Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, Alex Boyle Names Actual Thieves, Robert Wittman, The French Connection

William Merlino
David Turner

The Gardner Museum Art Thieves, Unmasked at Last?

By | August 2014
March 18, 1990, saw the biggest museum heist take place in American history as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston was robbed by thieves dressed up as police officers. Since that time numerous stories have surfaced with the result being the same—nothing found, nothing recovered, and a museum, still bound by deed of gift, hangs empty frames on the wall where once hung masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Manet, and Degas.
In the year 2001 this writer was handed an extraordinary letter from a confidential FBI informant outlining how the job was done, who the “players” were, and how the paintings were spirited overseas, first to Italy then France where they were sold via the connivance of a New York dealer for upward of $25 million.
One small problem: Despite this writer being flown abroad in February 2005 in the company of the FBI to meet the French National Police on the Isle de France in Paris—nothing was found. Noted FBI Agent Robert Wittman gave his best efforts on his trips to France in 2006 and 2007. He came close, but again, aside from Corsican mobster innuendo, nothing was found.
In 2013 this writer started to write the outline of a TV series on the project, then tentatively titled “Raiders of the Lost Art,” and the first item on the agenda was revisiting the Gardner Heist. The joy of a complete reboot is that one can go in the past and start over how one looks at a story, which helps because the original story development was so convoluted by wise guys seeking to cover their tracks, that a writer in the center of this story might be forgiven for getting vertigo or the spins.
Two names from the start remained of interest, and while the paintings were long since gone, getting a lock on the guys who did the job might help get closure for Boston, and put the story back on the right track, and hopefully confirm what the informant stated in 2001.
But the FBI refused to help when a Freedom Of Information Act request was put in for one William Merlino. This would take some doing to get around.
In 2008 a friendly writer named Ulrich Boser sent me the first photo of the other suspect, David Allen Turner, and that really matched the initial police sketch. It would take another five plus years for the William Merlino photo to show up. As the reader can now see, it was worth the wait.
Who are these guys and where are they now? William Merlino is 53 years of age and serving out the remained of an armored car conspiracy case in Lee Federal Prison, Pennington Gap, Va. According to Federal prison records, he is due to get out on Aug. 6, 2025.
His cohort, David Allen Turner is now 47 year of age in Danbury Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury, Conn. and he is scheduled for release on March 25, 2025. William Merlino’s uncle, Carmello, supposedly the “made guy” in the family, and the link that could have confirmed the organized crime connection to this story, died in federal prison on Dec. 7, 2005.
All three were sent away for lengthy prison stints from an arrest made in 1998 for a job they never got a chance to pull off, but conspiracy remains a valid charge in federal courts.

Money Trail


Assuming the photos of Merlino and Turner match the Gardner Heist suspects, this corroborates the story heard years ago, that William Merlino was behind the heist. In underworld structure of the Boston, William was affiliated with uncle Carmello Merlino, a known La Cosa Nostra member. Carmello Merlino was known to be in a crew under former boss of the Boston Mob, Francis P. “Cadillac Frank” Salemme. 
Now when a crew in La Cosa Nostra (LNC) does a score, they have to kick upstairs to the boss, or else they get clipped, and along those lines the story provided to this writer in 2001 it implicated Francis P. “Cadillac Frank” Salemme and his brother Jackie Salemme. That too followed the respected pattern of doing business. There would be a problem if the Merlinos went off the LCN reservation.
A sideways development in this convoluted story was that somebody in the Department of Justice put Francis P. “Cadillac Frank” Salemme in the federal witness protection program, presumably in exchange for Salemme agreeing to testify in court against his Boston enemies Stephen Flemmi and James “Whitey” Bulger. It all goes to show that local problems with law enforcement, compounded by strategic errors made in the Justice Department contributed to the perfect storm that enabled the heist to become the perfect crime.
So many distracting elements kick in to convolute the Gardner Heist story that it is best to keep it simple. Look at the photos. Do they match? If so one has to ask why was this buried for so long? Even though much of the insider story had been heard, the evolution of the official story raises even more disturbing questions. If Merlino et al worked for Salemme, why was Salemme given immunity and put into witness protection? That is just the tip of the iceberg, but it illustrates the problems inherent to this case.
Alexander Boyle is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., where he majored in history. He has worked for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, PBS, galleries, and an auction house as well as having published articles on 19th and 20th century American painting. This article was originally published in AAD, art-antiques-design.com
Art Hostage Comments:
Alex Boyle has been consistent over the years in his theories about the Gardner Art Heist.
Alex Boyle said that after the Gardner Art Heist there was a "Sit down" at Friar Tucks where the deal for the Gardner art was struck for an alleged $25 million.
From there the art was moved via Halifax Nova Scotia to Genoa by New York Art Dealer & Sexual deviant Andrew Crespo.
From Genoa the Vermeer and possibly Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea was sold to none other than Hans Henrik (Hans Heinrich "Heini") Ágost Gábor Tasso Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon who hung the Vermeer at his Swiss villa until his death in 2002.
After Heini died his widow Carman passed the Vermeer and possibly the Rembrandt to Jean Marie Messier the French financier, via the Art Dealer Simon De Pury.
Alex Boyle led FBI Agents to Paris to search the home of Jean Marie Messier back in 2005 to look for the Vermeer etc but sadly the French authorities did not co-operate with the FBI but did make a search of the Jean Marie Messier Paris mansion and found some stolen fresco's looted from Italy and recovered them.
According to ex-FBI Agent Robert Wittman the Corsican Mafia have possession of at least some of the Gardner art and he was trying to smoke them out before he retired, but was thwarted by in-fighting at the FBI and a distinct lack of etiquette by the then Boston FBI Head Richard Des Lauriers towards the French authorities.

