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Tips on Gardner art theft pouring in, FBI says

FBI officials said today that 25 billboards publicizing the notorious Gardner Museum heist have gone up in the Philadelphia area already, and that tips are starting to pour in in what they hope will be the final chapter in the 23-year-old investigation into one of the most notorious thefts in art history.

“These types of cases are only solved with the assistance of the public,” said Damon Katz, chief counsel for the Boston division of the FBI.

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Katz was speaking a day after the Boston FBI announced that they believe they know who was involved in the heist and that some of the artworks were up for the sale in Philadelphia’s black market as recently as a decade ago. The announcement was the most extensive account to date of the investigation into the stolen artworks.

The FBI, saying that the paintings have changed hands several times in organized crime circles in Connecticut and Philadelphia, also announced that it was embarking on a public awareness campaign in those areas, hoping to publicize the images — and the $5 million reward for their return.

“We really have reached a point in the investigation where the ‘whodunit?’ part is over, and now, where’s the art?” Katz said. “That’s the only thing we’re focused on in this point of this investigation, it’s finding the art with the public’s assistance.”

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Earlier today, Anthony Amore, the museum’s head of security, said that the FBI is confident in the course of its investigation, and that it has dedicated significant resources to tracking down the artwork.

Amore credited a caller with providing information in 2010 that eventually led to Monday’s announcement that investigators know who stole the artwork on March 18, 1990, and tracked some of the paintings to Philadelphia, where the trail went cold.

“Someone did call in with a tip and that tip, plus thousands of man hours, led to where we are today,” Amore said. “Assistance from the public is essential.”

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