Showing posts with label Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Show all posts

May 3, 2016

The FBI is not giving up in the Isabella Gardner Museum Heist


FBI agents search the Manchester home of reputed gangster Robert Gentile.
Photograph by Mark Mirko | mmirko@courant.com
Despite a $5 million USD reward for information leading to the return of $500 million in artwork by Rembrandt, Degas, Manet, Vermeer, and more, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist has been unsolved for 25 years.   

In 2012 the FBI searched the Manchester, Connecticut home of notorious gangster Robert “Bobby the Cook” Gentile who the FBI has accused of being linked to the 13 stolen paintings.

Yesterday, May 2, 2016, the federal law enforcement agency went back in force for a second look.  Using metal detectors, rakes and shovels, the team of twelve agents set up a tent and tarp and scoured the terrain surrounding the residence on Frances Drive.  Gentile's son and wife Patricia were both present at the house throughout the search.  

In May 2013, Gentile, an alleged “made man” connected with the Philadelphia Mafia, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for illegally selling prescription drugs to an FBI informant and for possessing guns, silencers and ammunition. With a criminal history stretching back to the 1950s, he was freed from prison in 2014 on supervised release only to be arrested again in April 2015. 

He is currently being held without bail on federal weapons charges and is scheduled to stand trial in federal court in Hartford, Connecticut in July. 

Despite yesterday’s search, America's biggest-ever art heist remains unsolved. 

The 13 missing artworks are:  

a bronze eagle finial for a for a Napoleonic flagstaff
a Chinese Beaker or Ku
Degas, Cortege aux Environs de Florence
Degas, Three Mounted Jockeys
Degas, Program for an artistic soiree (1)
Degas, Program for an artistic soiree (1)
Degas, La Sortie de Pesage
Flinck, Landscape with Obelisk
Manet, Chez Tortoni
Rembrandt, A Lady and Gentleman in Black
Rembrandt, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee
Rembrandt, Self-Portrait
Vermeer, The Concert


November 20, 2015

17 Artworks Stolen from Italian Museum

Shortly before its 8 pm closing time, on Thursday November 19, 2015 three darkly-dressed masked thieves entered the Verona Civic Museum of Castelvecchio near Verona in northern Italy.  Using a methodology reminiscent of that used during the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, the culprits tied up and gagged a museum cashier and the sole private security guard on duty using adhesive tape shortly after the museum's employees had left for the evening.

One accomplice stayed with the cashier, holding her at gunpoint while the other two, one of whom was also armed, escorted the watchmen through the museum's exhibition rooms.  In total, the thieves made off with seventeen Italian and foreign artworks including rare pieces by Peter Paul Rubens, Bellini, Pisanello, Mategna, the Venetian artist Tintoretto and his son.  
“La Madonna della Quaglia” by Antonio Pisano also known as Pisanello
tempera su tavola, cm 54×32
Mayor Flavio Tosi has referred to the museum's robbery as a “theft to order” crime, a label that, absent further elaboration, has fallen out of favor among art crime investigators as it feeds the public's imagination and more often than not, results in over-generalised misperceptions about who commits art crime and for what underlying motive.

Conjuring up images of cat burglars that look and act like sexy Hollywood starlets, cinematic “theft to order” protagonists are typically technologically savvy art thieves who burgle museums by easily outsmarting complex alarm systems.  If the protagonist is female, she is usually sexily clad but the common denominator among all film art thieves is that they are usually never caught and go on to live happily ever after, having made bundles off the sale of the paintings.

The truth is, demystifying offender characteristics and the motives of art thieves from media hype is difficult.  There is no single set of common physical or mental characteristics or motives which would make profiling the art criminal easier.

In Thursday’s theft the Castelvecchio museum's alarm system was not even activated as the thieves timed their arrival to coincide with the museum’s closing hour, entering just before the nightly alarms were to to be turned on.  Timed to perfection, the culprits successfully made off with artwork Italian authorities are estimating as worth between 10 and 15 million euros. The city’s mayor also stated that authorities hadn’t ruled out the possibility that the paintings could have been stolen to fund “jihadisti”.

Some of the paintings, mostly those painted on wooden panels, were taken off the walls and carried away as is.  Others artworks were removed from their frames, with the canvases then being rolled-up for ease of carrying. Thirteen of the stolen paintings are considered to be masterpieces while the other four are reportedly of lessor value.

