By Josh Resnek
“Thirty-two years after two thieves, dressed like police officers, talked their way into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, tied up two guards, and fled with masterpieces estimated to be worth more than $500 million, the brazen heist remains one of Boston’s most notorious unsolved crimes.”
That’s how the Boston Globe reported the story recently.
Several priceless Rembrandt’s were stolen along with a Vermeer, a Manet and a Degas among others.
Now comes extraordinary news, the Globe reported – that Everett might have a connection to the greatest art theft in history.
Last summer, a team of FBI agents searched a home at 665 Broadway. The present owner OK’d the search.
One of those principal characters believed to be involved in the art theft, the late Robert Donati, was married to a woman who lived at that Everett address with her sister.
It was apparently a thorough FBI search with special agents
checking interior walls and enclosed spaces throughout the space.
They went there on the advice and with the research uncovered by Stephen Kurkgian and reported to the FBI in April, 2021.
Kurkgian has been hunting down the perpetrators for al- most 30 years. He is a three time Pulitzer Prize winner and a former reporter for the Boston Globe. He is the author of “Master Thieves,” a master- fully detailed magnum opus work detailing the heist and its aftermath and the hunt for the art work.
Here’s what the Globe wrote about the possible Everett connection.
Donati, who had been in and out of jail for robbery and hung out with local mobsters, has never been publicly identified by the FBI as a suspect, but several people have implicated him in the heist. In September 1991, he was attacked outside his Revere home and his body was found several days later in the trunk of his Cadillac, parked a mile away. He had been stabbed repeatedly and his throat was slashed. At the time, law enforcement officials speculated that he was targeted because of his close ties to a renegade faction vying for control of the New England Mafia. But the possibility that it was connected to the Gardner heist has been raised over the past two decades.
In his 2011 biography, notorious art thief Myles Connor wrote that he had cased the Gardner museum with Donati years before the theft. Connor also said a longtime friend, David Houghton, visited him in prison shortly after the robbery and told him Donati was one of the thieves. The plan was to leverage the artwork to win the release of Connor, who was serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for drug trafficking. Houghton died of a heart attack in 1991.
Former New England Mafia capo Vincent Ferrara claimed that Donati told him in 1990 that he had robbed the museum and buried the artwork, and planned to use it to broker Ferrara’s release from prison, according to a 2015 book, “Master Thieves,” authored by Stephen Kurkjian, a retired Boston Globe investigative reporter. At the time, Ferrara was in jail awaiting trial on federal racketeering charges.
In an intriguing twist, Paul Calantropo said that in the spring of 1990, Donati showed up at his office at the Jeweler’s Build- ing in downtown Boston with a decorative piece, designed for the top of a flagstaff, and asked how much it was worth. He said he immediately recognized it as the Gardner’s finial, refused to touch it and told Donati, “Jesus, Bobby, why didn’t you steal the Mona Lisa?”
Much of this piece is re-printed from the Boston Globe.