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The Boston Globe

Nation

FBI has confirmed sightings of Gardner artwork

BOSTON (AP) — The FBI agent in charge of the investigation into the theft of $500 million worth of masterpieces from a Boston museum nearly a quarter century ago says the bureau has confirmed sightings of the missing artwork from credible sources.

The art, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Manet, was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 by two men disguised as city police officers.

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FBI Special Agent Geoff Kelly, the lead investigator, tells WFXT-TV the trail for the missing artwork has not grown cold.

He identified three persons of interest in the Gardner case, all with ties to organized crime: Carmello Merlino, Robert Guarente, and Robert Gentile. Merlino and Guarente have died. Gentile has denied any knowledge of the missing work.

A $5 million reward was offered last March, on the 23rd anniversary of the heist, as part of a broad public campaign the FBI is initiating to raise awareness about the crime and the artworks in hope of a new break in the case. Tips poured in, but no arrests were made.

The latest, exhaustive phase in the inquiry is based on a tip that a caller made to authorities in 2010, according to Anthony Amore, the Gardner Museum’s head of security and chief investigator.

He said in 2013 that the tip was so fruitful — leading to the announcement that investigators know the identities of the thieves and could trace the art from Boston to Connecticut and Philadelphia — that the FBI has since rededicated significant resources to investigating the heist.

“I do believe there are people out there who can give us information that will get us to the paintings,” Amore, who has worked closely with federal investigators, told the Globe last year. He added, “Assistance from the public is essential.”

The theft has captivated the public’s imagination in large part because of the boldness with which it was carried out. Two men dressed as Boston police officers conned their way into the museum in the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, telling the two guards on duty that they were responding to a disturbance.

They tied the guards up with duct tape, left them in a basement, and made their way through the museum, walking off with 13 artworks, including three Rembrandts, a Vermeer, and a Manet. The artworks were valued at $500 million, though they are essentially priceless in that they have become so legendary.

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Related:

Special report: The Gardner theft

Audio: Learn about the stolen masterpieces

Graphic: The thieves’ network

Photos: Scars of the heist

Photos: Heist newspaper coverage

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