FBI Identifies Thieves Behind Infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist
After more than $500 million of artwork was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston more than 23 years ago, FBI investigators said Monday that they finally know who is responsible for one of the most infamous heists in U.S. history.
During a meeting with members of the press, officials from the FBI’s Boston branch joined employees from the Gardner Museum and members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and asked for the public’s help in finding and locating the valuable artwork.
The paintings, stolen from the museum in 1990 when two men posing as police officers gained access to the premises after-hours, are valued at more than $500 million. The thieves allegedly spent 81 minutes stealing the works of art from the museum that day.
“It’s believed to be the largest [heist] in history, and is on the FBI’s top ten list of crimes,” said Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office. “Some describe it has the most significant art heist in history. We agree.”
Officials are now offering a $5 million reward to anyone who knows the whereabouts of the 13 paintings—which includes work by Rembrandt and Vermeer—and are launching an aggressive public campaign to find it by plastering billboards depicting the paintings in certain parts of New England.
Although they claim to know the identities of the thieves, officials still don’t know the whereabouts of the artwork, so they are casting a wide-net across the New England-area by publicizing the paintings through posters, videos, and setting up special hotlines and social media channels.
During the press conference Monday, officials said they would not discuss details about the alleged suspects and refused to “characterize specifics” about the case due to the pending investigation.
Since it disappeared more than two decades ago, however, FBI agents believe the valuable artwork was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region, after an attempted sale took place 10 years ago.
“Over the past two years, we have made significant progress. With today’s announcement, we begin the final chapter,” said DesLauriers. “We are asking for the public’s help … it’s likely over the years that someone has seen the art hanging on a wall or above a fireplace, or sitting in an attic.”
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said they were less interested in putting someone behind bars for the crime, and more concerned about alerting and refocusing the public’s attention on locating the expensive artwork. Ortiz said the statute of limitations to charge the individuals has since expired.
“The purpose is to focus the public’s attention on this matter to get tips and information,” she said. “We are not only offering a reward, but [also] the potential of immunity for any one connected to the theft or concealment, from criminal prosecution, that leads to the return of the paintings.”
Anyone with information about the artwork may contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL FBI (1-800-225-5324) or the museum directly.
“We encourage those with information about the crime to call us … or reach us online,” said DesLauriers.
Below is a video with additional information about Boston’s most infamous robbery, courtesy of the FBI.