Robert Wittman said in an interview with the Huff Post:
The Gardner Heist
Two events that erupted in 1990 forever changed Wittman's, and America's, outlook regarding art crime. The former was a dreadful, painstaking experience. The latter was a pivotal moment in how art crime would be viewed by law enforcement, the media and the American public.
A car accident with Robert Wittman at the wheel in a South Jersey suburb would take the life of his friend and FBI Special Agent Denis Bozella. As if his four broken ribs, the guilt, grief and loss of his friend weren't enough, a prosecutor went through with a case he knew he would lose in court. The ordeal by trial, drawn out over five years for Wittman to clear his name, became the impetus to dedicate his career in solving art crime, which is what he considers to be crimes against society, history and the heritages of people.
A decade later, it would also place the agent in an even more special role, as he became the FBI's pointman in dealing with grief victims, primarily families suffering traumatic loss in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. At the time, that was hard on Wittman, the person, but it became valuable when he would begin to investigate and solve international art crime cases and go undercover as "Bob Clay," art broker and financier. The grief counseling -- "All I had to offer was empathy" -- and his own loss allowed him to see the other side of the good, bad and ugly in people, and put him in the perps' shoes and minds of master thieves.
On March 18, 1990, two robbers dressed as Boston Police gained access to the locked down Gardner Museum with a fake bench warrant. They duct-taped two young guards in the cellar and then spent an astounding 81 minutes rifling through the museum. They cut out ten priceless paintings -- a Vermeer, five Degas and three Rembrandts -- and three lesser art objects that included a gilded Corsican eagle finial and a Napoleonic War banner. The latter two were no "red herrings," but a clue to law enforcement as to where the stolen bounty would end up: in the organized crime orbit of Corsica, France and Spain.
With little to go on except police sketches and the data from the motion-detecting cameras, the trail went cold, fast. On the 23rd anniversary of the greatest art crime in history -- valued at 500 million -- the FBI's Boston Office (not the Art Crime Team) held a press conference, announcing the reward for the recovery of the stolen art was 5 million, and that they had fresh leads on the case "in Philadelphia and Connecticut."
Wittman said point blank: "It's definitely not in Philadelphia."
That press conference wasn't anything more than a reminder to the public on the reward and that that the famous case remained unsolved. It also served as a smoke screen, as those paintings are clearly in Europe -- with Wittman confirming: "We know who they were with, based on the French police wiretaps of the criminals I dealt with."
That was 2006 to 2008. Or two years that Wittman as Bob Clay went undercover in a sting operation that can be found in detail in his New York Times bestselling book Priceless: How I went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures (Random House/Broadway Books).
Unfortunately, human nature intervened. "Too many chiefs," the French Police pointman told Wittman. "Solving the case by committee doesn't work," Wittman later wrote.
Like the failed launch of the Obamacare website, throwing more people to fix a poorly designed platform doesn't work. Same with an undercover sting operation. The sting teams need to operate small to allow for "flexibility, creativity and to take risk," he stated in Priceless.
The human side to the promising undercover operation-turned-debacle was the FBI turf war, infighting with the Boston Office -- they knew nothing about art -- the Art Crime Team and the bureaucrats in FBI headquarters in D.C.
The same problem emerged in France. The French split their police groups in two with a new undercover unit called SIAT, producing evermore "chiefs."
All of those competing factions, instead of working in harmony, wanted to micromanage aspects of the case, while clamoring to take credit for solving the biggest art theft case in history in a press conference that would never materialize.
Robert Wittman's investigation into the Gardner Heist led him to the south of France by the way of Miami. "Although we didn't solve the Gardner case," Wittman said, "we did recover four valuable paintings stolen from the Nice Museum."

Turbo Paul: Art Thief Turned Art Crime Ombudsman

  rembrandt
• August 22, 2014 • 10:00 AM
There’s art theft, there’s law enforcement, and, somewhere in between, there’s Turbo Paul.
I stumbled across Turbo Paul Hendry M.A., above, somewhere in the gray areas of the Internet. He runs Art Hostage and Stolen Vermeer, two happily abrasive sites dedicated to speaking the truth about art thefts around the world. The proprietor, a former “knocker” himself, sees his position as an advocate and a go-between, providing the true story behind the investigations to recover stolen art. “Maybe I’m just a sucker for Dickens and silver-tongued nutters,” Virginia Heffernan wrote about Hendry a few years ago, “but it’s people like Turbo Paul who, to me, exemplify the possibilities of the open Web.” We spoke over instant messenger, which is how he prefers to communicate.
Why start Art Hostage? Was/is the goal to be an informational source, to drum up work for yourself, or something else?
I saw the reporting of art crime by the MSM [mainstream media] in a way like yellow journalism so I wanted to tell it like it is. I agree I can be toxic, but I am at least even-handed with my toxic views about the criminals and those who pursue stolen art. A paradox is sometimes the so-called good guys act like foxes guarding the hen house. When it comes to negotiating the recovery of stolen art, the bad guys want to deal and tell the truth, the so-called good guys lie and prevaricate to avoid any payments, even if those who provide vital information have nothing to do with the theft or subsequent handling of the said stolen artworks.
Do you see yourself as a middleman? You’re open about your past as a “knocker,” which I would imagine establishes some level of credibility with the so-called bad guys.
Noah, we live in a propaganda-filled world and sadly, journalists have to temper their articles a bit because of fear of being blackballed if they reveal too much truth.
I don’t set people up and do act as a middleman for stolen art when all other avenues have been exhausted. Kinda like The Equalizer for stolen art so to speak.
I like that. How many cases have you been directly involved with? Can you give me an example of one?

“It must be said, however, I am not all bad, as I do advise law enforcement on how to prevent art theft and act as a conduit between law enforcement and the underworld. But being an honest broker means I cannot sting people, otherwise I would lose 30 years of trust built up.”

