Authorities Investigating James “Whitey” Bulger’s Connection to 1990 Thefts at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum


This past weekend, while at a wedding in St. Louis, we got into a conversation with a former Bostonian about having visited his home town last fall. While listing the places we’d visited, he stopped when we’d mentioned touring the famous and soon-to-be-expanded Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. “Do they still have the section blocked off where the burglary took place?” They did, we told him. “Man,” he continued, “That was such a big deal when I was a kid.” The robbery he’s referring to, of course, is one of the country’s most famous art thefts, wherein 13 paintings, valued somewhere between $300 and $500 million were stolen and have yet to be recovered. Returning home after that conversation, we were surprised to see that the robbery has returned to the Boston news scene. With the recent high-profile arrest of James “Whitey” Bulger last week, is reporting that the FBI is interested in discussing the 21 year old heist with him, believing that Bulger, once a major player in Boston’s criminal underworld, might have either been directly involved or would have heard who was responsible. It sounds a bit of a reach, like authorities are throwing Bulger a list of unsolved crimes and hoping something is born out of it, but who knows. Here’s a bit:

Matt Montgomery, the Gardner’s spokesman, said last week that while the museum would welcome leads, it has received no word that Bulger’s arrest might prompt a break in the case. “Until a recovery is made, our work continues,’” the museum said in a statement.

Brien T. O’Connor, a former assistant US attorney who supervised the Gardner and Bulger investigations during the 1990s, said that even if Bulger had no direct knowledge of the theft, he would have wanted to know who did it or where the artwork had been taken.