Authorities have described the stolen artworks as:

“Ritratto di Girolamo Pompei” by Giovanni Benini
olio su tela, cm 85×63, inv. 45793-1B4017 – Estimated Value: €5.000
“Ritratto di Giovane Monaco Benedettino” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto
olio su tela, cm 43×33, inv. 1407-1B0142 – Estimated Value: €200,000
“Ritratto di Giovane con Disegno Infantile” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto,
olio su tavola, cm 37×29, inv. 5519-1B0130 – Estimated Value: €2,000,000
“San Girolamo Penitente” by Jacopo Bellini
tempera su tavola, cm 95×65, inv. 876-1B0306 – Estimated Value: €2,000,000
“Paesaggio” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99, inv. 6275-1B0685 – Estimated Value: €200.000
“Porto di mare” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99, inv. 6273-1B0680– Estimated Value: €200.00
“Sacra Famiglia Con Una Santa” by Andrea Mantegna,
tempera su tela, cm 76×55,5 inv. 855-1B0087 – Estimated Value €4,000,000
“La Madonna della Quaglia” by Antonio Pisano also known as Pisanello,
tempera su tavola, cm 54×32, inv. 164-1B0090 – Estimated Value €4,000,000
“Dama delle licnidi” by Peter Paul Rubens
olio su tela, cm 76×60, inv. 1779-1B0166 – Estimated Value €1,500,000
“Ritratto di Marco Pasqualigo” by Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 48×40, inv.6707-1B0158 – Estimated Value €500,000
“Ritratto di Ammiraglio Veneziano” by the school of Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 110×89, inv. 1602-1B0710 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Banchetto di Baltassar” by Jacopo Tintoretto
 olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79, inv. 264-1B0229 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Giudizio di Salomone” by Jacopo Tintoretto,
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79,5, inv. 266-1B0230 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Madonna Allattante” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 89×76, inv. 1285-1B1623– Estimated Value € 500,000
“Sansone” by Jacopo Tintoretto,
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79, inv. 265-1B0228 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Trasporto dell’Arca dell’Alleanza” by Jacopo Tintoretto,
olio su tavola, cm 28×80, inv. 263-1B0227 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Ritratto Maschile” possibly by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 54×44, inv. 44381-1B4013 – Estimated Value €150,000
4 other artworks by artists such as Hans de Jode and Giovanni Benini

In addition to the artwork stolen, the bandits also damaged a table by Giulio Licinio.

The culprits left the scene of the crime using the museum custodian's own car, likely switching vehicles at some distance from the museum.  Authorities are reviewing footage from the 48 museum CCTV cameras installed in and around the museum for possible clues as to their identities.

Photos of the 17 artworks taken are posted to this blog post.

Andrea Mantegna, Sacra Famiglia Con Una Santa
tempera su tela, cm 76×55,5
“Ritratto Maschile” possibly by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 54×44 
“Ritratto di Marco Pasqualigo” by Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 48×40
“Ritratto di Girolamo Pompei” by Giovanni Benini
olio su tela, cm 85×63
“Paesaggio” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99
“Porto di mare” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99
“Ritratto di Girolamo Pompei” by Giovanni Benini
olio su tela, cm 85×63
“Banchetto di Baltassar” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79
“Giudizio di Salomone” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79,5
“Trasporto dell’Arca dell’Alleanza” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 28×80
“Sansone” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79
“Madonna Allattante” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 89×76
“Ritratto di Ammiraglio Veneziano” by the school of Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 110×89
“Ritratto di Giovane con Disegno Infantile” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto
olio su tavola, cm 37×29
“Ritratto di Giovane Monaco Benedettino” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto
olio su tela, cm 43×33
“Dama delle Licnidi” by Peter Paul Rubens
olio su tela, cm 76×60

March 14, 2015

Prize-winning Boston journalist Steve Kurkjian looks at the investigation of the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in his book "Master Thieves"

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Boston journalist Steve Kurkjian, author of another book on the Isabella Stewart Gardner theft  in 1990 ("Master Thieves, Public Affairs), is interviewed by Dan Rea on Nightside. 

The Christian Science Monitor's book editor Majorie Kehe interviews Kurkjian here about his 2015 book.

Art Taylor for The Washington Post includes this in his review of Kurkjian's "Master Thieves":
Kurkjian clearly knows how to work his beat — he won three Pulitzer Prizes while at the Boston Globe. For this book, he interviewed low-level criminals long suspected of the crime and he reached out to mob bosses for answers. And most impressive, he delivers the story of Louis Royce, who discovered the museum’s security lapses while sneaking into the galleries during his troubled teen years. Royce claims that he passed that information along to his criminal connections and that someone picked up his tip and carried out the heist. 
Placing the theft in historical context, Kurkjian charts the evolution of Boston’s gang wars in the 1980s and details how criminals have used stolen art to bargain plea deals. He also looks at the Gardner’s security issues, everything from troubles with the museum’s board to personnel lapses, and he examines failures in the FBI’s treatment of art crimes, building stark comparisons to more-successful European approaches. Notorious gangster Whitey Bulger’s story lurks along the edges of the narrative, and Kurkjian argues that Bulger’s capture in 2011 and the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers in 2013 provide models for how crowdsourcing might be used to locate the missing Gardner masterpieces. Kurkjian has gathered so much information that explaining the smallest bit of it leads to a spate of cross-references, qualifications and digressions.
William McKeen for the Boston Globe reviews "Master Thieves" here.

