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Isabella Stewart Gardner art heist happened 34 years ago, FBI still receiving tips

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum still receiving tips 34 years after heist
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum still receiving tips 34 years after heist 02:54

BOSTON -- Thirty-four years ago two thieves robbed the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, making off with hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen artwork. The heist has been the subject of mystery and documentaries ever since. 

"I have been here for a long time looking for these, and I'd be lying if I said it doesn't affect me. I walk by the empty frames every day," said Anthony Amore, Director of Security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 

In 1990, two men snuck into the museum disguised as police officers answering a distress call. The duo tied up to two guards and were in the museum for 81 minutes. They made off with numerous pieces of art including 13 works from famous painters like Rembrandt. The art is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. 

"I believe that information is going to come in, or I am going to get the stuff first, but one way or another we will get the art back," said Amore. 

An empty frame hangs in the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum, where a painting was stolen. The art heist has become a well-known crime.   David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Over the past year, the museum and the FBI have received hundreds of tips and emails. Amore says most are theories or conjecture, but a few are an occasional tip. He says 20 of those calls came from people who thought they spotted the works of art on the wall during house showings or on pictures from Zillow. They were just reproductions used to stage the homes for sale. 

"There is a lot of these things out there, and when we do see things from Zillow, or any other real estate website, we don't look at it and say, 'That is our painting.' Nevertheless, we follow it," said Amore. "I am amazed that people notice because Zillow has millions of listings, and people go through and go, 'That's that missing Gardner painting." 

Several key players from the heist have passed away including security guard Richard Abath. He died in February. Amore says art theft has a high rate of recovery, but typically that comes generations later when people have died, and informants feel safer about coming forward. 

"Remember we have a $10 million reward, and this is for information leading to the paintings, not the paintings," said Amore. "History has shown that a painting is local. When it is stolen in America, it stays in America. It's usually recovered relatively close to where it's stolen. I like to think of it as a haystack, and we are looking for these 13 needles, and taking pieces of the haystack away, so ultimately we will get to those 13 at the bottom." 

If you have any tips or information you are urged to contact Amore by email at

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