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 1:20 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
The beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by ISIS militants brings into focus the risks faced by reporters in conflict zones.
updated 8:24 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
About $35,000 was taken from the bank accounts of four passengers on board Flight 370.
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Five survivors of acid attacks capture India's attention with a "ground breaking" photo shoot.
updated 1:32 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
The execution of a journalist by a British-accented jihadist is a direct challenge to the international community. It's time for the U.S. to move, writes Frida Ghitis.
updated 8:19 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
In an exclusive CNN interview, Lance Armstrong admits to having a "f**k you" attitude.
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Summer isn't over yet. These new hotels are keeping it alive and fresh.
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
You've seen her turn on the catwalk, but her income might make your head spin.
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
The pain that Michael Brown's parents are going through is something Sybrina Fulton can relate to. She, too, lost a son in a controversial shooting.
updated 5:04 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
19-year-old Udi Segal explains why he won't join the country's military.
Drinkers guzzled an incredible 10.3 billion liters of this brand in 2013, making it the world's No.1 beer. And you may have never heard of it.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT