Unhappy anniversary! Today is the anniversary of what is considered the greatest art theft in history.
Do you remember the 1990 theft of priceless paintings from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum? The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) does. They are still working on the criminal investigation into the heist which took place 23 years ago today.
The missing paintings include three Rembrandts, a Vermeer, a portrait by Edouard Manet, and sketches by Renoir.
Law enforcement admits to being puzzled for years by the heist. Apparently, the robbers entered the museum and tied up two night watchmen in the early morning hours of March 18, 1990. After many investigative dead ends, officials say, the probe “accelerated” in 2010 and “crucial pieces of evidence” were developed identifying the robbers and their associates.
Today, the FBI has released word that they had identified the people who stole the masterworks in a daring heist from the museum. They apparently even know where the artworks had traveled in the years after the robbery. The only problem is that they do not know where the paintings are now and are appealing to the public for their help in finding them.
The appeal involves a Five Hundred Million Dollar reward.
“The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence in the years after the theft the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft. With that confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England,” Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI, said. He added that after the attempted sale of the paintings about a decade ago, the FBI do not know where the artworks were taken.
Officials said at the Boston news conference that they would not release the names of the individuals who masqueraded as police officers to gain entry in the early-morning robbery at the Gardner when the paintings were stolen. DesLauriers explained that because the investigation is continuing it would be “imprudent” to disclose their names or the name of the criminal organization. He said the probe was in its “final chapter.”
“I think we’re all optimistic that one day soon the paintings would be returned to their rightful place,” US Attorney Carmen Ortiz added.
In the meantime, the FBI says that it is continuing its search both in and beyond the Connecticut and Philadelphia areas and launching a public awareness campaign that would include a dedicated FBI website , video postings on FBI social media sites (see the bottom-listed FBI site), digital billboards, and a podcast. The FBI said anyone with information about the artwork can contact them at 1-800-CALL FBI or the museum directly or through a third party. Tips may also be submitted online at https://tips.fbi.gov, the FBI said.
DesLauriers said the Gardner heist had received extensive media coverage in the Boston area, but officials wanted to “widen the ‘aperture of awareness'” to reach more of the American public. The officials noted that a $5 million reward has been offered for information leading to the recovery of the paintings. Anthony Amore, the museum security chief, said that officials have reason to believe the paintings have changed hands several times.