And here are previous posts on the ARCA Blog related to Kurkjian's reporting on the still unsolved Boston art theft: "Tip to Authorities ..."; Kurkjian's interview with security guard; and the FBI's awareness campaign.

Kurkjian's book is available in print and can be electronically downloaded on iBooks.

May 22, 2014

Fox 25 News (MyFoxBoston.com): "FBI talks exclusively to Bob Ward about Stolen Art" [The 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Unsolved Heist]; Compare it to what Ulrich Boser reported in his book in 2009

"FBI has confirmed sighting of Gardner artwork after heist" reports Bob Ward in a television segment on May 21 for Fox 25 News (MyBoston.com).
In his first TV interview, FBI Special Agent Geoff Kelly, the Bureau's leading investigator on the Gardner Case, tells FOX 25's Bob Ward the trail for the missing Gardner artwork has not grown cold. Kelly said the Bureau has confirmed sightings, from sources the Bureau deems credible, of the Gardner artwork in the years after it was stolen. He also identified three persons of interest in the Gardner case, all with ties to organized crime: Carmello Merlino, Robert Guarente, and Robert Gentile. Kelly said in the late 1990's, two FBI informants told the Bureau that Merlino was preparing to return Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee, in an effort to collect the reward. However, Merlino and his crew were soon arrested in an aborted armored car heist and the painting was never returned. Kelly believes Guarente somehow passed control of the stolen Gardner artwork to Gentile, a Manchester, Conn. man. Kelly believes Gentile has ties to organized crime in Philadelphia, PA and that Gentile helped bring some or all of the stolen Gardner artwork to Philadelphia where it was last seen in 2000, offered for sale. In 2012 Gentile's home and property in Manchester, Conn. were extensively searched but no sign of the stolen Gardner artwork was located. However, Kelly said authorities recovered police paraphernalia, including "clothing, articles of clothing with police and FBI insignias on it, handcuffs, a scanner, two way radios, and Tasers" and these are not common items. Gentile, through his lawyer, denied having any connection to the Gardner art heist or with moving the artwork after the fact. Both Merlino and Guarente are now dead. If you have any information about the Gardner Museum artwork, call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI. There is a $5 million reward in this case. 
Read more (and see the video which includes an appearance by Anthony Amore, security director of the Gardner museum): http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/25583520/fbi-has-confirmed-sightings-of-gardner-artwork-after-heist#ixzz32SaaZt9e

In Ulrich Boser's book, The Gardner Heist: The True Store of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft (HarperCollins, 2009) the index included 11 references to Carmello Merlino who died in prison in 2005. Merlino is described as the "gangland captain" of David Turner who was picked up by the FBI on Feb. 7, 1999 and questioned about the Gardner heist (page 100):
"The FBI told me that they had information from several sources that I was an actual participant in the robbery," Turner recalled. "What was said was 'Give us the paintings right now, and you can go home."
Boser described Merlino as a 'South Boston mobster' (p. 101) whose:
'body shop grew into an underworld flea market for looted goods. "If there was something you wanted stolen, that was the place. You could go there and just put in an order, and they would have crews running all sorts of places, South Shore Malls, downtown, everywhere," retired state police officer Eddie Whelan told me.
[Interesting sidebar -- the art stolen from Jeffrey Gundlach was recovered by police in an automobile stereo shop in Pasadena, CA in 2012.]

Boser wrote on pages 105-107 that:
Merlino was picked up on a drug charge in 1992, and through an intermediary, he offered to return the paintings for a reduced prison sentence. He told prosecutors that the masterpieces were "very big and international," that the deal has to be kept quiet or he would be killed. But Merlino never offered any hard evidence of the lost art ... [but] it was clear that Merlino did not have direct access to the art, that he was attempting to secure the masterpieces from someone else.
Boser wrote on page 201:
Perhaps mob associate Robert Guarente was the mastermind? He was a friend of Turner's, a frequent visitor to Merlino's body shop, and had connections to Myles Connor. But Guarente died in 2004 without any sign of the paintings. The FBI confidential informant reports also imply that Turner himself had the loot. That seems impossible. Turner would have almost certainly given up the canvases to get out of his thirty-eight year prison sentence. 

November 11, 2013

James "Whitey" Bulger to be Sentenced to Prison Thursday

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

More than two years after the FBI apprehended James "Whitey" Bulger in Santa Monica, the 84-year-old convicted murderer will be sentenced Thursday to prison for the rest of his life -- without ever leading investigators to the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

Both the Gardner's security director and investigator, Anthony Amore, and the federal prosecutor who put Bulger away, Brian T. Kelly, have said publicly that Bulger was not connected to the heist in any way and is not considered a suspect.