I have been involved in too many cases to mention but the Da Vinci Madonna case is a fascinating case I was directly involved in. Also, I have consulted in most high-profile cases in recent years. My best work is done when I dance in the shadows and allow others to claim the limelight.
Very little stolen art is recovered these days, and I do get offers of stolen art every day but, sadly, law enforcement won’t allow many deals to happen, so I walk away and tell my contacts to walk away.
Does the visibility your site has gained surprise you?
Not really, because there are only a handful of art crime experts in the world, say six or seven, and I am the only one with the background of being a former trafficker.
Also, being a character and being able to articulate myself helps get over my message as the other experts are ex-law enforcement, insurance loss adjusters, etc., and they are one-dimensional and wooden.
My academic chops, having an M.A., B.A., Hons, etc. helps me and gives me some credibility, but I retain my street cred because I don’t do stings and set people up. Think about it: Where can you read about art crime other than the usual spin in the MSM? I am the only alternative who shoots from the lip.
That’s fair. How has what you do changed in the seven years you’ve had the site? Also, were you doing the same type of work before you started the site?
I got to the top of the stolen art world and retired. I then went to university, rather than play golf or go fishing. In the seven years since I started the site the amount of stings and recoveries has been reduced markedly. People with information have grown wise to the old stings and double-dealings of insurance loss adjusters, etc. so the flow of information has dried up for those investigating art-related crime. However, the dumb crooks still fall for the ruses of ex-law enforcement art crime investigators and loss adjusters, but most seek my council first.
It must be said, however, I am not all bad, as I do advise law enforcement on how to prevent art theft and act as a conduit between law enforcement and the underworld. But being an honest broker means I cannot sting people, otherwise I would lose 30 years of trust built up.
Look, when I comment that a case might be a set up or rewards are bullshit, I am not revealing a secret as most criminals can research the past cases of stings, although they may be referenced on my site.
Before the Internet, law enforcement and insurance agents could use and abuse informants and threaten them with exposure. All of this would happen in secret. Nowadays, the Internet provides a database of previous cases where stings have happened so less recoveries and less information is passed through.
The Gardner case proves the point of credibility. Every time anyone has stepped forward they have been hounded and threatened and even jailed to try and lever them to reveal all. The underworld firmly believes the Gardner museum reward offer of $5 million is bullshit. Think about it: The offer is for all the Gardner art back in good condition, even though when stolen back in 1990 it was cut from the frames therefore it is impossible to be in good condition, another get out clause to prevent payment of the reward. The immunity offer has conditions: Anyone offering help loses their right to take the Fifth and has to reveal all and be prepared to testify against those who have the Gardner art. Therefore, anyone with knowledge stays quiet.
The $5 million Gardner reward offer was made back in 1997 and not raised since so raising it may help?
If authorities really wanted just the Gardner art back, they would offer pure immunity for help and the reward would not have any conditions. So, until then we have to hope the Gardner art is found by authorities stumbling upon it, perhaps during another investigation, but that has been the hope for over two decades.
How can you help get it back?
When I say pure immunity I mean immunity only regarding the Gardner case, not any other cases, etc.
Give me a real immunity deal and concrete proof the reward will be paid, then I could help. I have stated many times I seek not one dime of the reward, but if I could guarantee the reward would be paid and immunity offered to those who could help, then the Gardner art would come home. I also said the Gardner art should be left in a Catholic church confession box to prevent a sting and that would be a kind of absolution for the art. The deal in place would need to be legally watertight so the post-recovery reward would be paid. Again, I seek none of the reward.
Where is the so-called reward? All we have is cheap talk. Why not put the Gardner reward in an escrow account? Why not announce the immunity is blanket and those stepping forward do not have to reveal anything other than the location of the art and then collect the reward. Of course, whomever stepped forward would have to stand the scrutiny of not being involved in the Gardner theft or handling of the art, but I am sure someone could be appointed to take point. But up until now anyone stepping forward gets hounded.
You see the MSM never ask these questions about the Gardner art, just make bullshit repeating the spin about reward and immunity.
What would it take for that to change?
I must say if law enforcement does not want the reward to be paid and want arrests, fine. But don’t try to bullshit all the time.
Each case is different. It depends on what gets stolen and if the desire to recover it overrides the desire to make arrests, then deals can be made. Case in point: the Turners stolen in Germany, which were on loan from the Tate gallery U.K. This is a classic buy back. By the way, buy backs are not illegal, go check. It is not illegal for a victim or an insurance company to buy back stolen art. They try to spin that line, “it’s illegal,” but in reality buy backs are perfectly legal.
Noah, you know the MSM play the game, and in a post-9/11 world, the MSM are terrified to really conduct investigative journalism. Step out of the MSM line and your career is over.
I agree with some of that, but also I think stolen art is pretty low on the priority list of most MSM organizations.
I am not saying rewards or fees should be paid all the time and encourage art theft, but art theft happens because thieves can and will continue regardless. But if someone has information that helps recover stolen art, then they should be paid. Information is a salable commodity but sadly authorities expect it for free.
What does that have to do with MSM and investigative journalism?
I agree with you and much reporting on art crime is one of lazy journalism, therefore just trot out the usual spin under a banner headline. Take the Jeffrey Gundlach case in L.A. He offered a huge reward and got his art back within weeks, and the informant got paid.
Why has the MSM not questioned the Gardner case more? Why not seek answers to the immunity offer and reward offer to smoke out the truth. Then perhaps by firming up both immunity and reward offers people may believe it and come forward?
I see your point. I thought it was interesting that you used Google for everything. Do you trust them with your information despite the sensitive nature of some of it?
Noah, Google guys are great. They provide me with their security so hackers cannot disrupt my site like they may be able to do with an independent site. To hack my blog, hackers would need to bypass Google security and being in California I get the benefit of freedom of speech, so I can be toxic.
I mean less about hackers and more about Google themselves. They have shown in the past that they will work with law enforcement to turn over emails, etc. I’m not saying you’re doing anything illegal—I don’t think you are at all—but I can imagine a situation in which you might have some information like that which someone sends you.
I love Google, America, and of course Israel.
You can say, however, I am even-handed with my toxic viewpoints.
I am a thorn in the side of crooks and law enforcement, as well as the insurance industry. I say what journalists would love to say, I do not have the burden of office.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, Uncle Joe Ligambi Has Power to Order Gardner Paintings to Surface, Robert Gentile, Warned by George Borgesi, Waiting For Cast Iron Immunity Deal, No Stings, No Strings, David Turner, William Merlino, Stephen & Mark Rossetti , William Youngworth & Myles Connor Confirm Sighting, !!


http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/25583520/fbi-has-confirmed-sightings-of-gardner-artwork-after-heist?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=10188511


artMassHiest.jpg
FILE 1990: Security guard Paul Daley stands guard at the door of the Dutch Room of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Twelve priceless works of art were stolen from the museum.Reuters
The FBI agent in charge of the investigation into the theft of $500 million worth of masterpieces from a Boston museum nearly a quarter century ago says the bureau has confirmed sightings of the missing artwork from credible sources.
The art, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Manet, was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 by two men disguised as city police officers. The missing artwork has vexed the city and there is a $5 million reward.
FBI Special Agent Geoff Kelly, the lead investigator, told MyFoxBoston.com the trail for the missing artwork has not grown cold.
He identified three persons of interest in the Gardner case, all reportedly with ties to organized crime: Carmello Merlino, Robert Guarente, and Robert Gentile. Merlino and Guarente have died. Gentile has denied any knowledge of the missing work, the report said.
Kelly said in the late 1990s, two FBI informants told law enforcement that Merlino was preparing to return Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee, in an effort to collect the reward.
However, Merlino and his crew were soon arrested in an aborted armored car heist and the painting was never returned, MyFoxBoston.com reported.
Kelly suspects Guarente somehow passed control of the stolen Gardner artwork to Gentile, the report says
In 2012 Gentile's home and property in Manchester, Conn. were searched, but no sign of the stolen Gardner artwork was located. However, Kelly said authorities recovered police paraphernalia, including "clothing, articles of clothing with police and FBI insignias on it, handcuffs, a scanner, two way radios, and Tasers" and these are not common items.
Gentile, through his lawyer, denied having any connection to the Gardner art heist or with moving the artwork after the fact.

