Notorious mobster resurfaces with a new ID and offers tantalizing clue into $500million Gardner Museum art heist

  • The two men dressed as cops gained entrance to the Boston Museum 25 years ago, and proceeded to steal 13 prized artworks
  • Among the artworks stolen were pieces by Degas, Rembrant and Vermeer that were never seen again
  • Former Boston mobster Robert 'Bobby' Luisi said he was told by one of his mob members, now deceased, that the art was hidden under his home
  • The $500million artwork was buried underneath Robert 'Unc' Guarente's Florida property, he told the FBI
  • Agency is still working to track down the precious artworks stolen in 1990
  • A Boston mobster-turned pastor has revealed a tantalizing clue to the whereabouts of the $500 million artwork stolen in the infamous Gardner Museum heist.

    The FBI hope that the tip off by Alonso Esposito, formerly notorious Mafia capo Robert 'Bobby' Luisi Jr., will finally solve the 25-year-old mystery of what happened to the 13 prized artworks stolen from the Boston museum in 1990, the Boston Globe reports.

    Two years ago, authorities announced that they knew the paintings were taken to Connecticut after their disappearance and onto Philadelphia where they were last seen. 

    Since the thieves involved are dead, the FBI is now focusing on finding the missing artworks and returning them to the museum.

    A Boston mobster-turned pastor has revealed a tantalizing clue to the whereabouts of the $500 million artwork stolen in the infamous Gardner Museum heist.  In this March 21, 1990 file photo, a security guard stands outside the Dutch Room of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, where robbers stole more than a dozen works of art

    Luisi, 55, who ran a gang of mobsters in Greater Boston in the 1990s that included the two men suspected of stashing $500 million worth of masterworks.

    He said that one of those men, Robert 'Unc' Guarente, told him years ago that the stolen Gardner paintings were buried beneath a home in Florida.

    The pair had been staying at a Waltham 'safehouse,' watching a TV show about the Gardner theft, when Guarente told him the artworks were in Florida under a concrete floor.

    'He wanted to know if I knew where we could sell it,' said Luisi who was running a cocaine trafficking ring at the time.

    But he told Guarente he didn't know anyone who could sell stolen artwork.

    'I knew I couldn't move it,' Luisi said. 'I didn't want to get involved in it.'

    Guarente died in 2004, aged 64, without every sharing the precise Florida location of the artwork with Luisi.

    FBI has visited Luisi, who served 15 years in jail for cocaine trafficking, in 2012 to question him about if Guarente and fellow mobster, Robert 'The Cook' Gentile, has tried to sell the stolen artwork in Philadelphia. 

    He told FBI agents about Guarente's about revelation but the agency refused to say if the clue had prompted a new sea rch around Florida. 

    Missing piece: In this March 11, 2010 file photo, the empty frame, center, from which thieves cut Rembrandt's 'Storm on the Sea of Galilee' remains on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston

    But the FBI has repeatedly searched Guarente's property in Maine, and Gentile's property in Connecticut, over the years. 

    Police records reveal Guarente listed a lakeside property in Orlando as is home in the early 1990s - built on a concrete slab in 1980.

    However it demolished in 2007 and the demolition firm claim they saw nothing ordinary in the ruins. 

    Elene Guarente, his widow, denied any knowledge of a Florida property. But she told investigators in 2010 that her husband had given two of the stolen paintings to Gentile.

    Gentile, 80, is currently facing charges in Hartford on gun charges. 

    He denied all knowledge of the stolen artwork, despite an 2014 Globe interview where he admitted that he and Guarente talked about trying to recover the paintings to collect the reward.

    A federal prosecutor says that Gentile had attempted to sell the paintings to an undercover FBI agent last year. 

    His defense claim Gentile has dementia and has no knowledge of the paintings.

    Luisi was released from jail a year later and given a new identity as Esposito after testifying against a former Boston mob associate.

    Four coworkers claim Lawrence O'Brien is the man who can be seen in this footage from 24 hours before the heist. Investigators have looked into - and apparently discounted - that lead. O'Brien died in 2014 at age 77

    During his mob days in the 1990s, Luisi found his atempts to become a Mafia boss blocked by the New England Mafia.

    So he decided to join the Philadelphia family, which made him a capo in 1998 and let him run his cocaine trafficking out of Boston. 

    He has since turned his life around. A self-published author and respected pastor at a Mississippi church he is almost unrecognizable as the crime lord who ran the streets of Boston in the 1990s.

    Luisi described himself at the trial as having found God in March 1998 but was too afraid to leave the mob. 

    'How could you go out and say, 'I'm with Christ,' Luisi said in an interview. 'They'll kill me.'

    Luisi, who was affiliated with the Philadelphia mob, has decided to speak publicly about his past as he promotes his religious book, The Last Generation. My faith is so strong in God. He is also working on an autobiography, From Capo to Christian. 