Shelley Murphey, reporter for the Boston Globe and co-author with Kevin Cullen of Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that Brought Him to Justice (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013) summarizes Bulger's legal status here in "'King of Bulger's victim's set to speak out in court" (Boston Globe, Nov. 11):
In August, following an eight-week trial, jurors found Bulger participated in 11 murders while operating a sprawling criminal enterprise from the 1970s through the 1990s that trafficked in cocaine and marijuana; extorted drug dealers, businessmen, and bookmakers; and corrupted FBI agents and other law enforcement officials. He was convicted of 31 counts of racketeering, extortion, money laundering, and weapons possession. 
In a sentencing memorandum filed last week, prosecutors said Bulger “has no redeeming qualities” and faces a mandatory term under federal sentencing guidelines of life in prison, followed by another life sentence for possessing machine guns and another five-year term for possessing handguns.
In the biography of Bulger by Murphey and Cullen, a word search for "Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum", "art theft",  or "museum" resulted in none of the speculation found in previous years about Whitey's possible knowledge of what had happened to the ISGM paintings. [I did read in their book that in 1996 Bulger and his companion Cathy Greig walked into an residential building on Third Street in Santa Monica, lied about their identities on an application form for a rent-controlled apartment, then moved into a two-bedroom unit at $837 a month. When I lived in Santa Monica in the early 1990s, everyone I ever knew had to know someone to get a unit due to the fierce competition for affordable beach housing.]

In Ulrich Bosert's 2009 The Gardner Heist, rumors retold include that Whitey Bulger approached someone in Florida to sell the Gardner loot for $10 million and that Bulger had shipped the stolen paintings to the IRA in Ireland.

August 17, 2013

In Bangor with Howie Carr: ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore Speaks About Art Crime

ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore, Director of Security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, joined syndicated talk show host and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr in "An Evening of Crime" Friday night at Spectacular Event Center in Bangor (Dawn Gagnon, "Howie Carr sold-out Bangor show talks 'Whitey' Bulger, art thieves'", Bangor Daily News, August 17):
For the past seven years, Amore has also served as the museum’s chief investigator into the 1990 theft of 13 priceless works of art from the museum. 
Author of “Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists” with investigative reporter Tom Mashberg, Amore discussed some of the most infamous art heists of the 20th century, involving works valued $1 billion in total. 
Chief among the heists involved one at the at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which alone resulted in the loss of $500 million worth in paintings, etching and other works that have yet to be recovered. 
In that case, two men posing as Boston police officers were buzzed into the museum on March 18, 1990, after saying they were responding to a disturbance. They handcuffed the two night guards who were on duty and took them into the basement, where they were secured to pipes and their hands, feet and heads were duct taped. 
Amore described how the thieves made off with priceless works like Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee, A Lady and Gentleman in Black and a Self Portrait, Vermeer’s The Concert and Edouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni, according to the museum’s website. 
Not all art thieves, however, were so clever. Amore also regaled the audience with stories of robbers with more bravado than brains — among them Myles Connor, a notorious Boston art thief who unwittingly tried to sell works by Andrew Wyeth and NC Wyeth to an undercover FBI agent. He and several accomplices stole the paintings — along with several other famous paintings — from the Woolworth Estate in Monmouth, Maine, in the early 1970s. 
“When you steal these highly recognizable paintings, there’s no market for them. There’s no one out there who’s going to buy a painting that everyone knows is stolen. Especially when, even if you’re paying pennies on the dollar, you’re paying millions of dollars. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that people don’t spend lots of money on things they can never show anyone. 
“Myles found that out, he couldn’t find a buyer for these Wyeth paintings,” Amore said. “He looked and looked and looked and couldn’t find one. Then all of a sudden, he gets lucky and he comes across a guy named Bernie Murphy who wants to buy these paintings from him.” 
Murphy arranged to meet Connor in the parking lot of a Cape Cod IGA store to discuss a deal. 
“Myles is elated,” Amore said. “They go, they park next to each other, Myles opens his trunk and shows him the Wyeth paintings.” Unfortunately for Connor, the supposed buyer reaches into his pocket and pulls out his FBI badge.

July 13, 2013

America's Book of Secrets features segment on the Isabella Stewart Gardner 1990 Theft

Here's the show, America's Book of Secrets on the History Channel, which interviewed ARCA trustee Erik Nemeth (PH.D., Independent Researcher) for an episode aired in June, Lost Treasures.  At around minute 29, the show focuses on the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the segment "Bare Walls". Interviews include FBI Special Agent Geoffrey J. Kelly; Robert K. Wittman, former FBI Special Agent; Nemeth; Catherine Williamson, PH.D., Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts, Bonhams; and Chris Isleib, Director of Communications, National Archives.