Art Hostage Comments:
The intrigue and stand off prevents the Gardner art being recovered. Ego's prevail and no-one is giving an inch.

Uncle Joe Ligambi, having beat the wrap yet again this January 2014 would organise the recovery of the Gardner art, but as with all previous attempts, there are problems with immunity and the reward offered.
Every time anyone has stepped up and offered help it seems they have ended up being indicted to be used as leverage, which has failed time and time again.

George Borgesi recently said if the immunity deal offered was for real, cast iron and did not require anything other than the Gardner art being recovered, then they could be handed back.

The reward offer of $5 million for the recovery of ALL the Gardner art in GOOD condition is also another problem because the condition was never good from the get-go, as when they were stolen some were cut from their frames and over the years some Gardner art has deteriorated.

From jail David Turner, Stephen and Mark Rossetti & William Merlino have all tried to offer help as part of a proposed deal but failed to agree and to be truthful, perhaps they do not have the ability to order the Gardner art to be handed back, unlike Uncle Joe Ligambi, who retains the ability, if so disposed, to demand the Gardner art be returned. Robert Gentile is no fool and will not put himself or his family at risk by revealing anything about the Gardner case because he has been warned by George Borgesi that Uncle Joe Ligambi has final say.

Mind you, if a deal was worked out and monies were paid, then I am certain the Gardner art, in whatever condition it is, would surface.
Robert Gentile, on pain of death threats to himself and family awaits the go-ahead, from Uncle Joe Ligambi via George Borgesi to offer up, via his lawyer, what he knows on securing the recovery of the Gardner art.
Lurking in the background is the in-fighting between Uncle Joe, Scarfo and Joey etc for control and the Gardner art has become just another piece of potential business.The smokescreen of a mistrial for Anthony Nicodemo has also made the subject of the Gardner art take a back seat.

We must not forget we are only talking about some, I repeat some of the Gardner art, not all is within the gift of Uncle Joe Ligambi or Robert Gentile to surface.

Lets step back and consider the facts.
The much maligned FBI have only been doing their job in trying to recover the Gardner art and make arrests.
The Criminal Underworld have also only been doing their job, trying to extort a ransom for the recovery of the Gardner art.
Twenty Four years have passed and no-one has broken rank on either side that has led to recovery of all the Gardner art.
To be continued...................................................

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist 24 Years & Counting !!


On Remand: Stolen Art Disappears Into The Starry Night And A Lawyer Goes To Prison



http://abovethelaw.com/2014/03/on-remand-stolen-art-disappears-into-the-starry-night-and-a-lawyer-goes-to-prison/

At 1:24 a.m. on March 18, 1990, as St. Patrick’s Day festivities wound down in Boston, two men dressed as police officers rang the buzzer at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. Eighty-one minutes later, they vanished, taking eleven paintings and two artifacts with them. None of the stolen works — worth at least $500 million today — has ever been recovered. This week, On Remand looks back at the Gardner heist and another set of stolen paintings that found their way back the rightful owner — landing an attorney in prison in the process….

The Gardner heist began when two men claiming to be police officers investigating a disturbance in the courtyard were admitted to the museum without question by the on-duty security guard. The imposter policemen then tricked the guard into stepping away from his alarm button and summoning the other on-duty guard. After taping the guards’ hands, feet, and heads (leaving holes to breathe), the burglars handcuffed the guards to pipes in the museum’s basement. With the guards disabled, the burglars disconnected the museum’s video cameras. No one would discover what happened next until 8 a.m., when the morning shift of employees arrived.
That morning, Gardner staff and police discovered what remains the largest property crime in U.S. history. In the Dutch room, a Rembrandt self-portrait, which the thieves had unsuccessfully tried to pry from its frame, laid discarded on the floor. Two frames — the former homes of Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee and A Lady and Gentleman in Black — hung haphazardly without their contents, which had been cut out. A Vermeer and a Govart Flinck painting were missing. Elsewhere in the museum, five Degas drawings, a Manet, a bronze eagle from the top of a Napoleonic flag, and a Chinese vase were also gone.
The burglary was beyond perplexing. The thieves operated with a strange mix of professionalism and amateurism. Their method of entry, treatment of the guards, and disabling of the museum’s security cameras suggested they were professionals. Yet, only amateurs would risk spending nearly an hour and a half in the museum (and, according to motion trackers still active throughout the burglary, spend only half that time stealing art). The thieves’ eclectic mix of stolen artwork — Dutch, Asian, and Napoleonic — appeared to have no connection, and they vastly devalued the two Rembrandts by cutting them out of the frames. The thieves also left the museum’s most valuable painting, Titian’s Europa, hanging on the wall.
The crime remains unsolved, the theories as perplexing as the heist itself. Those theories include the involvement of the Irish Republican Army or possibly Whitey Bulger, the Boston mob boss and FBI informant. Another theory posits that New England art thief, Myles Connor, asked an associate to make the steal.
Contrary to the Gardner heist, and Hollywood’s treatment of other art heists, most stolen art is taken without drama: museum employees simply walk off with artwork in storage or opportunists snag small pieces from the homes of collectors. Art thieves typically are not sophisticated criminals in bowler hats. Such was the case with a 1978 break-in in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. After Michael Bakwin left town for the Memorial Day weekend in 1978, his house was broken into and seven paintings were stolen, including a valuable Cézanne. The investigation quickly focused on David Colvin, a small-time career criminal who was already in trouble with the law on an unrelated firearms charge.
The day before his hearing in the firearms case, Colvin arrived at his lawyer’s office with a bag containing the paintings stolen from the Bakwin home. According to his attorney, Robert M. Mardirosian:
He was going to bring them to Florida to fence them, but I told him that if he ever got caught with them with the other case hanging over his head, he’d be in real trouble…. So he left them upstairs in my attic in a big plastic bag.
In February 1979, Colvin was shot and killed over a $1,500 poker debt, stalling the investigation into Bakwin’s stolen paintings. A few months later, though, while cleaning the attic, Mardirosian rediscovered the paintings. He didn’t contact the authorities. He didn’t call Bakwin. Instead, he researched the best way to make a profit….

