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FBI lead investigator of Gardner heist retiring, speaks of recent potential sightings of stolen art

BOSTON — Boston FBI Special Agent Geoff Kelly is calling it a career.

After 28 years at the Bureau, 22 of them heading up the FBI’s investigation of the Gardner Museum Art Heist, Kelly is moving on.

“How does it feel to be retiring, to be ending this chapter of your professional life?” Boston 25 News Reporter Bob Ward asked.

“It’s bittersweet,” Sp. Agent Kelly said.

He’s had many successes, including the recovery of Japanese art stolen 80 years ago, and even the recovery of New England Patriot Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey, but the Gardner Heist remains unsolved.

“It feels like something missing in my career, I’ve had a great career and good successes. But that is something that I would have loved to have the opportunity to bring the paintings back,” Kelly said.

The legendary Gardner Heist took place early in the morning of March 18, 1990.

Thirteen works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and others were stolen.

“Do you think we’ll ever find the stolen art from the Gardner Museum?” Ward asked.

“Absolutely,” Kelly said.

Special Agent Kelly says the FBI knows who pulled off the Gardner Heist and how it went down.

But the question remains: where is the artwork?

The FBI believes, Boston mobsters stole the artwork and then moved it through New England to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale on the black market in 2002.

In 2014 Sp. Agent Kelly said that’s where the trail ran cold, but now he says there are new leads and new possible sightings.

“There are speculative sightings that are not corroborated that would have been much more recent, like a couple of years,” Kelly said.

When asked if he thinks the artwork is still all together, Kelly was not optimistic.

“I don’t, to be honest with you,” Kelly said. “There are some pieces that we’ve seen, where we have information that they’ve been seen, and then there are other pieces that have been a mystery since March 18, 1990.”

The FBI believes the key to finding the Gardner artwork may be in the stolen art’s lesser-known works, if those are returned it could lead to more.

The Gardner Museum is offering a $10 million reward.

The Museum issued this statement: “The Gardner Museum is deeply grateful to Agent Kelly for his tireless efforts over the last two decades on our behalf. We’ve benefitted in many ways from his unique skills as a founding member of the FBI’s Art Crime Team. We wish him and his family much happiness as he begins the next phase of his career, and will always consider him a part of the Gardner Museum family.”

Agent Kelly says, even in retirement, he’ll be keeping a close eye on what’s happening with the Gardner Museum Heist investigation.

If you have any information about the whereabouts about the stolen Gardner Museum artwork, contact the Boston FBI, or the Gardner Museum.

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