James "Whitey" Bulger, the infamous Boston mobster, was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday night. He had been on the run for 16 years, despite appearing on America’s Most Wanted a dozen times with a $2 million reward for his capture.
But will his arrest lead to the return of the Gardner art? I don't believe Bulger has access to the Gardner art. The museum does not have any information tying him to the case either. Indeed, there aren't any concrete clues of a Bulger angle. All of Bulger’s old associates—Stevie Flemmi, Kevin Weeks, Pat Nee, John Martorano—have turned state’s witness, and not one of them had ever fingered Bulger for the museum robbery. In all of the Bulger wiretaps and court documents and surveillance records, there had never been any mention of the paintings.
To be sure, I imagine it's possilbe that Bulger made some phone calls after he learned of the theft and it's certainly possible that he knows--or thinks he may know--who did rob the museum. But really I think the more important take-home of this all is that publicity makes a tremendous difference, even decades after the crime was committed.
In other words, one great Boston crime mystery has been solved. If the musuem and the FBI keep up the publicity--and they been doing a great job over the past few years--there will be just one more mystery to go.