As Mardirosian quickly discovered, profiting from stolen art is not easy. Instead of selling it, thieves (or their bosses) often use valuable pieces as collateral in drug deals or hold the art in hopes of creating leverage if (or more likely, when) they are charged with other crimes. Mardirosian, who was experienced in criminal defense but not criminal fencing, sat on the paintings for twenty years.
Finally, in 1999, Mardirosian, perhaps bored with his still life, tried selling the Cézanne. To remain anonymous, he set up a shell corporation and hired an intermediary in London. But when the intermediary sought insurance to ship the painting, the insurer contacted the Art Loss Register, a private organization that maintains a database of stolen paintings. The ALR effortlessly identified the art as the Cézanne stolen from the Bakwin home and notified British and American authorities. Seeing an opportunity for itself as well, the ALR reached an agreement with Bakwin to recover the seven stolen paintings for a commission. The investigation, which had virtually stopped at Colvin’s death, was back on.
Meanwhile, Mardirosian blundered on, demanding $15 million from Bakwin for the return of the art. Bakwin initially refused, but then had a change of heart. To save the Cézanne, he sacrificed the other six paintings (together worth about $1 million), agreeing to convey those to the still-anonymous Mardirosian. Mardirosian, now represented by a new intermediary who was (of course) also a lawyer, agreed. Mardirosian’s attorney Bernard Vischer met with Julian Radcliffe, the founder and chairman of the Art Loss Register, in Geneva to execute the agreement. They were accompanied by experts from Sotheby’s to verify the painting’s authenticity.
As recounted in the First Circuit’s later opinion:
Vischer spoke with someone on his cell phone, and then announced that he would retrieve the Cézanne and bring it to the boardroom. He left the room and headed to the front of the building, with Radcliffe and others in tow. Once outside, Vischer walked to a nearby corner. A white car pulled up beside him, and the back passenger window lowered. A passenger in the backseat, his face shrouded from view, handed Vischer a black trash bag. The car sped away. Vischer returned to the boardroom and handed the trash bag to the experts from Sotheby’s, who carefully opened it to reveal the stolen Cézanne.
With his part of the 1999 Agreement satisfied, Mardirosian received a bill of sale purportedly transferring title in the other six paintings. He also agreed to sign an affidavit — using his real name — swearing that he was not involved in the original theft. The affidavit was sealed and sent to the London-based law firm Herbert Smith for safekeeping.
Mardirosian continued to work on selling the remaining six paintings. After Bakwin refused to pay $1 million for them, in 2005, working through a new intermediary (a real estate developer this time), Mardirosian offered the pieces to Sotheby’s. Sotheby’s, predictably, called the Art Loss Register to check the arts’ provenance. The ALR identified the paintings as those stolen from Bakwin, but seeing an opportunity to collect on its commission, the ALR instead told Sotheby’s that title was clear. When the paintings arrived in London, Bakwin sued to stop the sale. In the course of the case, the affidavit was unsealed, revealing Mardirosian as the seller.
Soon after, Mardirosian was indicted in the U.S. under §2315 of the National Stolen Property Act, which makes it a crime to receive or possess stolen goods worth $5,000 or more that have crossed a U.S. boundary. In his defense, Mardirosian argued that the 1999 Agreement (which allegedly gave Mardirosian title to the six paintings in exchange for the Cézanne) terminated his illegal possession, and in the intervening eight years, the statute of limitations had run. In affirming his conviction, the First Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the argument — contracts for illegal purposes are never valid:
The 1999 Agreement was illegal in that Mardirosian conditioned the return of the stolen Cézanne on Bakwin’s relinquishment of title to the six paintings. We tread no new ground in declaring that the act of demanding a fee for the return of stolen property is unlawful.
Mardirosian was sentenced to seven years, assessed a $100,000 fine, and disbarred. In a later civil case, Bakwin and the ALR won $3 million in damages from Mardirosian for all their trouble. Perhaps being both disbarred and behind bars has changed his tune, but before his 2007 criminal trial, Mardirosian had this to say for himself:
I know some things don’t look good here, but I believe I have a legitimate case to make…. I could have sold these a dozen times, but never did. My whole intent was to find a way to get them back to the owner in return for a 10 percent commission.
To be sure, some things don’t look good here for Mardirosian. But they are looking up for Bakwin, who sold his Cézanne for $29 million shortly after reacquiring it in 1999. Meanwhile, because Mrs. Gardner’s will requires the Gardner to remain exactly as it was the day she handed it over, empty frames and blank spots greet the museum’s guests where the Rembrandts and the other stolen works used to hang. Last year, on the heist’s anniversary, the FBI issued a press release announcing that it knew the identities of the thieves, as well as the arts’ location in the years immediately after the theft. The arts’ current location remains unknown, however, and the Gardner’s $5 million reward for information leading to the return of its stolen works is unclaimed. The field is crowded, so bring your “A” game and join the professional art investigators, petty criminals, psychics, and the rest of the motley crew hoping to capitalize on the Gardner’s misfortune.
Inside The Gardner Case [ARTnews]
Ripped From the Walls (And The Headlines) [Smithsonian]

Samantha Beckett (not her real name) is an attorney with more than ten years of experience working in Biglaw. When not traveling back in time, she is most likely billing it. Her writing has been featured in state and federal courts across the nation and in the inboxes of countless clients, colleagues, and NSA analysts. She can be reached at OnRemand@gmail.com.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, Myles J. Connor Jr Steps Back Into The Limelight

 http://blogs.artinfo.com/artintheair/files/2014/02/dt.common.streams.StreamServer.jpeg

