New leads in the theft of art from a Boston museum?
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – The chief investigator of a Boston museum still working to recover $500 million worth of art stolen in 1990 said Thursday he hoped new leads would emerge after the death of a very guarded figure in the case.
A Connecticut mobster who died last week, Robert Gentile, was long suspected of at one time possessing some of the pieces taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the greatest art theft in history. He denied playing any part in or having knowledge of the location of the paintings until the end of his life.
But Anthony Amore, who is also the museum’s director of security, said investigators weren’t fully focused on Gentile.
“An interesting thing is that when masterpieces like these are stolen, they are often recovered and often this happens a generation or two after the heist,” Amore said in an interview. “And sometimes it’s because someone dies or the relationship breaks up. And maybe with the passing of Mr. Gentile, someone will feel free to speak up about what they know. It’s guesswork. It is a speech full of hope.
Massachusetts Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Mendell said his office encourages anyone with information to contact the FBI.
The museum, which is offering a $10 million reward for information leading to the artwork’s recovery, is conducting its investigation alongside and in partnership with the FBI, Amore said.
On March 18, 1990, two men posing as Boston police officers entered the museum, telling a security guard they were responding to a report of a disturbance, authorities said. The guard and a colleague were handcuffed and locked in the basement while the thieves fled with the 13 works of art.
Missing pieces include Rembrandt’s only known seascape, “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” and Vermeer’s “The Concert,” one of less than 40 known paintings by the 17th-century Dutch painter.
Federal authorities described Gentile as a person of interest, saying he spoke about the stolen paintings. His home outside Hartford was searched.
Robert Fisher, who worked on the investigation as a member of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston until 2016, said the investigation likely determined everything there was to know about Gentile’s possible role. .
“To me, I thought if he really knew or had any information about the paintings he allegedly dropped before he died, especially since the reward was now $10 million,” Fisher said. “If the theory was that he had access to paintings, he was likely to show up when he was in jail and out of jail and very sick.”
An FBI spokeswoman in Boston, Kristen Setera, said her investigation remains active.
“We vigorously investigate every tip we receive,” Setera said.