Mobster Says He Heard Gardner Heist Paintings Are in Florida

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The concert *oil on canvas *72.5 x 64.7 cm *circa 1663-1666

‘THE CONCERT’ BY VERMEER, ONE OF THE ARTWORKS STOLEN FROM THE GARDNER MUSEUM. / PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Like so many Baby Boomers, the paintings lifted in the legendary Gardner Museum heist left Massachusetts for warmer climes in Florida.

At least, that’s what mobster-in-hiding Robert “Bobby” Luisi, Jr. has told the Boston Globe. The clue emerged in rare interviews last month with the high-profile former cocaine trafficker, who is in a federal witness protection program.

He says an underling years ago told him the artworks —from Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Manet—were buried beneath a basement somewhere in the Sunshine State, but didn’t specify where. He also told the FBI this, he says, although the FBI can’t say whether or not that’s true because an investigation is underway.

The Globe tracked down builders who worked on a home in Orlando tied to the late reputed mobster Robert Guarente. One demolished the building in 2007, and the other removed a pool. Neither found anything.

Luisi now lives in Memphis, Tennessee, goes by the name Alonso Esposito, and is promoting a religious book containing “an alternative curriculum to the theory of evolution.”

The Gardner heist, a relatively inelegant robbery involving fake police uniforms, celebrated its 26th anniversary this year. Since the crime has gone down as one of the most infamous art thefts in history, authorities have said they believe they identified the culprits, who the FBI says were two mobsters based in New England and the mid-Atlantic states.

A Connecticut man named Robert Gentile has been at the center of that investigation, as has his alleged associate Robert Guarante, who has since died. Gentile is awaiting trial on gun charges.

The museum’s security director Anthony Amore told Boston in March he awaits what he believes will be the paintings’ imminent return. There is a massive pile of clues at this point, Amore said at the time, and any new ones can be useful.

“I’m not looking for someone necessarily to call me and say, ‘Go to Locker 3 in this storage facility,’” he said. “It’s like you put this puzzle together, you start with the borders, and people are giving you pieces.

“If you do puzzles, most of the time, there’s this one piece that’s just like—hoo, okay!—now you hit this arc, now it’s falling together. So I’m not necessarily looking for the big aha! moment. I’m looking for the small aha! moments that I can piece together.”

There is still a $5 million reward for the paintings’ safe return.

Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2016/07/27/gardner-heist-florida/