A reader pinged me the other day asking for an update on the Gardner heist, and with the 24th anniversary of the theft coming up in a few days, here are a few developments. I’ve cribbed in places from earlier posts here and elsewhere.
The Bulger angle. Whitey Bulger was arrested in 2012. He does not appear to have made any mention of the art to prosecutors before or after his recent trial, and in the end, there are not any concrete clues of a Bulger angle to the Gardner heist. All of Bulger’s old associates—Stevie Flemmi, Kevin Weeks, John Martorano—have turned state’s witness, and not one of them ever fingered Bulger for the museum robbery. In all of the Bulger wiretaps and court documents and surveillance records, there has never been any mention of the paintings, either.
To be sure, I imagine it’s possible 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 in the end, he has no idea where the art is today.
The David Turner angle. Since my book came out, there’s new evidence tying David Turner and the crew of Carmello Merllino/TRC Auto to the robbery. In my book, I present some evidence that Boston mobster David Turner was one of the Gardner thieves and suggest that George Reissfelder was his accomplice.
After my book was published, more evidence came out that implicated Reissfelder, and the Boston Herald interviewed George Reissfelder’s brother, Richard, and Richard claims that he saw one of the stolen Gardner paintings in George’s apartment. I’ve heard recently that Turner is shopping around a book proposal. No new additional evidence on the whereabouts of the actual paintings, though.
Robert Gentile angle. Among Gardner observers, there’s a theory that the paintings went from the Turner/Merlino/TRC crew to a bank robber named Bobby Gurente. One theory is that Gurente then passed the paintings to Robert Gentile. Gentile is a member of organized crime, and the FBI recently raided Gentile’s home. They found nothing. Gentile spent some time in prison. He got out in January, and he doesn’t seem to be giving up any information.
This is perhaps the most promising lead in recent years, but excitement here has slowed as Gentile has not come forward with the art. This Hartford Courant article gives a great summary of Gentile and his alleged connection to the stolen paintings.
Last year, the FBI announced that they also believe that the art went down to the Philadelphia area. (The idea is that the paintings moved through the organized crime network that goes up and down the Northeast.) The Boston Globe sums it up well: The FBI believes “the paintings have changed hands several times, making their way through organized crime circles from Boston to Connecticut and Philadelphia, where some of the art was offered for sale as recently as a decade ago.”
When it comes to the public playing a role in the case, this might be the best hope for the art to come forward. In other words, we need to continue to dream of someone in the New Jersey/Philadelphia area of calling in a new tip about the whereabouts of the stolen art. And I really do believe that the lost masterpieces will come back to the Gardner museum. It might take years, decades, maybe even a century, but soon or later, the paintings will go back to the museum’s walls. Because in the world of art theft, hope springs eternal for good reason—it often takes years for stolen artworks to come back.
If anyone has any information on the Gardner heist, they can call my toll-free hotline 1-888-292-9380 or email me. They can also contact the Gardner museum’s Anthony Amore. He also collects tips. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 617 278 5114.