Tuesday, March 19, 2013

LOCAL NEWS: FBI says it has identified the thieves in Gardner heist

In a stunning development, federal law enforcement officials said today they had identified the people who stole $500 million worth of masterworks from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

The officials also said they had tracked the paintings’ movements after they were sold, but they did not know where they are now and were appealing to the public for their help.

“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 Philly 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, the special agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI said in a statement.

Deslauriers said that after the attempted sale of the paintings about a decade ago, the FBI did not know where the paintings had gone.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t identified where they are right now and that’s why we are coming to the public for their help,” Geoff Kelly, the special agent who spearheaded the investigation in the Boston office, said in a statement.

The FBI said that it was continuing its search both in and beyond the Connecticut and Philadelphia areas and launching a public awareness campaign that would include outreach through both billboards and the Internet.

“With this announcement, we want to widen the aperture of awareness of this crime to the reach of the American public and others around the world,” said Deslauriers.

Law enforcement officials have been puzzled for years by the 1990 heist.

The Globe recently reported that investigators, after years of frustration, are focusing on evidence that former museum night watchman Richard Abath may have been in on the crime — or may know more about it than he has admitted.


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