Infamous art thief revisits criminal past in Ellsworth

ELLSWORTH, Maine — It has been nearly 50 years since notorious criminal Myles J. Connor Jr. stepped foot inside the old brick building at 40 State St.
The last time he was there, when it was the old Hancock County Jail, he confronted a jail guard with a bar of soap he had blackened with shoe polish and carved into the shape of a gun. He used the fake firearm in a brazen escape from the jail that earned him five days of freedom — two of which he spent hiding in the attic of the Ellsworth Public Library — before he was snagged in a manhunt in the neighboring town of Hancock.
Now 71 years old and a resident of Blackstone, Mass., Connor was back at the old Ellsworth jail on Wednesday with a documentary film crew, recounting his first major criminal incident in a decades-long career of flamboyantly breaking the law. Balding with gray hair, he wore a long beige winter coat to stay warm inside the chilly building.
“I had no idea the commotion that I started by this stunt,” Conner said Wednesday of his daring summertime jail break in Hancock County when he was 22 years old. “And of course they had helicopters and guys with bloodhounds and the whole thing after me.”
Connor first gained attention in the 1960s as leader of a Boston-area rock band called Myles and the Wild Ones. He added to his reputation over the years with several high-profile art thefts and, though he was in prison at the time, has been linked to the infamous 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist in Boston. He also has been accused of assaults, drug trafficking, shooting a police officer, and of murdering two Boston women in 1975, the last of which he eventually was acquitted.
On Wednesday, Connor recounted how while visiting relatives 49 years ago in Sullivan, he was captured after police caught him stealing antiques from a local dead woman’s house. A copy of his 2009 book, “The Art of the Heist,” lay on a table in the old jail booking room while cameras recorded Connor looking in a dusty jail cell and talking to relatives of Merritt Fitch, the sheriff who ran the jail at the time of his escape.
Dorothy “Dot” Fitch, the wife of the now-deceased former sheriff, said she cooked hot meals for inmates at the jail, including Connor.
“This is the first time I’ve seen him since I saw the back of him running out the door,” she said.
Ernest Fitch, the sheriff’s son and himself a former detective with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, said he was in the attached house where his family lived when Connor escaped. Recalling the commotion, he said his father got on the phone and called for assistance after Connor ran down the hill and jumped into the Union River.
“He said ‘Bring in the bloodhounds — we’re going to need them,’” the former detective said.
Connor, whose grandfather was from Sullivan, used to travel in the summers from Milton, Mass., where his father was a police sergeant, to visit his grandfather’s family. He already had developed an interest in acquiring art and antiques when, one July night in 1965, he heard his relatives talking about a neighbor.
“I was at the dinner table at my granduncle’s house and I remember them talking about how sad it was that Mrs. so-and-so had passed on and her children were going to get everything that she had and she despised her children,” Connor said. “Being aware there was this house filled with antiques and stuff, I decided to take a look.”
Connor went to the dead woman’s house and was carrying a grandfather clock out to his car when a sheriff’s deputy, responding to a tip, pulled into the driveway. But it wasn’t the clock in his hands that worried Connor when he saw the officer, he said.
“In the trunk of my car I had some [illegal] firearms, heavy-duty firearms that I had brought up to Maine to do some target practice with,” Connor said. “They were machine guns.”
Connor got into a “tussle” with the deputy, snatching away his gun and shooting out the communications radio in the cruiser before he drove off in his own car. He was apprehended a short distance away on Route 1 by other officers responding to the call.
He was taken to the Ellsworth jail but soon hatched his escape plan. Officials would not let him out on bail, he said, and he was desperate to get back to his apartment in Revere, Mass.
“Back in Revere, my apartment was filled with high-quality antiques,” Connor said.
Among them was a silver plate made by Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere that had been stolen from Harvard University’s Peabody Museum. He was concerned that people he knew back home would help themselves to the valuables while he was locked away in Maine.
“It was paramount that I get out and get down there,” Connor said. “That was the reason for the desperate act.”
So about 8 p.m. July 26, 1965, Connor sprung into action. He brandished the blackened soap at a guard, knocked him down and ran out through the booking room entrance, down the hill behind the jail and jumped into the Union River. After seeing people with flashlights on the far side of the river, he swam back to the eastern bank and ran into the library, next to the jail.
“I reposed in the library for two days,” Connor said.
He found a ladder and hatch that led into the attic and crawled up, kicking the rolling ladder away as he went.
Two days later, he snuck out of the library, walked east a few blocks through Ellsworth and then followed railroad tracks east toward Hancock. He lived in the woods for a few more days until, after being spotted a few times, he ended up being caught in a police dragnet.
This time he was taken to Penobscot County Jail in Bangor and, after posting $15,000 bail, went back to Massachusetts, where he got into more trouble that kept him from ever returning to Maine to serve time.
In the decades since, Connor has been connected with a 1974 theft of Wyeth paintings from the Woolworth estate in Monmouth, Maine; a 1975 theft of paintings from the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; and a 1975 daylight robbery of a Rembrandt painting from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, among other capers.
More recently, he has been implicated in more petty crimes — a 2011 sunglasses shoplifting attempt and a 2012 drug-related robbery of a cellphone, both in Woonsocket, R.I., and a 2011 hay theft in Mendon, Mass.
Connor is free after serving time in prison for his crimes. He was incarcerated in Walpole, Mass., on assault and attempted murder charges, and in Illinois for drug offenses and illegal transportation of stolen art.
When asked Wednesday about the infamous, unsolved Gardner Museum heist, Connor repeated what he has said in other previously published reports: that the theft, which netted 13 works of art now estimated to be worth up to $500 million, was his idea but that it was carried out by two associates of his who have since died. He added that he believes the stolen artworks are now in Saudi Arabia, “probably in some wealthy sheik’s basement.”
FBI officials announced last year that they have identified who the thieves were, but they declined to release names, saying the case is still under investigation. Other people with highly publicized criminal records have been linked to the Gardner heist, but none ever has been charged in the crime.

 Myles J. Connor Jr. (right) holds a bar of soap carved into the shape of a gun Wednesday as Al Dotoli, a longtime friend who accompanied Connor on his visit, holds up his hands in mock alarm at the old Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth. Connor, a notorious art thief, escaped from the jail in 1965 by using the fake firearm to fool a jail guard.
Myles J. Connor Jr. (right) holds a bar of soap carved into the shape of a gun Wednesday as Al Dotoli, a longtime friend who accompanied Connor on his visit, holds up his hands in mock alarm at the old Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth. Connor, a notorious art thief, escaped from the jail in 1965 by using the fake firearm to fool a jail guard.
 A bar of soap blackened with shoe polish and carved into the shape of a small gun sits in the bottom of a glass jar at the old Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth on Wednesday. Notorious art thief Myles J. Connor Jr, who was in Ellsworth this week to recount his criminal past, used the fake firearm to escape from the jail in 1965.
A bar of soap blackened with shoe polish and carved into the shape of a small gun sits in the bottom of a glass jar at the old Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth on Wednesday. Notorious art thief Myles J. Connor Jr, who was in Ellsworth this week to recount his criminal past, used the fake firearm to escape from the jail in 1965.
 Myles J. Connor Jr., of Blackstone, Mass., stands in the doorway of a cell Wednesday in the old Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth. Connor, a career criminal and infamous art thief, escaped from the jail in 1965 by using a bar of soap he blackened and carved into the shape of a gun.
Myles J. Connor Jr., of Blackstone, Mass., stands in the doorway of a cell Wednesday in the old Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth. Connor, a career criminal and infamous art thief, escaped from the jail in 1965 by using a bar of soap he blackened and carved into the shape of a gun.
 Myles J. Connor Jr., 71, of Blackstone, Mass., is recorded by a documentary film crew in the old Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth on Wednesday. Connor, an infamous art thief, revisited the jail to recount how he used a bar of soap carved into the shape of a gun to escape from the jail in 1965.
Myles J. Connor Jr., 71, of Blackstone, Mass., is recorded by a documentary film crew in the old Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth on Wednesday. Connor, an infamous art thief, revisited the jail to recount how he used a bar of soap carved into the shape of a gun to escape from the jail in 1965.

