Gardner Museum Heist – FBI Folly Forgetting First Facts and Following Fake Footprints. 4 of 4

Hoover with Machine GunFBI convinces itself that Guarente got the art from Merlino and he gave it to Luisi. Luisi denies ever seeing the art but says Guarente told him he buried it under a concrete floor in Florida. Luisi did time and is now born again; Guarente did time and died in prison; that leaves Gentile, 80 years old.

Keep in mind this is all pure conjecture based on Myles Connor speculation as to who committed the heist. Not one piece of physical evidence supports the theory. It is all hearsay of one gangster telling what he heard another gangster tell; or even an undercover FBI agent listening to a gangster in his cups,

How bad does it get. Here’s a May 2016 report: FBI agents Monday were at the home of gangster Robert “Bobby the Cook” Gentile, the top person of interest in the quarter-century effort to recover masterpieces stolen from Boston‘s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Agents set up a tent in the front yard of the Frances Drive home, where they have previously spent time digging. . . .  Agents arrived in about 15 cars, with two search dogs and three trucks with heavy equipment. . . .  By midafternoon, agents focused their attention on the west side of the house near the chimney. They tore what appeared to be a vent pipe off the side of the house and pulled off part of the siding. They also began digging on the lawn near the base of the chimney with shovels and rakes.”

Gentile is in prison awaiting trial. The FBI is trying to squeeze him for information on the art. He denies he has any. Do you think he wants to be locked up if he had a chance to get out?

As you can see from a Myles Connor fantasy the FBI created their own Gardner Wonderland and like Alice in her Wonderland has wandered about chasing after rumors believing some local hoodlums did the job. Their theory depends upon a dozen or more people having information about the art but preferring to do heavy time rather than talk about it.

Connor knows you grab art work to use it as a bargaining chip to keep yourself out of prison. Any street guy would tell you that you don’t do time if you have something to keep you out. The FBI by going down the route it has been following has about as much chance of getting the Gardner art work back as waiting for the next rainbow and finding the art work at its end.

There are much better suspects out there. I’ve been told of a couple or three. Too bad the FBI isn’t interested. One reason is it has already announced it knows who did the robbery. To go back would be embarrassing and the FBI would rather be wrong than embarrassed.

Before the FBI starts digging under concrete floors in Florida it needs to accept one thing: if these hoodlums had possession of the art work it is ruined by now if all the rumors of how it was stored and bandied about are true. If that is the case why continue to search.

The FBI must go back and start all over although I would suggest it is twenty years too late to do it. It should look at the case as involving professional thieves who specialized in taking specific art pieces for a people ready to buy them.

The FBI’s problem is it is a lazy group that relies too much on informants and cooperating witnesses who it squeezes for information and extracts it through duress. Its method is to tell them “give me something on someone and I’ll give you a break.”

Substantially uncorroborated Informants are notoriously unreliable. They are often worse than the people they give evidence against. Using them creates the kind of chaos we have seen in its investigation of the Gardner robbery.  It  can do better; it must do better.


3 thoughts on “Gardner Museum Heist – FBI Folly Forgetting First Facts and Following Fake Footprints. 4 of 4

  1. Matt, Thank you for doing this four part series.

    If you look at the coverage over the last five years, I think you see a government investigative team that if nothing else is willing to accept (invite) operating with more than a little egg on their face. They seem be trying to achieve the benefits of crowd sourcing while at the same time keeping the public in the dark on key points. In pursuing this contradictory strategy they have taken a huge public relations hit and probably knew or at least understand now, that this is the price to be paid for taking this road.

    The Gardner surveillance video released one year ago tomorrow and the three visits to the Gentile home in Manchester, CT certainly, have not put the Feds in a positive light. And most especially their statement we-know-who-the-robbers-are-we’re-just-not-saying, beginning is 2013, was an open invitation for universal scorn. (I did my share.)

    Surely, they were aware of the fallout prior to saying this. I really don’t think they were trying to take a bow before a gullible segment of the public by saying they know who did it, without naming names. Though I don’t claim to know what the motivation is in putting this out.

    One consideration is that in withholding the identity of the people involved, if they are alive, they are holding onto a huge potential bargaining chip that they may not want to give up, just to keep the public in the loop and sell newspapers. The people who did this surely don’t want it to be known that this is the case. Withholding that information might well foster greater cooperation.

    And if investigators are willing to take this public relations hit to their own team, then I don’t think they are trying to cover for the people from back in 1990 who are all gone now.

    Today the crowd sourcing component of the investigation seems to be completely shut down (and then some by a country mile). This has left the Boston Globe to report pretty much any old thing they want, and then the rest of the media follows suit, hiding behind whatever the Globe reports, and with only a no-comment in return from Gardner investigators.

    For example on 12/28/15 the Globe ran an article called “Latest search for Gardner paintings came up empty” The story here was that the FBI had requested and received permission to search for the paintings at Suffolk Downs in October of 2015. The racetrack was closed for a couple of years, starting two months before the Gardner Heist.

    Of course the FbI would want to make their search request as sweeping as possible, and saying they’re looking for the painting is one way to get people’s attention and full cooperation.