    He also has a new wife Julie, whom he married 21 months ago, and three step-kids.

    'I'm just not afraid,' he explained of the risk of coming forward. 

    Meanwhile his church are welcoming of their new pastor with a checkered past.

    Prophet Gerald Coleman Sr., the bishop at Faith Keepers Ministries in Memphis, said that despite his history, he believes Luisi is a 'man of God.'

    An FBI sketch of the two men who broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 during the heist 

    Investigators have long since given up on getting justice for the Gardner theft and are focused on recovering the artwork by Vermeer, Rembrant and Degas.

    Two years ago, the FBI said they had identified the two mystery men, but did not name them or say whether they were still living.

    The FBI has also released surveillance video, showing a man being let into the museum 24 hours before the heist - in what could have been a dry run.

    '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, said. 'So now the focus of the investigation is the recovery of the art.'

    Kowenhoven again declined to identify the men. 

    Abath was found duct-taped after the heist

    One lead that investigators have looked into - and apparently discounted - involves the museum's deputy security supervisor at the time of the heist, according to the Boston Globe.

    Four former coworkers claim Lawrence P O'Brien is the man who can be seen in the footage being let into the museum via a side door by then-23-year-old guard Richard Abath. 

    Former guards Cynthia Dieges, Marj Galas, April Kelley and Michael Levin all maintain that O'Brien is the figure in the video although two other former guards disputed their assertions to the Globe.

    Dieges said: 'I know that's Larry. He was stocky, and walked like that, always with his jacket collar up.'

    The four guards said investigators had not contacted them, but an FBI spokeswoman Kristen Setera said the agency 'has followed up on all leads, including the one involving Mr O'Brien'.

    O'Brien died in 2014 at the age of 77.

    Abath has always said he did not recognize the man in the video and did not recall letting him into the museum via the side door, the same door he opened twenty minutes before the robbery.

    After opening the door, a museum policy violation, he was duct-taped during the heist.

    The two men allegedly went on to overpower other guards in the early morning hours of March 18. 

    Authorities have said that on March 18, 1990, 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. 

    While the FBI didn't name any of the people in the video, the Boston Globe reports that the security guard who let the mystery man the night before the heist was Abath, a rock musician who was moonlighting as a security guard at the museum at the time. 

    Abath was a center of suspicion 25 years ago, since he broke protocol by letting the intruders in. He has repeatedly denied the allegations that he had anything to do with the plot. 

    Renewed suspicions: Abath, the security guard who allegedly opened the door the night before and of the heist, is now 49, and living in Vermont, according to public records

    The museum had a strict policy that stated security guards could not open the doors for anyone, including cops and firemen, without first getting permission from a supervisor.

    The night of the robbery, Abath admitted to opening the doors, saying he was under the impression that it was his duty to check the security of the doors - something that higher-ups at the museum contested.  

    After the heist, Abath went on to lead a quiet life, most recently working as a teacher's aide. He is now in his late 40s and living in a Vermont. 

    In all the years that the fine works of art have been stolen, none of have surfaced in any legal art dealing channels.

    Even if the suspects were still alive, it would be be too late to charge them with theft since the statue of limitations has expired.

    However, authorities may still prosecute for possession of the stolen works.

    U.S. Attorney Carmen M Ortiz said she is considering offering immunity to anyone who possesses the paintings in order to secure their return to the museum.

    The FBI has taken a renewed interest in the heist in recent years. In 2013, authorities announced that they believed they knew who took the art, saying the paintings made their way through underground organized crime channels from Boston to Connecticut and onto Philadelphia where they were last believed to be seen. 


    None of the 13 artworks that were stolen from the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in 1990 have been surfaced to this day. It's estimated that they are worth at least $500million, and  there has been a standing reward of $5million for information leading to their return. 

    Two years ago, authorities announced that they knew the paintings were taken to Connecticut after their disappearance and  onto Philadelphia where they were last seen. 

    Since the thieves involved are dead, the FBI is now focusing on finding the missing artworks and returning them to the museum.

     U.S. Attorney Carmen M Ortiz has said she could consider offering immunity to anyone who possesses the pieces, in order to secure their return to the museum. 

    Below, the 13 works of art that are still missing. 

     Vermeer's 'The Concert'

    Rembrandt's 'A Lady and Gentleman in Black'

    Rembrandt's 'The Storm on the Sea of Galilee'

    Gov aert Flinck's 'Landscape with an Obelisk'

    A Shang Dynasty Chinese Bronze Beaker from 1200-1100BC

    Degas' 'La Sortie du Pelage'

    Degas' 'Cortege Aux Environs de Florence'

    Degas' 'Three Mounted Jockeys'

    Degas' 'Program for an Artistic Soiree' (charcoal on white paper)

    Degas' 'Prog ram for an Artistic Soiree' (less finished charcoal on buff paper)

    Manet's 'Chez Tortoni'

    Napoleonic Eage Finial


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