April 17, 2013

B. A. Shapiro invents a fifth version of Degas' "After the Bath" in the book "The Art Forger" which focuses on the Boston art world and the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Degas' After the Bath c 1883
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

B. A. Shapiro's The Art Forger (Algonquin Books, 2012) mixes elements with the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Theft with the Boston art world and art forgery. Ms. Shapiro uses a fictional painting by Edgar Degas, After the Bath, in this art crime novel.

Here's a link to the book review in The New York Times by Maxwell Carter, an associate vice president and a specialist in Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, which provides a nice synopsis of the plot.

Here's a link to the author B. A. Shapiro's website which includes information on art thefts, art forgeries, and encouraging words about writing novels.

This link to a book review last January in the Salisbury Post ("'Art Forger' leaves readers wondering what's real") highlights the author's note at the end of the book:
Shapiro does several clever things. She uses real artists and real connoisseurs like Gardner in the telling of the book. All the forgers Claire learns from are real, as are the techniques they used. She mixes in chapters of Isabella Gardner’s letters to her niece detailing her adventures with Degas — these are juicy fiction. She offers “A Note on the Research” at the end of the book to make clear what is history and what is fiction.
Barbara Shapiro writes in this "Note on the Research":
The painting techniques that Claire uses for both her forgery and her own work are consistent with current practices, as are the descriptions of the struggles of a young artists. The forgers and dealers she discovers through her Internet research were/are actual people, including John Myratt, Ely Sakhai, and Han van Meegeren, and the specifics of their crimes, methods, inventions, and punishments are also accurate. 
The details of the 1990 robbery of Gardner Museum are factual -- it remains the largest unsolved art heist in history -- with the exception of the inclusion of Degas' fifth After the Bath, which neither was stolen nor exists, although it is a composite based on his other four After the Bath works.
Blogger Poul Webb (Arts & Artists) shows images from Degas' studies on women after bathing.

Here's a link to a discussion of Degas' After the Bath at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

April 15, 2013

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: How has the institution faired more than two decades after the theft? Former Undersecretary for Homeland Security Juliette Kayyman wrote about this last year

Here's an article overlooked by the ARCA Blog last year: In the Boston Globe, a former Undersecretary for Home Security, Juliette Kayyem, wrote in March 2012 of the "Gardner's narrative of resiliency" on the new addition to the institution:

In 1990, two thieves dressed as Boston police officers told the museum night guards on duty that they were responding to a call. The thieves passed the sole security door. There was just one alarm button at the time; only motion detectors traced their movements. There were no cameras. A mere 81 minutes later, they were in possession of the masterpieces worth, today, half a billion dollars. The investigation is ongoing. 
The new building could have been a fortress. But that would have made the theft the focal point of how we would perceive the museum. Instead, the colorless glass entry, the brick walls, even the enclosed corridor that passes from the new building through a grove of trees into Gardner’s historic courtyard serve as practical access controls. There are no doors for the public to the original Gardner mansion. A thief would now have to walk through a transparent glass tunnel, into the new building, and out a security door for the easiest exit. Though counterintuitive, its openness makes it more secure. 
While the museum is watched by hundreds of cameras, the new structure is designed to relieve some of the stress from Gardner’s old home by shifting the burdens of exit and entry to the much more modern and secure building. “There is simply no place in the museum where a thief can just grab art and get outside,’’ Anthony Amore, the head of museum security and author of “Stealing Rembrandts,’’ said.

March 23, 2013

Gardner Heist: Night watchmen Rick Abath Gives Exclusive Television Interview to Randi Kaye in "81 Minutes Inside: The Greatest Art Heist in History" which aired on Anderson Cooper 360 on March 22

Rick Abath, one of the nightwatch men on duty March 18 when two men stole 13 paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, gave his first television interview to Randi Kaye for her story "81 Minutes Inside: The Greatest Art Heist In History" which aired on Anderson Cooper 360 CNN on March 22.

Rick Abath, who had working at the museum for about a year, began his night shift at 11.30 p.m. He explained that guards took turns walking through the museum and manning the security desk next to the employee entrance. On the night of the theft, Abath's "usual partner had called in sick" "so they paired him with a daytime gallery guard".

Ms. Kaye narrates:

Abath takes the first round which takes longer than usual. The fire alarm goes off for no apparent reason -- so does another alarm on the fourth floor. Then the other gallery guard does the round. It is 1.24 a.m. and Rick is alone at the guard desk. Two men dressed as Boston police officers buzz the side entrance and tell Abath that they are there because there's been a disturbance on the property.
Anthony Amore, Director of Security for the Isabella Stewart Gardner, explains to Ms. Kaye that it was against museum policy for the nightwatchman to let anyone into the museum.

While Abath concedes that this may have been the written policy, Abath says that the "culture" was to let museum employees in at night "at least once a month", including the director of the museum. "So it wasn't unusual for Rick to hear that buzzer go off," Ms. Kaye narrates.

