicted in 2013 of 11 murders, extortion, drug trafficking, money laundering and other crimes, and sentenced to two life terms plus an additional five years in prison.
“There are not many times that you are involved in a case than spans so many years,” said Lemanski. “For me, the verdict represented some level of closure and justice for the families of those who were tortured and murdered by Bulger. There’s great satisfaction to know he will spend the rest of his life in jail.”
John Collins, the acting special agent in charge of the Boston IRS field office, said Lemanski helped provide a foundation for the racketeering charges against Bulger, and built financial cases against a number of individuals who later cooperated with the prosecution and testified at the trial.
Who is Sandra Lemanski?
POSITION: Special Agent, IRS Criminal Investigation
RESIDENCE: Boston, Mass.
EDUCATION: Fitchburg State University, B.S. in business administration and accounting
AWARDS: Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service and U.S Attorney's Public Service Award on four occasions
“Sandi is a go-to agent. She is technically competent, creative, organized and very tough while also being very pleasant,” said Collins. “She was able to get information and cooperation from witnesses in a way many men can’t. I wish I could clone her.”
Lemanski said her biggest challenge was getting witnesses to testify against Bulger and confirm the financial evidence she and her colleagues uncovered. She said many of these individuals were fearful of reprisals and “understandably reluctant to testify.”
During the high-profile 37-day trial, Lemanski took the witness stand to describe Bulger’s fake payrolls, shady real-estate transactions and complex financial schemes, using charts to paint a clear picture of his money laundering activities. At the end of the day, she said, it was obvious that Bulger had generated millions of dollars, but had “no legitimate source of income.”
Bulger was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., where authorities found $822,000 in cash in the walls of his apartment. The government said Bulger had opened safety deposit boxes around the world, and concluded that he and his criminal associates collected more than $25 million in ill-gotten gains.
In addition to her testimony, Lemanski worked with the prosecution throughout trial, handling all the physical and electronic exhibits used in the proceedings. These included surveillance photos, videos, voluminous documents detailing the criminal organizations’ financial transactions and the physical evidence related to the recovery of some of the victims’ bodies.
Lemanski began her IRS career in 1988 as a revenue agent, and in 1995 completed law enforcement training to become a special agent in the agency’s criminal investigations unit. Over the years, she has worked on cases involving tax evasion, public corruption and organized crime activities.
“It’s rewarding to know that my work contributes to bringing people to justice who have committed crimes,” said Lemanski. “I’m proud to be working in this field and contributing to the public good in a positive way.”
This article was jointly prepared by the Partnership for Public Service, a group seeking to enhance the performance of the federal government, and washingtonpost.com. Go to
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