New England’s Unsolved: 30 years later, $500M worth of art remains missing

On March 18, 1990, two thieves ripped some of the most valuable works of art in the world from the walls of a small museum in Boston. After 30 years, the reward has grown but the questions remain unanswered. Where are the artworks?

BOSTON — It's been 30 years since the notorious Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist in Boston and still those works of art valued at $500 million dollars are missing.

New England's Unsolved has been covering this heist for nearly 25 of those years and the museum gave Boston 25 News unprecedented access to see how they are marking the milestone.

Questions remain unanswered: Was the heist an inside job? Who has it now?

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"It's a mystery that has so many mysteries within it, makes it so tough to investigate," Gardner Museum Security Director Anthony Amore said in the very room where the theives stole many of the masterpieces.

Massive empty frames on the walls of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's Dutch Room have stood empty now for exactly thirty years.

They once held masterpieces, but on the orders of Gardner's will, they can't be filled with anything but their original works.

Amore walked through the Gardner with Boston 25 News, following the steps of the fake Boston cops who, on March 18, 1990, talked their way into the museum, overpowered two security guards, and stole 13 precious pieces of art that are still missing today.

"The frame was taken down, put on the floor, basically in front of where it was hung," Amore explained. "And one of the thieves went to work, cutting it out with what I think was probably like a box cutter or razor knife."

The two thieves had the run of the Gardner for 81 minutes.

Their haul included works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, Manet and more.

“The idea they came into a museum and spent 81 minutes tells you they knew the police weren’t coming,” Amore said. “They were very comfortable in what they were doing.”

Over 30 years, investigators say the evidence shows the stolen Gardner art came under the control of local mobsters, who moved the art from Boston to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale on the black market in 2002.

Brian Kelly is a former federal prosecutor who handled the Gardner investigation.

"I think, really, it was local criminals who saw an opportunity to steal some items that they thought were valuable, they didn't know how valuable," Former Federal Prosecutor Brian Kelly said. "It's the last big remaining unsolved crime in Boston, if not the country."

To this day, not a single item stolen in the Gardner theft has been located.

But no one is giving up.

"This crime isn't gong to be solved by an arm chair detective," Amore said. "It's going to be solved by a person who decides it's time to provide the missing link in this case."

There's a $10 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the art.

There's much more to this crime and the years of investigation that followed.

Join Boston 25 News Friday night at 10:30 p.m. for a New England’s Unsolved In Depth Special.

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