Rick Abath explains that he had no reason to believe the men were not police officers until it was too late to reach the panic button.

The panic button on the guard's desk was not easy to reach. "It was the same kind of panic button at a bank or something," Rick Abath said. "It was up on the underside of the desk. But it was a fairly long desk and the computer that you had to be at to do your job was all the way to your left and it was all the way to the right so it just wasn't within arms reach."

March 22, 2013

Anderson Cooper 360 Features Documentary on Gardner Art Heist

Tonight Anderson Cooper 360 features a documentary, "81 minutes: Inside the Greatest Art Heist in History" at 10 p.m. ET (US). The show claims an exclusive television interview with Richard Abath, the night watchman who admits he was the guard on duty who "buzzed in" the two thieves disguised as police officers.

The segment also includes Anthony Amore, Security Director of the ISGM, walking journalist Randi Kaye through the known events of the 1990 theft in the early morning hours of March 18.

March 21, 2013

The Gardner Heist: Author Ulrich Boser Writing in The New York Times on "Learning from the Gardner Art Theft"

Ulrich Boser, author of The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008), in The New York Times March 21 in "Learning from the Gardner Theft", comments on the long investigation into the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990:
Twenty-three years may seem like an inordinate amount of time to solve a burglary, but the Gardner case has actually come a long way from the days when it sometimes seemed to sit on the F.B.I.’s investigative back burner — and the robbery has done a lot to change the way that museums protect their art.
Mr. Boser offers his observations in writing about the case:
Over the years, it hasn’t seemed as if federal investigators have always made the case a top priority. When I first started reporting on the theft, for instance, the museum’s director, Anne Hawley, suggested that she had not always been satisfied with the bureau’s commitment to the case. Ms. Hawley, the director since 1989, said that the first agent assigned to the case seemed very green. “Why didn’t the F.B.I. have the capacity to assign a senior-level person?” she asked me in 2007. “Why was it not considered something that needed immediate and high-level attention?”
Mr. Boser also comments on the unnamed thieves the FBI has identified in its investigation:
As for the men who robbed the museum, there’s been some good evidence over the years regarding their identities. In my book on the theft, I pointed the finger at the Boston mobster David Turner. As part of my reporting, I examined F.B.I. files that indicated that Mr. Turner was an early suspect, and he bears a strong resemblance to the composite drawing made of one of the thieves. In a letter to me, Mr. Turner denied any role in the theft, but he also told me that if I were to put his picture on my book’s cover, I would sell more copies. 

More important, there are signs that the paintings may hang on the walls of the museum again. At the news conference on Monday, the F.B.I. announced that in the years after the theft, someone took the stolen Gardner art to Connecticut and Philadelphia and offered it up for sale. This suggests that the canvases might still be in good condition.

March 20, 2013

Boston Globe: Tip to Authorities in 2010 Led to Turning Point in Gardner Heist Investigation

Boston Globe: Photo by Steven Senne/AP at FBI conference
The Boston Globe reports that a 2010 tip to authorities led to the identity of the two men who robbed the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990, according to today's article "Tips pour in on Gardner Museum art theft" by Milton J. Valencia, Shelley Murphy, and Stephen Kurkjian.
The FBI and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum ­received a flood of tips from around the country Tuesday, as new details emerged about the turning point in the investigation of the notorious Gardner Museum heist 23 years ago. 

The latest, exhaustive phase in the inquiry is based on a tip that a caller made to authorities in 2010, according to Anthony Amore, the Gardner Museum’s head of security and chief investigator. 
He said Tuesday that the tip was so fruitful — leading to the announcement that investigators know the identities of the thieves and could trace the art from Boston to Connecticut and Philadelphia — that the FBI has since rededicated significant resources to investigating the heist. 
“That tip, plus thousands of man-hours, led to where we are today,” Amore said.
The Boston Globe article also comes back to Robert Gentile as a suspect:
The latest focus has been on Robert Gentile, a 75-year-old ailing Mafia figure with ties to organized crime in Philadelphia and Boston. His Connecticut home was searched last year in relation to the heist. He was charged with drug dealing and possession of an illegal firearm in what his lawyer called a tactic by the FBI to pressure him to disclose information about the heist. 
Gentile, who pleaded guilty and is slated to be sentenced in May, faces a lengthy prison term. His lawyer, Ryan McGuigan, has maintained that Gentile knows nothing about the heist or the whereabouts of the artwork. 
But investigators seem to have trained their focus on Gentile in the recent phase of the investigation. 
A person with knowledge of the FBI investigation, who asked to remain anonymous ­because of the sensitivity of the inquiry, confirmed Tuesday that investigators found a list of the art stolen from the Gardner, and the estimated value of the works, during the search of Gentile’s home. The discovery of the list was first ­reported by The Hartford ­Courant. 
Gentile also had close ties to organized crime figures in Philadelphia and in Boston, including the late Robert Guarente, who has been tied to almost every­one mentioned as a person of interest in the heist. 
Guarente, for instance, was close with the late Carmello Merlino, who ran an auto body shop in Dorchester and who, according to FBI reports, once tried to negotiate the return of the artworks. No deal ever came to fruition, and Merlino was later convicted in a scheme to rob an armored car depot in Easton. He said that he was set up by informants and that the FBI was pressuring him for ­information regarding the Gardner heist. Merlino died in prison in 2005 at age 71. 
Two other men were also convicted in the armored car depot scheme and received lengthy prison sentences, though they have denied knowledge of the heist or the ­location of the artwork. ­Stephen Rossetti, 54, who is Guarente’s nephew, is slated to be released in 2044, and David Turner, 45, is set to be released in 2025. 
Guarente died in 2004 at age 65. His wife has told authorities in recent years that she saw him give Gentile at least one painting some time around 2003, around the time authorities say some of the art was offered for sale in Philadelphia. The wife, however, did not describe the painting as one of the works taken from the Gardner.

