Gardner Museum Heist: 27th Anniversary Story: The True Story; Not the FBI’s One 8/8

Gardner MuseumEveryone agrees heiress is fine woman and SOB an SOB. As Al pushes on he finds out that SOB went to a big wedding on a private island in the Mediterranean. There he met a guy names Pops who owns the island. He leads him down secret passages to a hidden room. In there Pops shows him a violin that had been stolen years earlier. Pops tells SOB he is a middleman for art and tells him he has a buyer for some of the specific works at the Gardner and if Al can get it then he’ll make Al a rich man.

Al thinks it over and does not commit. In the meantime it will turn out Pops is an undercover cop or informant who was trying to set Al up. But Al doesn’t know this and he goes back to Boston, calls in his nephews and son and the four of them lay down the plans for the robbery.

One of the group is a computer expert who will be able to infiltrated the system so that he is not discovered and shut down the appropriate alarms; the other is a medical doctor geneticist who is able to befriend the night watchman at the museum who is also a musician. He will do this at some of his band sessions, tell him he might have genius genes, and discuss his DNA and heritage in late night visits to the museum; and the other is a professional surgeon who willingly goes along. All are facing financial difficulties at the time (school loans, etc.).

They have a dry run the night before. The night of the crime four of them show up, two are well disguised, they pull off the job without a hitch, bring the paintings to a house nearby that one has rented, reach out for Pops and they learn he is undercover. They then plan to return the paintings for the insurance only to find out there is no insurance. They write 1994 letter asking for 2.4 million and immunity from prosecution. Then realizing the FBI can’t be trusted so they go underground.

In the meantime all become successful in their enterprises so the money means less to them. One night in the hotel across the street while the four are discussing their next moves the heiress comes in and realizes they pulled off the job. They know how much she loves the world of art and would betray them in a New York second so they toss her off the balcony after stripping her of all but her shoes.

Al suggests he has told the FBI and Gardner his theory. They are not buying it. As I surmise it he knows the true names of all involved.  Al should understand that the FBI is so far down the wrong path it is as lost as is the stolen art work.

I’m intrigued that Al and I have both disregarded the things the FBI relies on. I was also interested in the story of Pops. I would also have a Pops in my theory, a middleman who has a customer. Where we part I believe there was a Pops who never was caught and never had to work for cops. My Pops would also have his favorite thieves carry out the job. He would never have trusted a stranger by showing him a stolen violin or expect an amateur could pull off the Gardner job.

After Gentile dies the FBI should give up the chase of Mafia types. With none of that type left to focus on it will have to admit it never knew the names of the thieves. It was all a big FBI ruse.

Most likely at that point it will abandon the search because of the enormous error of its ways. On the off-chance that it wants to suck it up and admit it has been wrong for 27 years I’ll give it a big clue. Start with the realization that none of the art work has been recovered not even those with little value as the eagle ornament on top of the flag staff.  What does it conclude from that?

My conclusion is that if hoodlums stole the art it no longer exists having been destroyed a long time ago; if my theory is right it is in the palace of some Arabian sheikh who loves horses; if Al is right it is the U.S. and can be recovered in tact with some due diligence and hard work.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.



6 thoughts on “Gardner Museum Heist: 27th Anniversary Story: The True Story; Not the FBI’s One 8/8

  1. Matt, you say the FBI is relying too much on informants in the Gardner case but I think you just assume that because that is, in your view, a longstanding problem with the FBI, especially during that era. You do not offer any evidence to support your assertion that this is what happened in this particular case.

    The FBI has not stated publicly it spoke to any of its informants about the Gardner Heist. It has only said the it worked leads that came in. The Globe reported that Connolly wrote to a reporter stating that he had been asked by the FBI if he could talk to Bulger after he retired, so implicitly, according to Connolly the first time he asked Bulger about the Gardner Heist was at least six months after the robbery.

    Last year Robert Luisi told the Globe that Robert Guarente had claimed to know where the paintings were and he then asked Luisi if he knew where he could sell them. This was in the late nineties. Luisi was arrested in 1999 and agreed to cooperate against mobsters from Boston to Philadelphia, but changed his mind, serving 15 years instead. Guarente died in 2004 at age 64. Eight years later, the FBI asked Luisi if he knew anything about Guerente having the paintings. Why did it take 13 years for the FBI to ask Luisi about the Gardner Heist? He had already started the process of cooperating.

    We only have news stories about the FBI not talking to informants in a timely manner, and no news stories about them reaching out to anyone when the trail was fresh.

    So we really don’t have any evidence that investigators have over-relied on informants in trying to “solve” the Gardner Heist and the repetition of that assertion does not make it an established fact.

    We know the FBI says it had received a lot of leads and had faithfully followed up on them, but we have only their word on that and again the only news reports we have are of people who claim the FBI did not follow up with them enough. The security guard Rick Abath said on StoryCorp that one day he wasn’t on anybody’s radar and the next day he was on everybody’s radar. But has he ever complained of harassment or an invasion of his privacy from being on everybody’s radar. Abath claims the FBI came up to see him in Brattleboro, VT and told him they had never eliminated him as a suspect.

    They had to tell him that? Wouldn’t they have made their suspicions known and felt over those two decades following the robbery if he was still a suspect, Wouldn’t he have heard from old friends that investigators had been asking about him. Something?

    We don’t even know if the Feds relied on informants too much to eradicate the local Mafia. Whatever it was they did, it worked. They were getting some quality information from somewhere. Maybe they overcompensated the informants, didn’t strike a good bargain, or maybe corrupt agents allowed people to get away with crimes using their status as informants as a smokescreen. Or it could be the Feds engaged in selective enforcement, looking the other way at non-Mafia gang activity so that rival gangs would have an advantage in going head-to-head against the Mafia for control of territory and market share, cutting off their supply lines of cash, and THEY used the informant program as a smokescreen.

    There was a terrible toll, I am not discounting that. I am just saying that it might not have been the use of informants per se, but the protocols in place for working with informants, the oversight of people entrusted with this responsibility, and possibly the use of informant status as cover, an excuse, for a strategy of targeting the mafia by not targeting their rivals

    You are relying on Al as your informant and Al is relying on Pops as his informant to support this theory. Al should go to the NYPD Cold Case squad about the heiress who was thrown off the balcony. That is a crime, a murder, that does not depend on the interest of the FBI or the Gardner Museum for an investigation of the parties involved.

    1. This was and always will be a “local” crime. FYI – The heiress was thrown off a Boston area balcony and the swag never town.

  2. Good tale, Matt.

    I have heard, on GREAT authority, seven different stories about the job. The one I think has the most credibility is the one where the paintings were stored improperly and were ruined. It was an accident and the complete destruction of the stolen property would, for the most part, absolve the thieves of conviction, if it ever came to that. A word spoken in jail between inmates has the same believability as words spoken between politicians. None. It can’t be used because of the other words spoken over the centuries that make any words that come from those sources incredible. Or non-credible, if you will.

    If any of that art work shows up I will be amazed and, for the most part, uninterested.

  3. Fabulous job, Matt. I am also privy to information you cleverly disguised in your piñata.
    Now the question remains… Can anyone, including but not limited to the FBI… even though blindfolded for 27 years, take a Citgo swing at the solution?

  4. Steve T told me an elderly master-thief from Worcester, whom he did time with at FCI Oxford, was one of those responsible. Unfortunately, Tomb passed a few months ago without ever giving me a name. The Worcester guy’s probably dead by now, too.

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