Gardner Museum art thieves' identities known, FBI says

Gardner Museum art thieves' identities known, FBI says

BOSTON ( – The Federal Bureau of Investigation has announced a break in the theft of up to $500 million worth of art from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

On Monday, the FBI said it believe it knows the identity of the thieves involved in the 1990 heist and that they're connected to a criminal organization with a base in the Mid-Atlantic States and New England. The thieves' identities were not released, however.

Richard DesLauriers, the FBI's special agent in charge in Boston, says authorities believe the art was taken to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region in the years after the theft, and offered for sale in Philadelphia about a decade ago.

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The theft happened when two people posing as police officers fooled security guards into believing they were there for a legitimate reason before locking the guards in the museum's basement and making off with the stolen objects, FBI Special Agent Geoff Kelly says in another of the website's videos.

He says the FBI has tracked leads into Europe and Asia during a more than two-decade investigation into the crime on March 18, 1990.

Kelly says authorities realize that, after so many years, the art could be in the hands of people who had nothing to do with the crime and may not even know the objects were stolen.

The FBI said knowledge of the whereabouts of the art is limited.

DesLauriers says the statute of limitations has passed for the crime of art theft, and authorities are focused on recovering the art. He calls the heist one of the largest art thefts in U.S. history.

Investigators said they planned to try to solve the art heist by using similar tactics to the ones that led to the capture of reputed gangster James "Whitey" Bulger. In the Bulger case, authorities used targeted billboards, TV commercials and other ads to try to find Bulger and his girlfriend.

Authorities say the Gardner campaign would reintroduce the public to the 13 stolen works, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet.

Monday is the 23rd anniversary of the heist.

There's a $5 million reward in the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.