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Mob Boss Whitey Bulger

Chained and Shackled

6/30/2011 3:08 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Flanked by an armed military escort ... and with his hands and feet locked in chains ... 81-year-old mobster Whitey Bulger emerged from a Coast Guard chopper in Plymouth, Mass. today after facing off with a Boston judge.

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Bulger --  a longtime staple on the FBI's Most Wanted List -- had just appeared in U.S. District Court in south Boston, where a judge granted his request to be represented by a public defender.

Bulger has been charged with multiple murder counts, as well as conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, narcotics distribution and money-laundering charges stemming from his role as the leader of Boston's infamous Winter Hill gang.

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Bulger had been on the run for 16 years ... before federal agents located the mobster in Santa Monica, CA -- where he had been living a pretty chill life with his girlfriend.

FYI -- Jack Nicholson's character in "The Departed" was allegedly inspired by Bulger's life.

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