Infamous art thief revisits criminal past in Ellsworth



Myles J. Connor Jr., right, holds a bar of soap carved into the shape of a gun Wednesday as Al Dotoli, a longtime friend who accompanied Connor on his visit, holds up his hands in mock alarm at the old Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth. Connor, a notorious art thief, escaped from the jail in 1965 by using the fake firearm to fool a jail guard.
ELLSWORTH — It has been nearly 50 years since notorious criminal Myles J. Connor Jr. stepped foot inside the old brick building at 40 State St.

The last time he was there, when it was the old Hancock County Jail, he confronted a jail guard with a bar of soap he had blackened with shoe polish and carved into the shape of a gun. He used the fake firearm in a brazen escape from the jail that earned him five days of freedom — two of which he spent hiding in the attic of the Ellsworth Public Library — before he was snagged in a manhunt in the neighboring town of Hancock.
Now 71 years old and a resident of Blackstone, Mass., Connor was back at the old Ellsworth jail on Wednesday with a documentary film crew, recounting his first major criminal incident in a decades-long career of flamboyantly breaking the law. Balding with gray hair, he wore a long beige winter coat to stay warm inside the chilly building.
“I had no idea the commotion that I started by this stunt,” Conner said Wednesday of his daring summertime jail break in Hancock County when he was 22 years old. “And of course they had helicopters and guys with bloodhounds and the whole thing after me.”
Connor first gained attention in the 1960s as leader of a Boston-area rock band called Myles and the Wild Ones. He added to his reputation over the years with several high-profile art thefts and, though he was in prison at the time, has been linked to the infamous 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist in Boston. He also has been accused of assaults, drug trafficking, shooting a police officer, and of murdering two Boston women in 1975, the last of which he eventually was acquitted.
On Wednesday, Connor recounted how while visiting relatives 49 years ago in Sullivan, he was captured after police caught him stealing antiques from a local dead woman’s house. A copy of his 2009 book, “The Art of the Heist,” lay on a table in the old jail booking room while cameras recorded Connor looking in a dusty jail cell and talking to relatives of Merritt Fitch, the sheriff who ran the jail at the time of his escape.
Dorothy “Dot” Fitch, the wife of the now-deceased former sheriff, said she cooked hot meals for inmates at the jail, including Connor.
“This is the first time I’ve seen him since I saw the back of him running out the door,” she said.
Ernest Fitch, the sheriff’s son and himself a former detective with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, said he was in the attached house where his family lived when Connor escaped. Recalling the commotion, he said his father got on the phone and called for assistance after Connor ran down the hill and jumped into the Union River.
Connor, whose grandfather was from Sullivan, used to travel in the summers from Milton, Mass., where his father was a police sergeant, to visit his grandfather’s family. He already had developed an interest in acquiring art and antiques when, one July night in 1965, he heard his relatives talking about a neighbor.
“I was at the dinner table at my granduncle’s house and I remember them talking about how sad it was that Mrs. so-and-so had passed on and her children were going to get everything that she had and she despised her children,” Connor said. “Being aware there was this house filled with antiques and stuff, I decided to take a look.”
Connor went to the dead woman’s house and was carrying a grandfather clock out to his car when a sheriff’s deputy, responding to a tip, pulled into the driveway. But it wasn’t the clock in his hands that worried Connor when he saw the officer, he said.
“In the trunk of my car I had some (illegal) firearms, heavy-duty firearms that I had brought up to Maine to do some target practice with,” Connor said. “They were machine guns.”
Connor got into a “tussle” with the deputy, snatching away his gun and shooting out the communications radio in the cruiser before he drove off in his own car. He was apprehended a short distance away on Route 1 by other officers responding to the call.
He was taken to the Ellsworth jail but soon hatched his escape plan. Officials would not let him out on bail, he said, and he was desperate to get back to his apartment in Revere, Mass.
“Back in Revere, my apartment was filled with high-quality antiques,” Connor said.
Among them was a silver plate made by Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere that had been stolen from Harvard University’s Peabody Museum. He was concerned that people he knew back home would help themselves to the valuables while he was locked away in Maine.
So about 8 p.m. July 26, 1965, Connor sprung into action. He brandished the blackened soap at a guard, knocked him down and ran out through the booking room entrance, down the hill behind the jail and jumped into the Union River. After seeing people with flashlights on the far side of the river, he swam back to the eastern bank and ran into the library, next to the jail.
“I reposed in the library for two days,” Connor said.
He found a ladder and hatch that led into the attic and crawled up, kicking the rolling ladder away as he went.
Two days later, he snuck out of the library, walked east a few blocks through Ellsworth and then followed railroad tracks east toward Hancock. He lived in the woods for a few more days until, after being spotted a few times, he ended up being caught in a police dragnet.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Stolen Art Watch, James Whitey Bulger V Jimmy "The Gent" Burke + Goodfellas Collared


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Two Irishmen: James (Whitey) Bulger and James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke: Boston vs New York

http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20140124/BLOGS/301249982/2011/OPINION

How is it that Whitey received widespread national coverage during his trial, even reports in some international media? What makes him such a figure that well over two dozen books have been written about him in which he plays a prominent part in one way or another?  I’ve posited that Whitey was a run-of-the-mill viscous gangster. Yet forces united to elevate him to stratospheric levels.

One prominent media maven wrote that he “Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century.” From what I can tell there’s never been any public official in the state or city convicted of corruption because of an involvement with Whitey. It seems that the corruption we’ve seen among Massachusetts public office holders or officials has not implicated anyone involved with organized crime.

However four different  surveys ranks Massachusetts as follows: Center for Public Integrity gives it a C placing it in the top ten least corrupt states; the New York Times ranks it 18th in the number of officials convicted;  the federals show it ranks 27th in per capital convictions; and Business Insider ranks it as the 21st most corrupt.

If Whitey didn’t corrupt any public officials and if he didn’t terrorize the city, then what is it that makes him such a matter of fascination?  It boils down to the smallness of Boston where something rather ordinary can be made into something extraordinary. But why pick out Whitey? He wasn’t the worst of the lot: John “Murderman” Martorano and Stevie “Benjiman”Flemmi, not to mention Larry Baione (Zannino), Gerry Angiulo and Frankie Salemme all surpassed him in cruelty and crime. I’ve suggested Whitey was made into much more than he ever was because it sated the Boston media’s appetite to foil his brother; and there was a need of other parties to jump on the ship to inflate his reputation for their own less than straight forward purposes.

