Nearing 30 years after the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, the search is still on for the missing masterpieces — and now the reward has been doubled.
The museum's board of trustees announced Tuesday that it is doubling from $5 million to $10 million the reward for information leading to the return of the 13 stolen artworks.
The announcement came a day after the feds arrested a West Virginia man who had offered to sell some of the paintings on Craigslist. He was bluffing about having the paintings and is now charged with wire fraud.
Museum officials said that raising the reward was unrelated to that event. The new reward comes with an expiration date, though. The increased offer is only available until midnight on Dec. 31, 2017.
“These works of art were purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner for the ‘education and enjoyment of the public forever,’" said Steve Kidder, president of the Gardner Museum’s board, in a statement. “It is our fervent hope that by increasing the reward, our resolve is clear that we want the safe return of the works to their rightful place and back in public view.”
This isn't the first time that the reward has been raised in hopes of recovering the valuable works. The paintings were stolen on March 18, 1990, in what is the largest property crime in U.S. history.
In 1997, the museum increased the reward money from $1 million to $5 million, making it the largest private reward in the world, according to the museum.
"Twenty years later, the announcement of a $10 million reward sends a strong message that museum officials are serious about their commitment to bring the works back," the museum said in a statement.
The doubling of the reward was under discussion for a year and approved by the museum's board on Tuesday.
The stolen artworks include works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Manet and Degas. The 13 missing pieces are worth an estimated $500 million. "The Concert" is only one of 36 total paintings by Vermeer and "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" marks Rembrandt's only seascape, according to the museum, and both are among "the most valuable stolen objects in the world."
Museum officials are looking to hear from anyone with information about the paintings' whereabouts.
“We encourage anyone with information to contact the museum directly, and we guarantee complete confidentiality,” said Anthony Amore, the museum’s security director, in a statement. “This offer is a sign that our investigation remains active. Our hope is that anyone with knowledge that might further our work will come forward.”
Though it's been 27 years since the artworks were stolen, museum officials remain hopeful.
“Typically stolen masterpieces are either recovered soon after a theft or a generation later,” Amore said. “We remain optimistic that these works will ultimately be recovered.”
Anyone with information can contact Amore at 617-278-5114 or by emailing email@example.com.