TIME Crime

American History’s Biggest Art Theft Hits 25 Years Unsolved

Empty Frames At The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
David L Ryan—Boston Globe / Getty Images An empty frame on the right is where Vermeer's "The Concert," circa 1658 - 166, once was.

The 13 pieces were stolen from a Boston museum on the morning of March 18, 1990

It was the morning of March 18, 1990 — exactly 25 years ago — when a security guard at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum got a nasty surprise. Hours earlier, thieves dressed as police officers had entered the museum, immobilized the security guards with duct tape, removed 13 works from their places and got away. Those works, including several Rembrandts and Vermeer’s The Concert, are valued by the FBI at a combined $500 million, making it the largest single property crime in the nation’s history.

A quarter-century later, the crime remains unsolved — but, as interest in the anniversary emerges, so have clues.

Even though the criminals appeared to have gotten away scot-free, the clues have been trickling in since the very beginning. Most of the works, per TIME’s original coverage of the theft, are not especially significant ones, which indicated from the start that the thieves were no experts. The valuation of the stolen works, which was originally $200 million, may also have been exaggerated, suggested the magazine’s Robert Hughes; the idea is that thieves who can be persuaded to ask higher prices when fleecing their wares are more likely to have to go out to a variety of potential buyers, which increases the likelihood that someone will spill the beans in exchange for the reward ($1 million in 1990; $5 million today). If the criminals had been real experts, they likely would have targeted the pride of the Gardner, Titian’s Rape of Europa, and would not have so crudely cut some paintings from their frames. The theft came during an increase in the incidence of such crimes as the value of the global art market expanded, increasing potential rewards and attracting more cons to the racket.

The next major spate of clues came in 1997, when after seven years and thousands of leads, there wast still no sign of the stolen works. At that point, TIME learned that two career criminals — one of whom was Myles Connor, a former rock guitarist who was at the time in prison for crimes connected to a 1975 art heist — had come forward offering to broker a return of the art, blaming the theft on two other criminals who had since died. (Connor also told the magazine that if he had been the one to knock off the Gardner, Europa would have been his target.)

The news of the clue had first come to the world courtesy of the Boston Herald, whose Tom Mashberg was invited earlier in 1997 to be driven to a warehouse where he was shown, by flashlight, a Rembrandt. The newspaper hired an expert to analyze photographs and paint chips they acquired, and announced that he had decided they were authentic. Negotiations with Connor and his acquaintance Billy Youngworth, however, stalled out. As Mashberg wrote in the New York Times this month, Connor was eventually ruled out as a reliable lead.

In 2013, another clue emerged. At that time, the FBI announced that they had determined who had committed the crime and where the stolen works had been taken. The works had been offered for sale in Connecticut and Philadelphia at some point, and the thieves were part of a larger criminal organization. Beyond that, the agency was hush-hush about its new knowledge.

The following year, an FBI agent released the names of three suspects and said that sightings of the works had been confirmed.

As reported in a lengthy story by Stephen Kurkjian last week — worthwhile reading for those interested in the intricacies of such an investigation — a raid in 2012 had uncovered evidence but no actual sightings of the paintings. Former Globe reporter Kurkjian’s new book, Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World’s Greatest Art Heist, points a finger at a Boston criminal named Louis Royce for planting the idea in the actual criminals’ minds.

But the crime remains, for exactly 25 years as of today, unsolved.

Read TIME’s original coverage of the theft, here in the TIME Vault: A Boston Theft Reflects the Art World’s Turmoil

TIME LGBT

Boston Sees Historic St. Patrick’s Day Parade

St Patricks Parade Gays
Steven Senne—AP Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Eric Bullen, of Westborough, Mass., left, holds an American flag as U.S. Army veteran Ian Ryan, of Dennis, Mass., front right, rolls up an OutVets banner after marching with a group representing LGBT military veterans in a Veterans Day parade in Boston, Nov. 11, 2014. The organizers of Boston's annual St. Patrick's Day parade voted to allow the group of gay veterans along with a second group, Boston Pride, to march in this year's parade.

Two gay groups participated, ending a two-decade ban

Two gay rights groups marched in Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade for the first time in its 114-year history on Sunday, ending a two-decade ban against participation by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups in the annual celebration.

LGBT rights group Boston Pride and OutVets, an organization for gay veterans, joined in the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year, as did Mayor Marty Walsh, who opted out last year because it didn’t allow gay groups. No Boston mayor had participated in the parade since 1995, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Allied War Veterans Council’s ban on participants who identified as gay.

“I’m thrilled that the St. Patrick’s Day parade is inclusive this year, and the addition of Boston Pride to the list of participants reflects the values of the South Boston neighborhood,” Walsh said in a statement before the event. “With this year’s parade, Boston is putting years of controversy behind us.”

The parade route, which winds through the city’s traditional Irish-American section, was shortened by nearly half this year after heavy snowfall in recent months stymied road-clearing efforts, Reuters reports.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to boycott his city’s pride parade for the second year in a row because organizers won’t allow more than one gay group to participate.

