David Turner's Involvement in the Gardner Heist Remains the Subject of Heated Debate

Was David Allen Turner involved in the Gardner Heist? He received a 38-year-long prison sentence in 2003. His role in the Gardner heist remains unproven.

Leila Kozma - Author

Apr. 13 2021, Updated 2:20 p.m. ET

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Source: Netflix

"Gentlemen, this is a robbery," two men dressed up as police officers warned the hapless staff working at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on March 18, 1990, before proceeding to swipe some 13 artworks valued at around $500 million. 

The four-episode Netflix series, This Is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist, casts new light on the case that continues to daunt collectors, art lovers, and members of the public. So, what was David Allen Turner's role in the Gardner heist?

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Some suspect that David Allen Turner was one of the robbers behind the Gardner Heist.

A main suspect, David Allen Turner could have been one of the criminals who forcefully entered the lavish yet insufficiently protected building of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  

Frequently described as a career criminal, Turner had broken the law on several occasions. Many believe that he was involved in the art heist as well, but he has yet to face criminal charges for his supposed actions that night. 

david turner gardner heist
Source: Netflix
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In November 2003, Turner was sentenced to 460 months (or 38 years) in jail for conspiracy and the possession of firearms and ammunition, among other charges. It's understood that he and several others were busted by the FBI while on their way to loot the Loomis-Fargo & Co, an armored car depot in Easton, Mass. on Feb. 7, 1999. He was reportedly given the option of sharing details about the Gardner heist before receiving the prison sentence, but turned it down.

"They think that I was the person who committed the [Gardner] robbery, which is false," Turner wrote in a letter published by Boston Magazine  around the same time that he received his prison conviction, per Boston Herald. "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." 

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Turner was released from prison in November 2019.

Turner was released from prison decades before his original conviction was set to end. According to outlets like MailOnline, he left the United States Penitentiary, Canaan, in Pennsylvania in the fall of 2019. His release date was initially set for 2032. 

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Turner likely had close ties to Carmello Merlino and Bobby Guarente.

Turner reportedly knew a crime lord named Carmello Merlino, who is thought to have possessed the means and connections to orchestrate a crime like the Gardner heist. 

According to a popular fan theory cited by Den of Geek, there's a chance that the stolen masterpieces ended up at TRC Auto Electric, Merlino's car repair garage. As another hypothesis holds, a gang member named Robert "Bobby" Guarente could have gotten hold of some of the paintings before passing them on to Robert Gentile. 

Source: Twitter
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Some believe that another mafioso, Bobby Donati, orchestrated the Gardner heist.

According to a counter-theory, it's possible that another mafioso, Bobby Donati, orchestrated the Gardner heist because he hoped he would be able to help a top dog, Vincent M. Ferrara, get out of jail. Donati was killed a year after the robbery took place, which some interpret as more proof of his involvement in the heist. 

This Is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist is available on Netflix now. 

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