Art heist probe comes to city
By Mark LaFlamme , Staff Writer
Thursday, February 26, 2009
LEWISTON – This city for a time was the focus of an investigation into one of the most notorious art heists in history, officials said Wednesday.
The FBI confirmed that its agents have searched a Lewiston home looking for clues to the 1990 theft of more than $300 million in artwork from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Special Agent Gail Marcinkiewicz said Wednesday that recent information about the heist led agents to Lewiston where they searched a home last year. She did not say where that home was located.
The search didn’t yield any clues to the 1990 theft from the Boston museum, Marcinkiewicz said. However, the FBI is considering other homes in Central Maine as a possible link to the theft.
Investigators came to Lewiston after an inmate at a Massachusetts prison told the FBI that a man he had served time with was a mob associate who admitted to taking part in the heist. The inmate who came forward said he was told the artwork had been given to a Maine man for safekeeping, according to The Boston Globe.
According to the FBI, the mob associate has since died and the agency has not been able to corroborate the information.
For nearly two decades, the theft has remained unsolved. It has been so long, in fact, that the statute of limitations has run out, meaning the suspects could conceivably avoid prosecution.
Marcinkiewicz said the FBI could not offer immunity to anyone who comes forward to admit to a role in the heist. However, she did say that a person who wanted to confess would not find a better time to do so.
To some, it seems more likely that the case might be solved by an uninvolved person with information about the suspects. The Gardner Museum has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the artwork, which includes three Rembrandts and works from Degas and Manet.
The theft was committed March 18, 1990, by thieves dressed as Boston police officers, who entered the museum and stole 13 pieces of art.
On the museum Web site, Director Anne Hawley said of the heist: “These rare and important treasures of art need to be returned to the Gardner Museum so that they can be enjoyed again by the public. While people often talk about the monetary value of art, the value of these objects goes far beyond dollars and cents.”
In Lewiston, police did not know the address of the home that was searched by the FBI.