ISGM Security Director Anthony Amore Calls Hunt for Stolen Gardner Paintings "an exercise in finding 13 needles in a haystack by making the haystack smaller"

FBI: An empty frame in the Dutch Room of the ISGM
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The FBI and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum have offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the return of the paintings.

The day after the FBI announced that they have identified the thieves responsible for the 1990 art heist, ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore, Director of Security for the Gardner Museum, told the ARCA Blog:
"As I have said many times in the past, this investigation is an excuse in finding 13 needles in a haystack by making the haystack smaller. The information we provided at the press conference shows that we continue this work, and that the haystack is smaller than ever."
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the U. S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts continue to work on this investigation with the FBI.

You may find more information here on the FBI's website.

And here's a link to an article in Harvard Magazine featuring Anthony Amore.

March 19, 2013

Boston Globe Correspondent Stephen Kurkjian Interviews ISGM guard who let in the thieves in 1990; Abath says he's never been ruled out as a suspect by investigators

Boston Globe Correspondent Stephen Kurkjian reported March 10 in "Decades after the Gardner Heist, police focus on guard" who opened the door to the robbers more than 23 years ago in the largest art theft:
Night watchman Richard Abath may have made the most costly mistake in art history on March 18, 1990, when he unlocked the doors of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for two robbers who stole 13 works of art valued at more than $500 million. For years, investigators discounted the hapless Abath’s role in the unsolved crime. But, after 23 years of pursuing dead ends, investigators are focusing on intriguing evidence that suggests Abath might have been in on the crime all along.
According to Kurkjian, investigators blamed Abath's actions on 'his excessive drinking and pot smoking':
But, after 23 years of pursuing dead ends, including a disappointing search of an alleged mobster's home last year, investigators are focusing on intriguing evidence that suggests the former night watchman might have been in on the crime all along -- or at least knows more about it than he has admitted.
Why, they ask, were Abath's footsteps the only ones picked up on motion detectors in a first floor gallery where one of the stolen paintings, by French impressionist Edouard Manet, was taken? And why did he open the side entrance to the museum minutes before the robbers rang the buzzer to get in? Was he signaling to them that he was prepared for the robbery to begin? 
No one publicly calls Abath a suspect, but federal prosecutors grilled him on these issues last fall. And one former prosecutor in the case has written a recently published novel about the Gardner heist in which the night watchman let the thieves into the museum to pay off a large cocaine debt."
Abath insists that he had nothing to do with the heist, Kurkjian writes.
'Abath, then a rock musician moonlighting as a security guard, said he opened the doors that night because he was intimidated by men dressed as police officers who claimed to be investigating a disturbance. His own uniform untucked and wearing a hat, Abath knew he looked more like a suspect than a guard.'
The 46-year-old Abath agreed to speak to The Globe to gain publicity for a book he is writing about the ISGM theft, according to Kurkjian. Abath told Kurkjian that the former security guard 'realized he was under suspicion four years ago when FBI agents asked to meet him at a Brattleboro, Vermont, coffee shop.'
"After years of not hearing a word the people charged with the task of solving the Great Museum Robbery, they popped up; they wanted to talk," Abath wrote in the manuscript he shared. To his surprise, one agent told him, "You know we've never been able to eliminate you as a suspect."
Kurkjian writes that Abath said that on the night of the robbery he had been sober and had just given his two-week notice. James J. McGovern, who worked on the federal investigation for the US attorney's office in 2006, wrote a novel, Artful Deception (2012), portrays a night security guard who was an accomplice in the Gardner heist [Kurkjian].

