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Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Paintings 'Must Be Returned' to Fenway, Says US Attorney

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Paintings ‘Must Be Returned’ to Fenway, Says US Attorney – Fenway-Kenmore, MA Patch

http://fenwaykenmore.patch.com/articles/isabella-stewart-gardner-museum-paintings-must-be-returned-to-fenway-says-fbi

March 19, 2013

By Sara Jacobi Email the author March 18, 2013

FBI officials announced on Monday they know who committed one of the biggest art heists in history, but they still need the public’s help to locate the 13 missing pieces of art. 

The announcement came on the 23rd anniversary of the heist at Fenway’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where thieves posing as police officers lifted now-considered priceless pieces of art by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Govaert Flinck, among others. 

Since 23 years have gone by, the statute of limitations on the original crime has passed, meaning officials can only press charges related to the theft, such as possession of stolen property charges against those currently harboring the paintings.

But the threat of an arrest or charges is tempered by a $5 million reward for a tip leading to the successful recovery of the paintings, or potential immunity from criminal prosecution. 

Progress on tracking the works of art has ramped up over the last few years, officials said. 

“The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence in the years after the theft the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft,”  said Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston FBI office. “With that same confidence we have identified the thieves who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England.” 

Officials believe the art was smuggled into Connecticut and eventually made its way into Philadelphia. At that point, the trail for the missing masterpieces goes cold. The FBI believes an organized-crime organization based in the mid-Atlantic states coordinated the crime.

To help keep the public in the process, the bureau launched a new Gardner heist website. The site features sketches of the thieves, images of the lost art, background on the crime and information for anyone who want to contact the FBI with new information about the crime.

“I have a great desire to get those paintings back, so that Mrs. Gardner’s wishes can be fulfilled,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

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