Rick Abbath: Gardner museum guard breaks his silence in CNN documentary

Rick Abbath was one of the two guards on duty the night the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was robbed of $500 million worth of art. Photo Credit: CNN
Rick Abbath was one of the two guards on duty the night the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was robbed of $500 million worth of art. Credit: CNN

For the first time since letting two thieves into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 23 years ago, Rick Abbath, one of the watchmen, is dishing on what happened the night of the infamous heist.

Abbath is featured in 81 Minutes: Inside the Greatest Art Heist in History, a CNN documentary that is already online, but is set to air Friday at 10 p.m, according to an announcement on Anderson Cooper 360′s blog: “CNN’s Randi Kaye has the story of how thieves were able to pull off the biggest art heist in history. In an exclusive interview, Rick Abbath, one of the night watchmen on duty the evening of the crime 23 years ago, talks about what happened inside the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.”

The documentary comes just days after FBI agents said they know who was behind the 1990 art heist, but they’re not releasing names as they believe it will hinder the investigation. Feds did, however, offer $5 million and potential immunity to anyone who may have been involved in the crime and can assist in the recovery of the stolen masterpieces.

Abbath tells Kaye, “The [thief dressed as a cop] that was dealing with me turned to me and said, ‘Don’t I know you? Don’t I recognize you? I think there’s a warrant out for your arrest. Can you step out from behind the desk?’” Abbath obliged, saying he stepped away from the security desk, and the museum’s panic button.

The thieves cuffed Abbath and his partner within seconds, “and very dramatically said, ‘Gentlemen, this is a robbery.’”

They made off with 13 works of art, estimated to be worth $500 million.

Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, said agents have a “high degree of confidence” that they know who stole the paintings, committing the largest property crime in history, though he did not identify the suspects. The FBI did say, though, that the men are believed to belong to a criminal organization with a base in New England and the mid-Atlantic area.

Watch CNN’s documentary below:

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


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