The Hartford Courant's Edmund H. Mahoney Links Hartford Mobster Robert Gentile to FBI's Latest Press Release

In the Hartford Courant article, "FBI Releases Surprising, New Detail on Gardner Museum Heist", journalist Edmund H. Mahony writes:
In a stunning development in the investigation of the world's richest art heist, law enforcement officials said Monday they know who stole $500 million in master works from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and disclosed new detail about their interest in Hartford mobster Robert Gentile.
"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," said Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Boston office. "With that same confidence we have identified the thieves who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England."
In order not to jeopardize the continuing investigation, Mahony writes, that the FBI 'would not answer specific questions about Gentile, a 75-year-old gambler and confidence man long associated with the rackets in Hartford.'
But since 2010, Gentile has been questioned repeatedly about his membership in the Boston branch of a Philadelphia-based criminal organization, as well as leads that place at least some of the stolen paintings in Connecticut and the Philadelphia area.

The Great Gardner Heist: 2010 Interview by "On Point" Tom Ashbrook

On the 20th anniversary of the theft of the ISGM, NPR's "On Point" Tom Ashbrook interviewed Anne Hawley, Director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Anthony Amore, Director of Security. Amore, an ARCA Trustee, takes Ashbrook down to the basement to where the  museum's two security guards were handcuffed and duct-taped during the robbery.

March 18, 2013

FBI Announces New Information Regarding the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Theft

FBI composite of paintings stolen from ISGM in 1990
On the 23rd anniversary of the largest art theft, an FBI press release announced: "FBI Provides New Information Regarding the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Theft".

The press release is issued by the FBI Boston office in cooperation with with Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, released new information about one of the largest property crimes in U.S. history—the art theft:
The FBI believes it has determined where the stolen art was transported in the years after the theft and that it knows the identity of the thieves, Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, revealed for the first time in the 23-year investigation. “The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence that 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.” DesLauriers added, “With that same confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the Mid-Atlantic states and New England.” After the attempted sale, which took place approximately a decade ago, the FBI’s knowledge of the art’s whereabouts is limited. 
Information is being sought from those who possess or know the whereabouts of the 13 stolen works of art—including rare paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer—by publicizing new details about the case and continuing to highlight the $5 million reward for the return of the art. Although the FBI does not know where the art is currently located, the FBI is continuing its search, both in and beyond the Connecticut and Philadelphia areas. “With this announcement, we want to widen the ‘aperture of awareness’ of this crime to the reach the American public and others around the world,” said DesLauriers. 
Anthony Amore, the museum’s chief of security, noted that the reward is for “information that leads directly to the recovery of all of our items in good condition.” He further explained, “You don’t have to hand us the paintings to be eligible for the reward. We hope that through this media campaign, people will see how earnest we are in our attempts to pay this reward and make our institution whole. We simply want to recover our paintings and move forward. Today marks 23 years since the robbery. It’s time for these paintings to come home.” 
“The investigation into the Gardner Museum theft has been an active and aggressive effort, with law enforcement following leads and tracking down potential sources of information around the globe. Over the past three years, I have visited the museum several times, and each time I entered the Dutch Room and saw the empty frames, I was reminded of the enormous impact of this theft. I do remain optimistic that one day soon the paintings will be returned to their rightful place in the Fenway, as Mrs. Gardner intended,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “As we have said in the past, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will consider the possibility of immunity from criminal prosecution for information that leads to the return of the paintings based on the set of facts and circumstances brought to our attention. Our primary goal is, and always has been, to have the paintings returned.” 
To recover stolen items and prosecute art and cultural property crime, the FBI has a specialized Art Crime Team of 14 special agents supported by special trial attorneys. The team investigates theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines, with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually. The FBI also runs the National Stolen Art File, a computerized index of stolen art and cultural properties that is used as a reference by law enforcement agencies worldwide. 
The FBI stressed that anyone with information about the artwork may contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or the museum directly or through a third party, said Special Agent Geoffrey Kelly, who is the lead investigator in the case and a member of the Art Crime Team. “In the past, people who realize they are in possession of stolen art have returned the art in a variety of ways, including through third parties, attorneys, and anonymously leaving items in churches or at police stations.” Tips may also be submitted online at https://tips.fbi.gov. 
The publicity campaign announced today includes a dedicated FBI webpage on the Gardner Museum theft, video postings on FBI social media sites, publicity on digital billboards in Philadelphia region, and a podcast. To view and listen to these items, visit the FBI’s new webpage about the theft: www.FBI.gov/gardner.



June 30, 2012

Anthony Amore Discussing "Stealing Rembrandts" on "It's a Crime" Saturday afternoon on the radio

Anthony Amore, Security Director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and co-author of "Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists", will be on "It's a Crime" on Saturday, June 30, at 1:00 p.m. The live radio show is hosted by Margaret McLean, an attorney and author of the legal thriller Under Fire (2011, Tor Forge McMillan). Here's a link to the program. "Stealing Rembrandts", written by Amore and journalist Tom Mashberg, will be released in paperback on July 3.