BOSTON - A man claims to have identified a person seen in newly released surveillance video from the $500 million 1990 art heist at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Last Thursday, authorities released grainy surveillance video from the eve of the heist 25 years ago and appealed anew to the public for help in finding the artworks. Days later, attorney George Burke - a former Norfolk County District Attorney - says a former client called him and said he recognized a person in the video.
"I couldn't believe what he was telling me," Burke told CBS Boston.
Burke says his client named a shadowy figure seen entering the museum on the night before the heist, who may have been casing the establishment.
"I'm thinking that maybe, possibly, he was part of the deal and knows where the paintings are," Burke told the station.
Burke says his client identified the man in the video as a friend of Myles Connor -- an admitted bank robber, drug dealer and art thief who once took a plea deal with then-prosecutor Burke. The deal reportedly helped Burke locate other stolen artwork.
The FBI has said the two men suspected of robbing the museum are dead, but the tipster believes the shadowy figure in the video is the brains behind the heist -- and he is very much alive, according to the station.
"He doesn't want to be known as the one identifying the person in the video, and he says to me, 'I'm afraid they'd kill me,'" Burke told CBS Boston.
Burke says he passed along his client's tip to the U.S. Attorney on Monday morning. He says his client is willing to work with federal prosecutors as long as he can remain anonymous.
Thirteen pieces of art - totaling $500 million - were stolen in the March 18, 1990 heist, including paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Degas.
Authorities have said two men dressed in Boston police uniforms gained entrance to the museum by telling the security guard at the watch desk that they were responding to a report of a disturbance.
Against museum policy, the guard allowed the men into the museum. The thieves handcuffed the museum's two guards on duty and put them in separate areas of the museum's basement.
In 2013, authorities said the robbers belonged to a criminal organization based in New England and the mid-Atlantic states and took the art to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region in the years after the theft. They were offered for sale in Philadelphia about a decade ago and have not been seen since, the FBI said at the time.
In releasing the surveillance footage last week, investigators said they are now solely focused on finding the missing masterpieces.
"The focus of the investigation for many years was: Who did this heist? And we have through the great investigative work identified who did this heist, and both those individuals are deceased," Peter Kowenhoven, the FBI's assistant special agent in charge in Boston, told The Associated Press last week. "So now the focus of the investigation is the recovery of the art."
Kowenhoven declined to identify the men.
The low-resolution video - captured by museum security cameras - shows a security guard appearing to hit an intercom button, then granting access to a man - the shadowy figure - who can be seen in the museum's reception area at about 12:49 a.m. on March 17, 1990, almost exactly 24 hours before the heist.
The man is also seen getting out of a car matching the general description of one reported to be parked outside the museum minutes before the theft.
A $5 million reward has been offered by the museum for information that leads to the recovery of the stolen artwork in good condition.