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Unsolved Mystery: The Heist of the Century

It was the early morning of March 18th, 1990 in Boston Massachusetts. It was a quiet night for the two guards of duty, that is until two police officers asked to be buzzed in to investigate a disturbance in the museum.

Moments before this moment, a van pulled up to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Inside were two men, identities unknown, dressed in police uniforms. The plan that they had set in place, would work flawlessly.

After the guards on duty broke protocol to let the two “officers” into the building, they were asked to step away from their watch desk. They were then cuffed and tied up within the basement of the museum. Due to the motion detectors that were used inside the building, Police have a clear idea of the route taken by the thieves as they stole 13 pieces of art, appraised to be worth nearly 500 million dollars in 81 minutes.

The investigation of the theft began the next morning when the daytime guards discovered their co-workers tied up and the art missing. The Police were able to trace the paintings through a network of organized crime through Connecticut and Pennsylvania, before after a black market deal: the trail went cold.

The investigation continued with no significant breakthroughs until 2013 when two men were identified based on police sketches. These men were George Reissfelder and Leonard DiMuzio, neither man faced trial, however, due to the fact that they both passed away within a year of the heist, the FBI could not fully prove their involvement.

The pieces stolen from the museum are still missing to this day. Their frames and displays stand empty in the museum to remind those who visit of the loss.

The investigation for the recovery of the art is still ongoing although recently, there has been a new breakthrough in the case. In November of 2021, Paul Calantropo— a Boston Jeweler— came forward to police with new evidence in the case.

Paul Calantropo stated that days after the heist, his old friend Bobby Donati came to his shop. He asked Calantropo to appraise an eagle flag topper stolen from the museum, claiming to Calantropo that he had been involved in the heist itself. After seeing this, Calantropo refused to appraise the work.

The reasoning behind this information not coming to light sooner is because Calantropo feared that if he came forward it would put him in danger.

Calantropo is now working with the FBI and retired investigators of the original case to try and find the art, and guarantee the arts safe return. The museum is also offering a reward of around 10 million dollars, to be shared between the task force and those who bring viable information to light.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist was and is one of the greatest mysteries in art history. From the actual theft itself to the fact that the paintings have yet to be recovered.

More information about the heist and the information in this article can be found on the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum website and the Smithsonian website. The new break in the case can be found in a story written by The Boston Globe.

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