TIME weather

‘Last Hurrah’ Winter Storm Hitting Mid-Atlantic, Extending to East Coast

Plucky Bostonians are saying bring it on, we want the record!

Millions of people in 28 states faced winter weather on Thursday as a late-season storm swept across North America.

Drivers in Kentucky were left stranded on the road as snow piled around them on Interstate 65. A snowy runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport caused an airplane to skid off the road and the city of Washington was effectively a ghost town, thanks to piles of snow that shuttered federal government operations.

Temperatures were significantly colder than average — anywhere from 10 to 30°F — across the region.

The governors of Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia and New Jersey all declared states of emergency on Thursday, the Associated Press reports. But at long last, one of the worst winters in recent memory may be relenting, according to Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

He told the Associated Press the storm “might be winter’s last hurrah.”

But in Boston, a city two inches away from breaking its all-time snow record, some residents said bring it on.

“I want the record. We earned the record,” said Erin O’Brien, professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

TIME Courts

Boston Bombing Survivors Tell Court Their Personal Accounts of the Carnage

A courtroom sketch shows Boston Marathon bombing survivor Sydney Corcoran testifying in the trial of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the federal courthouse in Boston, Mass., March 4, 2015.
Jane Flavell Collins—Reuters A courtroom sketch shows Boston Marathon bombing survivor Sydney Corcoran testifying in the trial of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the federal courthouse in Boston, Mass., March 4, 2015.

“I remember thinking, this is it, I’m going to die. I’m not going to make it"

Survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, allegedly carried out by Chechen-American brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, appeared in a Boston federal court Wednesday to deliver chilling testimony detailing the chaotic scene at the finish line.

When the two bombs detonated on April 15, 2013, shrapnel cut an artery in Sydney Corcoran’s leg, leaving blood gushing, while her mother’s legs were sliced off. On the first day of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial she described the moment to the courtroom: “I remember thinking, this is it, I’m going to die. I’m not going to make it.”

Read the rest of the survivor testimonies at the Boston Globe

 

TIME weather

New England Is Braced for More Snow as a Historic Winter Continues

A woman walks through blowing snow in the East Boston neighborhood of Boston, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015
Michael Dwyer—AP A woman walks through blowing snow in the East Boston neighborhood of Boston, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015

Boston is on the verge of breaking a 20-year record for snowfall

Another four to seven inches of snow is expected to fall in Massachusetts early Monday, delaying any hope of respite from the extraordinarily harsh weather that has battered New England throughout February.

Boston is expected to receive up to four inches overnight, while other parts of the region, stretching into Rhode Island, may see as much as seven inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The snow storm is expected to pass before the morning commute, but the winter weather advisory calls on motorists to stay cautious and be alert for snow and ice patches on the road.

Boston has received 102 inches of snow this year, far exceeding the 34 inches considered to be normal and surpassing last year’s total of just over 56 inches. The twenty-year record for snowfall in Boston is 107.6 inches, according to media reports.

The average temperature in Boston for the month of February was just 19 degrees Fahrenheit, almost 13 degrees Fahrenheit colder than normal.

TIME weather

Boston Area Dogs Are Climbing Snow Banks to Escape

Winter Storm in Boston
Dominick Reuter—EPA A woman walks her dog through Copley Square during a blizzard in Boston on Feb. 15, 2015.

Police in Weymouth are warning pet owners to keep their dogs leashed

You know your city officially has too much snow when your dog can climb the mountainous snow bank in your yard and escape.

The Weymouth Police Department, about 15 miles outside of Boston, Mass., issued this warning on its Facebook page on Thursday: “Please watch your dogs. We have been dealing with a large number of dogs that are running the streets. Most of them are getting out of yards that are usually secure because of snow banks.”

MORE: Watch the Most Selfless Dog in the World Shovel Snow

The police department warned residents that their beloved pets could get hit by cars or picked up and sent to a shelter if they didn’t have their proper tags.

Snowfall in the Boston area has shattered records in the past month. Snow totals have now hit 100 inches for the season, and most snowfall has come within the past month. A University of Oklahoma meteorologist has even calculated that the likelihood of this much snow falling in a 30-day stretch would occur only once every 26,315 years.

MONEY Odd Spending

Brilliant Guy in Massachusetts Is Selling Snow for ‘Only $89′

snowball wrapped in brown paper
Phil Ashley—Getty Images

Originally marked down from $99! The price includes overnight shipping anywhere in the U.S., and each package includes enough snow to make about a dozen snowballs.

New England—and Boston specifically—has way more snow than it knows what to do with. Boston has received roughly 100 inches of snow this winter. And it’s not even March yet. And guess what the forecast calls for on Tuesday? Yep, a few more inches of snow.

Boston has had so much snow that in early February the city started considering special approval by the EPA to dump it in the ocean because snow removal teams have been running out of places to put it.

It’s amid this scene that a Massachusetts man got the idea that he could do his part to get rid of some of the snow—and make some profits while he’s at it. The service, ShipSnowYo.com, started as something of a joke, but by mid-February it had reportedly sold around 100 16.9-oz. plastic bottles filled with snow, which were frozen in dry ice and shipped around the country, at a cost of $19.99.

