FBI finds new Philly ties in decades-old art heist

gardner museum heist composite
FBI. A composite of the 13 artworks stolen, some of which may still be in the Philadelphia area.

The FBI today released new information about a decades-old art heist that connects Philadelphia to the crime.

Thirteen artworks – including rare paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer – were stolen 23 years ago from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in one of the largest property crimes in U.S. history. FBI officials announced today that they know where the stolen art was transported and the identity of its thieves.

“The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence that in the years after the theft, the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region, and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia, where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft,” special agent in charge of the Boston field office Richard DesLauriers said in a statement. “With that same confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the Mid-Atlantic states and New England.”

However, the alleged attempted art sale in Philadelphia took place about 10 years ago and the FBI has only limited knowledge regarding the art’s whereabouts after that. They’re asking for the public’s help in identifying those who possess or know the whereabouts of the 13 stolen works of art.

Investigators continue to search the Connecticut and Philadelphia areas and have launched a publicity campaign including a dedicated FBI webpage, social media outreach, a podcast and ad space on digital billboards in the Philadelphia region. “With this announcement, we want to widen the ‘aperture of awareness’ of this crime to the reach the American public and others around the world,” DesLauriers said.

In addition, a $5 million reward is being offered for the art’s return. “As we have said in the past, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will consider the possibility of immunity from criminal prosecution for information that leads to the return of the paintings based on the set of facts and circumstances brought to our attention,”  U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement. “Our primary goal is, and always has been, to have the paintings returned.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum directly or through a third party, to call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or to submit a tip online.

“In the past, people who realize they are in possession of stolen art have returned the art in a variety of ways, including through third parties, attorneys, and anonymously leaving items in churches or at police stations,” case lead investigator Special Agent Geoffrey Kelly said.

“You don’t have to hand us the paintings to be eligible for the reward,” added museum security chief Anthony Amore.

“We hope that through this media campaign, people will see how earnest we are in our attempts to pay this reward and make our institution whole. We simply want to recover our paintings and move forward. Today marks 23 years since the robbery. It’s time for these paintings to come home.”


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