    But it’s quite doubtful that the FBI actually expected to find the stolen paintings there.
    Suffolk Downs is so close to Logan, it serves the airport as overflow parking. And Suffolk Downs was like a busy convention center for streetwise toughs. Nobody would keep paintings there for a quarter of a century.

    But what might be possible is that somebody said that the paintings were hidden there for a short time, before being shipped out, and that what the Feds were really hoping to find were paint chips or other physical evidence that the paintings had been there at some time.

    Maybe they even found something and just aren’t saying. I’m pretty sure the FBI does not have Stephen Kurkjian on speed dial. In fact I don’t see anywhere that anyone involved in the investigation has spoken with Kurkjian, on the record, about the case since 2010, long before his book came out. Although his book, Master Thieves does describe a meeting he had with investigators about people who may have been involved.

    In another article last year, “Gardner heist video brings in tips, but no solid leads” from November 23, 2015, the Globe reported. “Though it has been discounted by investigators, one of the more promising possibilities put forward is that the man in the footage was Lawrence P. O’Brien.”

    It has been discounted by investigators, how can it also be promising? The Globe acts as if it is running a parallel investigation on an equal footing with the FBI. It then goes to report the very flimsy reasons why it could be the now deceased Lawrence O’Brien, which O’Brien’s brother, David DISPUTES. Two other co-workers and friends of O’Brien also disagree that the person in the video is O’Brien.

    The article leaves out that O’Brien is a Viet Nam veteran and a retired Lt. Col. And that on the morning of March 18th O’Brien was at the museum in just ten minutes after the morning shift arrived to locked doors and called him.

    It’s impossible that this conscientious ex-senior army officer was either a co-conspirator or somehow forgot that he had been to the museum the previous night; that he drove the wrong way down Palace Rd. in reverse, with the headlights off and parked three feet from the curb as the video shows the visitor doing.

    The article also neglects to mention that one of the four security guards that said that the man in the video looks like Lawrence O’Brien is Marjorie Galas. She happens to be a freelance journalist for Variety. The article reports the occupations of all of the other guards, but somehow leaves out that Galas is show biz. The Globe article states that Galas called an FBI tip line and never heard back. What does that tell you?

    The Globe condemns Donald Trump, and rightly so, for getting into a quarrel with a Gold Star family, but they have no compunction about discrediting a Somerville, MA hero, who was very helpful to Globe reporters in reporting on the robbery over the years. The Globe has a sense of gratitude of Trumpian proportions.

    Just last night, Kurkjian was in studio with Dan Rea on WBZ Nightside in a co-broadcast with Mafia Capo turned pastor Robert Luisi on the phone. A high profile story came out on 7/26/15 that Luisi told something to Kurkjian that he had already told the FBI four years ago. Luisi held off talking to Kurkjian for his book, which Kurkjian reported in Master Thieves, and instead waited until his own book was out and he could use this old news to generate some publicity for himself.

    Luisi is facilitated in transforming his successful criminal past, his criminal association with Robert Guarente into an asset without contributing anything meaningful into the Gardner Heist investigation.

    With the Boston Globe taking the supermarket tabloid path on the story and the rest of the media going along for the clicks, it is now not only priceless paintings that have been heisted.

    I hope the FBI will either get the paintings back soon or will have the opportunity to take a more direct and leading role in informing the public without compromising the investigation.

    Thanks again Matt!

  2. The 1969 theft of a fabulous Carravaggio from a church in Palermo is still unsolved. Valued at $20 million. The FBI thinks it is still in play somewhere. I think it probable that it was destroyed. I know a few people in the supposed ‘mafia’ in Trapani, they said it was destroyed long ago, although one guy said it wasn’t destroyed but is now hanging in a room in Riyadh. But of course our Saudi allies wouldn’t allow that.


    Over the years, a number of ex-Mafia informants have spoken out about Caravaggio’s Nativity. According to one, the thieves who cut the picture from its frame did so much damage that when they presented it to the man who had commissioned the theft, he burst into tears. According to another, the Nativity was hidden for safekeeping in a farm outhouse, where it was gnawed by rats and pigs, and so was burnt.

    “There are many theories about the theft of Caravaggio’s painting,” explains Giovanni Pastore, who worked for the Italian military police’s art squad until his retirement in 2011. “Many of them were based on unreliable rumours or hints given by the police and then fictionalised – almost like novels.”

    So can he tell me anything for certain? “It is a fact that the canvas was taken from its frame,” he says. “Therefore the act was committed with a cutter, or even with a razor blade. I can also tell you that the painting never left Italy, because at the international level there were no rumours. But as for the rest – whether it was destroyed or is still around, etc – there is no evidence, only rumours.”

  3. Hi Matt, A sad tale indeed. And what a calamity for the world of art ! I agree with much of what you’ve said. Starting over is the right thing to do. But how can you do that when you’ve already said you know who committed the crime? We differ on an important point. I think the heist was the work of local thugs who panicked and destroyed the art. This didn’t have to be a legitimate fear that the FBI was about to come knocking. Think of a couple of paranoid junkies with a trove of art they can’t unload. Maybe one of the law enforcement types who reads your blog can shed a little light on the case without betraying any confidences?

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