In 1990, two thieves, dressed as police officers, entered Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and slipped away with $500 million of work, including paintings by Rembrandt, Degas, and Manet. No suspects were ever prosecuted, and the works remain missing.
Some suspects have ended up in prison, however, and the Boston Globe reported on Thursday that one was released from prison after serving 21 years for his role in a foiled armed robbery of an armored car. David Turner was long suspected of, but never charged with, helping orchestrate the heist.
In 2014, the FBI identified the culprits present at the museum as George Reissfelder and Lenny DiMuzio, who both died within a year of the notorious robbery. Dressed as police offers to trick the museum’s night watchmen, the duo decamped with 13 pieces of artwork, including Rembrandt’s The Storm in the Sea of Galilee and Vermeer’s The Concert, estimated to be worth upwards of $250 million. It remains the most famous art crime in American history.
Turner was a known employee of Boston’s late crime lord Carmello Merlino, who officials believe was the mastermind of the scheme. According to the Globe, FBI agents offered Turner leniency if he returned the stolen artwork, but he denied any involvement in the crime. At the time of his sentencing for the planned armed robbery, Turner wrote a letter to Boston Magazine reiterating his innocence for the Gardner heist.
“They think that I was the person who committed the robbery, which is false,” he wrote. “They thought that if I was facing serious charges, I would be motivated to help facilitate the return of the paintings. Well, they got the serious charges against me, and now I am going to die in prison.” He has been released on three years of probation.
In 2014, special agent Geoff Kelly—the lead FBI investigator on the Gardner case for the past 11 years—told Boston’s FOX 25 that police had received a tip that the artworks had been spotted for sale in Philadelphia. At the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the 13 empty frames remain on display.