The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist Remains an Unsolved Case to This Day

Chrissy Bobic - Author

Apr. 6 2021, Published 4:51 p.m. ET

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Source: Netflix

On March 18, 1990, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston was subject to a heist which resulted in stolen art worth an estimated $500 million. It was a case that also garnered national attention for its haul and the fact that the museum offered a whopping $10 million for information leading to the arrests of the thieves responsible and for the recovery of the art itself.

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However, as of 2021, no one has been formally charged in relation to the crimes, and the art taken from the museum in the early hours of that March morning has yet to be found. It was a heist that rivals those in movies like Ocean's Eleven, but it happened in real life, and the responsible parties are still at large.

For now, however, here's the running list of suspects of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist:

isabella stewart gardner museum heist
Source: Netflix
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Rick Abath was the museum security guard.

Rick Abath was one of the guards on patrol the night of the art theft. He was seen opening and closing a side door of the museum briefly, which some believed was a signal to the thieves. However, he was never proven to have had anything to do with the crime, and the FBI even discredited theories about Abath being part of the heist because they deemed all of the museum's guards too incompetent to have pulled it off.

James "Whitey" Bulger was a local crime boss at the time.

At the time of the crime, FBI agent Thomas McShane investigated Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger. McShane believed that Bulger had something to do with it because it was technically on the turf which Bulger claimed to be his.

He did have ties to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and because the thieves tripped a fire alarm prior to the heist, which McShane said was typical of the IRA, he believed Bulger was a prime suspect.

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whitey bulger
Source: Getty

Even so, Bulger was not convicted of the crime or proven to have anything to do with it. To some, it is believed that Bulger did pull off the theft and managed to get some of the art to the IRA, which then sold it in Ireland. Again, though, that was never proven to be true and like the other suspects, Bulger was never found guilty.

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Brian McDevitt was a suspect because of his involvement in other similar crimes.

Brain McDevitt was a conman who had already tried and failed to steal a Rembrandt in Upstate New York. The FBI saw some of the reported characteristics of one of the robbers as similar to McDevitt, and he was questioned. His fingerprints were even taken, but none of them matched any that were found at the crime scene.

this is a robbery the worlds biggest art heist
Source: Netflix
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The Merlino gang was more recently thought to be involved in the heist.

In March 2013, the FBI investigated the Merlino gang, a crime organization of the region. The FBI believed that Louis Royce, a gangster, had visited the museum before the heist took place to examine all of the possible pitfalls of the impending theft.

Because undercover FBI agents thought the crime organization might be involved in some of the planning, they continued to pull the threads, but so far, no real proof has been brought to light.

Bobby Donati was accused of being the mastermind.

Although local gangster Bobby Donati was in prison at the time of the heist, he was believed to have possibly been the mastermind behind the entire thing. Unfortunately, there was no sound proof of this, but he was said to have been involved in other art heists, which only furthered the suspicions against him.

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Despite there being enough suspects involved in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist to make it seem like a formal arrest was imminent, authorities never had enough information to go on. And now, as people show a renewed interest in the case, there has still been no word on who committed the crimes or where the millions of dollars worth of art are.

The new four-part Netflix docuseries exploring the theft, titled This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist, premieres on April 7.

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