Skip to main content

FBI: We know who was behind massive 1990 Boston art theft

By Carol Cratty and Jason Hanna, CNN
updated 8:12 PM EDT, Mon March 18, 2013
On March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole 13 priceless works of art. Twelve of the 13 pieces stolen are included in this gallery. Here you see one of five "Gouache" drawings by Edgar Degas. On March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole 13 priceless works of art. Twelve of the 13 pieces stolen are included in this gallery. Here you see one of five "Gouache" drawings by Edgar Degas.
HIDE CAPTION
The search for stolen masterpieces
The search for stolen masterpieces
The search for stolen masterpieces
The search for stolen masterpieces
The search for stolen masterpieces
The search for stolen masterpieces
The search for stolen masterpieces
The search for stolen masterpieces
The search for stolen masterpieces
The search for stolen masterpieces
The search for stolen masterpieces
The search for stolen masterpieces
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The FBI marks 23rd anniversary of huge 1990 art heist with new details of the crime
  • Agency says it has idea who stole artworks from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
  • Works, including some by Vermeer and Degas, were valued at $500 million

(CNN) -- The FBI said Monday it believes it knows who was behind one of the most significant art heists in the United States -- the 1990 theft of 13 precious works, once valued at $500 million, from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

A couple of big catches in the announcement: The FBI didn't reveal the suspects' names, said that the statute of limitations has run out so it can't charge anyone with the theft and that the artwork still hasn't been recovered.

The FBI said the suspects "are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England."

The bureau also said it believes the artwork -- including paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer -- was taken to Connecticut and the Philadelphia area and that the thieves unsuccessfully tried to sell some of the artwork in Philadelphia about 10 years ago.

New leads in $500 million art heist
2012: Alleged mobster's home searched
2012: Alleged mob boss behind heist?

Charges still could be brought in the future against anyone holding the stolen masters. But authorities suggested the possibility of immunity would be considered should someone involved in keeping the art hidden away come forward and help the FBI to recover it.

"After the attempted sale ... the FBI's knowledge of the art's whereabouts is limited," the FBI said in a statement released Monday. At a Boston news conference, reporters pressed the FBI to name the suspected thieves, but officials declined, saying doing so might harm the ongoing investigation.

The announcement comes on the 23rd anniversary of the theft, which the FBI says is one of the largest property crimes in U.S. history.

In March 1990 two men posing as Boston police officers entered the museum in the middle of the night and tied up two watchmen. Among the the stolen items was a painting called "The Concert" by Johannes Vermeer, one of only 34 known paintings by the Dutch artist. Also pilfered were works by Rembrandt, Manet and Degas. Many view this as the single greatest art heist of all time.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said she has visited the Dutch Room at the museum several times and has seen the empty frames where the paintings once hung. "I was reminded of the enormous impact of this theft," said Ortiz. "I do remain optimistic that one day soon the paintings will be returned to their rightful place."

The FBI says it's releasing the new details of the probe in part to remind people of a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the items in good condition. The FBI's publicity effort will include a website devoted to the Gardner Museum robbery and the use of social networks and advertising on digital billboards in the Philadelphia region. Anyone with tip may call the FBI at 800-CALL-FBI or contact the agency online at https://tips.fbi.gov.

Mystery masterpiece revealed as Rembrandt self-portrait

CNN's Devon Sayers and Susan Chun contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:39 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Sean Connery says "yes," whilst David Beckham says "no." See what the famous are saying about Scotland's referendum.
updated 10:51 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
On September 18, Scots go to the polls to vote on the future of their country. Here's what you should know.
updated 11:01 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
This is "Flames of War," a slick and ominous new video from the ISIS media center.
updated 3:03 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
For years, Morten Storm moved between two worlds. A radical Islamist turned double agent is lifting the lid on some of the world's best-kept secrets.
updated 8:38 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
A man abducted alongside killed U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff tells CNN that no one from the U.S. government has tried to talk with him.
updated 11:08 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mulatu Astatke is the founding father of ethio-jazz: a fusion of Ethiopian music with western jazz.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Have you been to these? The global museum list, released Tuesday, ranks 25 of the world's best museums.
updated 1:03 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, comes with new features that you'll enjoy.
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
The Ebola virus, very deadly and currently without a cure, is fast-spreading throughout the small West African country.
updated 9:42 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
It's a surfer's paradise -- but Diah Rahayu is out on her own when it comes to professional women's wave-riding in Bali.
updated 6:04 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT