FBI: Big break in Gardner museum art heist
BOSTON (WHDH) -- The FBI believes it knows the identities of the thieves who stole art valued at up to $500 million from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 23 years ago.
Richard DesLauriers, the FBI's special agent in charge in Boston, says the thieves belong to a criminal organization based in New England and the mid-Atlantic states. He says authorities believe the 13 pieces of art were taken to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region in the years after the theft, and offered for sale in Philadelphia about a decade ago.
The theft happened when two people posing as police officers fooled security guards into believing they were there for a legitimate reason before locking the guards in the museum's basement and making off with the stolen objects.
Investigators don’t know where any of the art is today. They said it may have changed hands several times since it was stolen. Officials said the FBI has tracked leads into Europe and Asia during a more than two-decade investigation into the crime on March 18, 1990.
FBI Special Agent Geoff Kelly says authorities realize that, after so many years, the art could be in the hands of people who had nothing to do with the crime and may not even know the objects were stolen.
“The key goal here is to recover those paintings and bring them back,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.
The U.S. attorney’s office is offering immunity for people with information that could lead to the recovery of the artwork. The museum is offering a $5 million reward. The statute of limitations has passed for the crime of art theft and authorities are focused on recovering the art.
“To close the book on this investigation we need to recover the art and return it to its rightful owner,” said DesLauriers.
Among the art stolen was Vermeer's "The Concert," one of only 36 paintings by the artist that are in existence, and two Rembrandt oil paintings, including the artist's only known seascape. The thieves also made off with a number of Degas sketches.
The heist is considered one of the largest art thefts in U.S. history.
The FBI has a new website aimed at getting help cracking the case at www.FBI.gov/gardner.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.