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Greig moves to protect properties

Documents filed for houses in Quincy, S. Boston

Catherine Greig’s sister Margaret McCusker at the South Boston house their family owned. Catherine Greig’s sister Margaret McCusker at the South Boston house their family owned. (David L. Ryan/ Globe Staff)
By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / July 27, 2011

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James “Whitey’’ Bulger’s longtime companion, Catherine Greig, who faces federal charges for allegedly harboring the notorious fugitive, has moved in recent weeks to protect her assets, according to registry records in Norfolk and Suffolk counties.

Legal analysts say the moves appear designed to protect her from creditors and any potential penalties imposed by criminal or civil courts for her alleged role in assisting Bulger during his years on the run.

Greig this week filed a legal document with the Suffolk Registry of Deeds handing over any share she may have in her family’s $588,100 South Boston home to her sister, Margaret McCusker, for $1 - even though it remains unclear whether she has a financial stake in the property.

Earlier this month, Greig’s representatives sought to protect her $343,700 home in Quincy by declaring it covered by the state’s Homestead Act. That would potentially safeguard the house against creditors, up to a $500,000 limit, as long as she can prove that it is her primary residence or that she intends it to be.

The maneuvers come as Greig and her twin sister McCusker have proposed using both properties as security for Greig’s release while she awaits trial for harboring a fugitive.

But legal analysts say Greig’s efforts to protect her assets could be fruitless if courts determine the measures were taken to defraud creditors.

“It would be one thing if it were to help her sister pay legal fees; it would be another if this were more or less a shell transaction to shield assets she has against creditors. You’re not allowed to do that,’’ said attorney Jeffrey Denner, who successfully represented the family of one of Bulger’s alleged victims in a civil lawsuit against him.

Denner said Greig may not be subject to a lawsuit by his client, the family of alleged Bulger victim John McIntyre, because of legal issues. But he said other victims could consider claims against Greig for helping Bulger remain at large. She could also face hefty fines if convicted in federal court.

“Certainly, if there’s forfeitures, if there’s fines, any property she had . . . could be subject to being taken,’’ Denner said.

A spokeswoman for pretrial services in US District Court in Boston, which oversees a defendant’s bail conditions, would not comment on Greig’s assets.

Greig, 60, a dental hygienist by trade, was arrested June 22 inside the Santa Monica, Calif., apartment she shared with Bulger, just days after the FBI initiated a media blitz featuring a 30-second television spot publicizing the worldwide hunt for the couple. The spot aired during commercial breaks of daytime shows such as “The View,’’ “Ellen,’’ and “Live with Regis & Kelly.’’

The campaign was aimed at viewers more likely to encounter Greig than Bulger, and a reward for Greig was doubled from $50,000 to $100,000.

Bulger was arrested outside the home. During a search of the premises, authorities allegedly found more than $800,000 in cash and 30 weapons hidden in walls.

Greig faces up to five years in jail, and is temporarily being held without bail. The Globe has reported that a grand jury is investigating whether to bring more charges against her and Bulger for crimes allegedly committed in California. Authorities said that, in addition to the weapons and cash, they found several forms of false identifications for the pair.

Kevin P. Reddington, an attorney for Greig, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

William P. O’Donnell, the Norfolk County registrar of deeds, said it is common for homeowners to seek homestead declarations on their properties, and that he encourages it. He said anyone can file an order on their property’s deed declaring homestead protection and vowing that it is their principal residence, or that they intend it to be their main home.

That claim could be challenged by creditors, O’Donnell said. Still, he said, having the homestead status is “better than not having it.’’

O’Donnell would not speak about Greig’s case directly, but said, “Any consumer should take advantage of it, and clearly if you think your house would be exposed, you would take steps to protect it, which is what the statute allows.’’

What remained unclear yesterday is Greig’s stake in her family’s South Boston home.

Her father, David S. Greig, owned the house until he died in 1986. His wife, Jenit Greig, became the administrator of the estate with no objection from Catherine Greig, McCusker, and a third sister, Jean S. Nee. However, David Greig did not leave a will, further complicating the disposition of his assets.

According to registry records, Jenit Greig eventually signed the property over to McCusker in 2000 for $10. Jenit Greig died in 2006, while Catherine Greig was on the run.

But legal analysts said a claim to the property’s title could be murky because Greig, who as an heir automatically shared in her father’s assets, never officially approved of putting the home in McCusker’s name. Legally, Greig could have an interest in the property equal to that of her sister. The documents she filed relinquish any potential claim, giving it to her twin sister, analysts said.

“Catherine Greig might have believed she had interest in the deed,’’ said attorney Alan S. Geismer, of Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak, & Cohen PC. He is not involved in the case, and spoke generally of the deed procedure.

“It appears it may have been done simply to get the property out of her name, to try and render her judgment-proof,’’ Geismer said. “She wants to make sure, no question, she doesn’t have any interest in her sister’s house.’’

Richard M. Lane, a South Boston attorney who submitted the documents in both counties, did not return calls for comment.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at Valencia@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @MiltonValencia


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