By the time the bottles arrived at their destinations, they were most filled with pure New England water, not snow. But Waring insists that the recipients didn’t mind much. “They understand that we want to clean up Boston, so even if it does arrive as water, they get a kick out of it,” Waring explained to Boston Magazine.

Nonetheless, ShipSnowYo has since begun offering a new product that’s “Guaranteed Snow on Arrival!” This package includes 6 lbs. of snow collected courtesy of Winter Storm Neptune, which dumped 20+ inches in parts of Massachusetts. The “Limited Supply” snow comes in a thick Styrofoam container and is shipped overnight, at a cost of “$99 Now Only $89!”

Waring told Boston.com that the $89 package yields enough snow to make 10 to 15 snowballs. “It seems to be corporations paying for the $90 product as a funny gesture, where the $20 one is regular consumers,” he said of his customers.

What’s next for Waring? Look for a bigger, 10-lb. snow package to hit the market at a price of $119. Presumably, such a product would be more appropriate for larger snowball fights in Florida, Arizona, or wherever else they’re shipped. And the entrepreneur says that he might try a slightly different moneymaking idea next autumn. “Maybe I’ll ship some fall foliage,” he said.

TIME Snowstorm

Boston Mayor Urges Daredevils to Stop Jumping Out of Windows Into Snow

"This is not Loon Mountain"

Bostonians stuck in their homes due to ever-mounting snow accumulation have taken up the habit of diving into the snow from the windows of their houses. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh thinks this is a really, really bad idea.

“I’m asking people to stop their nonsense right now,” the mayor said at a Monday news conference, according to the Boston Herald. “This isn’t Loon Mountain, this is the city of Boston, where we’re trying to remove snow off of the street and it becomes very dangerous.”

As the snow totals have mounted, young people have taken to leaping into snow banks. The higher the jump, of course, the more things could go wrong. Walsh is worried about already-overworked emergency responders being forced to deal with avoidable injuries by daredevils. The city, which has accumulated a record 58.5 inches of the white stuff in February alone, is dealing with huge economic costs in a brutal winter that still has a month left to go.

[Boston Herald]

TIME weather

Boston’s Public Transit Won’t See Full Service for 30 Days

Pedestrians walk along snow covered, MBTA subway rails on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston
Brian Snyder—Reuters Pedestrians walk along snow covered, MBTA subway rails on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts following a winter storm on Feb. 15, 2015.

“This last round really crippled our infrastructure and our vehicle fleet"

Record-setting snowfall has so disrupted Boston’s main public transportation system that it may need a month to return to full service, the MBTA said Monday.

“As long as we don’t get hit with another storm like the last one, it will be back in 30 days,” Beverly Scott, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said at a news conference, according to the Boston Globe. Scott cautioned it may take even longer if another major storm hits.

“This last round really crippled our infrastructure and our vehicle fleet,” she added. “It created operational challenges and created severe damage which will take time to recover from.”

A series of winter storms have made February the snowiest month in Boston’s recorded history and workers have been struggling to clear snow and ice from the rail system, known as the “T.” Scott said areas that have been hit particularly hard in the storms, and lines that are most used by commuters, are being initially targeted for cleanup.

[Boston Globe]

TIME weather

Northeast Shivers as Another Winter Storm Heads to Mid-Atlantic

New England Snow
Michael Dwyer—AP A man walks an unplowed street on Beacon Hill in Boston, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015.

Some cities could see new record-low temperatures

The Northeast faced frigid temperatures in the single digits on Monday, as snow inundated large swaths of the South, knocking out power for almost a quarter of a million homes and forcing the cancellation of some 2,000 flights nationwide.

New Englanders shouldn’t hope for things to warm up anytime soon. Arctic air is expected to spread from the Midwest to the Northeast this week, chilling cities from Chicago to New York with single-digit temperatures.

The worst of the cold is predicted to affect the Midwest on Wednesday before drifting east into Thursday. Cities around both regions could see new record-low temperatures, AccuWeather.com reports. But even Florida will feel the bitter cold, with temperatures expected to fall into the 30s in Orlando.

Meanwhile, another winter storm barreled across the Plains and the Ozarks on Monday, dropping snow, sleet and ice on its way. Schools in Arkansas were closed due to sleet and traffic accidents in the icy conditions increased six-fold in Kentucky.

Several inches of snow had already accumulated in Washburn, Mo., Monday morning; further east, Nashville, Tenn. already had about a quarter of an inch of ice on the ground, according to the National Weather Service.

Power outages throughout the region have affected thousands of people, including 32,000 customers in Arkansas, according to NBC News. After the storm is done showering ice and snow on states from Oklahoma to Kentucky, it is predicted to head toward the mid-Atlantic—and maybe even New England.

If it gets as far north as Boston, that city—already pummeled by several winter storms—will come even closer to surpassing its all-time record for snowiest season. At 95.7 inches so far, Beantown has less than a foot to go to top the winter of ’95 to ’96.

[Weather]

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