I’m sure most of you are scratching your head and wondering who is Jimmy the Gent?  You’re probably saying “there’s no way he’s in the same league as Whitey.” And I’d  have to agree. He makes Whitey look like a small timer.

Burke was an outright mean murderer. You might have heard how Whitey didn’t like a story Paul Corsetti of the Herald was planning to write. He made a plan to confront him at the Dockside in Quincy Market (according to Ralph Ranalli in 2001) or at  P.J. Clark’s (according to Howie Carr in 2006)  or “a bar in Quincy Market” (according to Howie Carr in 2011). Whitey was upset because the story was about his brother Billy, or about the Litif murder, or whatever.(Hard to pin down the reason.)  We’re told that Whitey interacted with Corsetti, a combat vet from Vietnam, and whispered one of those “do you know who I am” talks allegedly telling him “I’m Jimmy Bulger and I  kill people.”

Many of the murders attributed to Whitey were done by others. He was allegedly in a crash car for a half-dozen who were murdered by Murderman  nor did he have much to do with the Wheeler or Callahan murders. Jimmy the Gent was all hands on. He is suspected in over 50 murders. Most of the people who pulled the Kennedy heist with him he murdered so they either wouldn’t talk or complain about their cut of the loot. Yet no one has suggested that he terrorized New York City. He was but a minor blip in the annals of crime.
http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20140124/BLOGS/301249982/2011/OPINION
How is it that Whitey received widespread national coverage during his trial, even reports in some international media? What makes him such a figure that well over two dozen books have been written about him in which he plays a prominent part in one way or another?  I’ve posited that Whitey was a run-of-the-mill viscous gangster. Yet forces united to elevate him to stratospheric levels.

One prominent media maven wrote that he “Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century.” From what I can tell there’s never been any public official in the state or city convicted of corruption because of an involvement with Whitey. It seems that the corruption we’ve seen among Massachusetts public office holders or officials has not implicated anyone involved with organized crime.

However four different  surveys ranks Massachusetts as follows: Center for Public Integrity gives it a C placing it in the top ten least corrupt states; the New York Times ranks it 18th in the number of officials convicted;  the federals show it ranks 27th in per capital convictions; and Business Insider ranks it as the 21st most corrupt.

If Whitey didn’t corrupt any public officials and if he didn’t terrorize the city, then what is it that makes him such a matter of fascination?  It boils down to the smallness of Boston where something rather ordinary can be made into something extraordinary. But why pick out Whitey? He wasn’t the worst of the lot: John “Murderman” Martorano and Stevie “Benjiman”Flemmi, not to mention Larry Baione (Zannino), Gerry Angiulo and Frankie Salemme all surpassed him in cruelty and crime. I’ve suggested Whitey was made into much more than he ever was because it sated the Boston media’s appetite to foil his brother; and there was a need of other parties to jump on the ship to inflate his reputation for their own less than straight forward purposes.

I’m sure most of you are scratching your head and wondering who is Jimmy the Gent?  You’re probably saying “there’s no way he’s in the same league as Whitey.” And I’d  have to agree. He makes Whitey look like a small timer.

Burke was an outright mean murderer. You might have heard how Whitey didn’t like a story Paul Corsetti of the Herald was planning to write. He made a plan to confront him at the Dockside in Quincy Market (according to Ralph Ranalli in 2001) or at  P.J. Clark’s (according to Howie Carr in 2006)  or “a bar in Quincy Market” (according to Howie Carr in 2011). Whitey was upset because the story was about his brother Billy, or about the Litif murder, or whatever.(Hard to pin down the reason.)  We’re told that Whitey interacted with Corsetti, a combat vet from Vietnam, and whispered one of those “do you know who I am” talks allegedly telling him “I’m Jimmy Bulger and I  kill people.”

Many of the murders attributed to Whitey were done by others. He was allegedly in a crash car for a half-dozen who were murdered by Murderman  nor did he have much to do with the Wheeler or Callahan murders. Jimmy the Gent was all hands on. He is suspected in over 50 murders. Most of the people who pulled the Kennedy heist with him he murdered so they either wouldn’t talk or complain about their cut of the loot. Yet no one has suggested that he terrorized New York City. He was but a minor blip in the annals of crime. - See more at: http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20140124/BLOGS/301249982/2011/OPINION#sthash.1cJSsaBF.dpuf
How is it that Whitey received widespread national coverage during his trial, even reports in some international media? What makes him such a figure that well over two dozen books have been written about him in which he plays a prominent part in one way or another?  I’ve posited that Whitey was a run-of-the-mill viscous gangster. Yet forces united to elevate him to stratospheric levels.

One prominent media maven wrote that he “Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century.” From what I can tell there’s never been any public official in the state or city convicted of corruption because of an involvement with Whitey. It seems that the corruption we’ve seen among Massachusetts public office holders or officials has not implicated anyone involved with organized crime.

However four different  surveys ranks Massachusetts as follows: Center for Public Integrity gives it a C placing it in the top ten least corrupt states; the New York Times ranks it 18th in the number of officials convicted;  the federals show it ranks 27th in per capital convictions; and Business Insider ranks it as the 21st most corrupt.

If Whitey didn’t corrupt any public officials and if he didn’t terrorize the city, then what is it that makes him such a matter of fascination?  It boils down to the smallness of Boston where something rather ordinary can be made into something extraordinary. But why pick out Whitey? He wasn’t the worst of the lot: John “Murderman” Martorano and Stevie “Benjiman”Flemmi, not to mention Larry Baione (Zannino), Gerry Angiulo and Frankie Salemme all surpassed him in cruelty and crime. I’ve suggested Whitey was made into much more than he ever was because it sated the Boston media’s appetite to foil his brother; and there was a need of other parties to jump on the ship to inflate his reputation for their own less than straight forward purposes.

I’m sure most of you are scratching your head and wondering who is Jimmy the Gent?  You’re probably saying “there’s no way he’s in the same league as Whitey.” And I’d  have to agree. He makes Whitey look like a small timer.

Burke was an outright mean murderer. You might have heard how Whitey didn’t like a story Paul Corsetti of the Herald was planning to write. He made a plan to confront him at the Dockside in Quincy Market (according to Ralph Ranalli in 2001) or at  P.J. Clark’s (according to Howie Carr in 2006)  or “a bar in Quincy Market” (according to Howie Carr in 2011). Whitey was upset because the story was about his brother Billy, or about the Litif murder, or whatever.(Hard to pin down the reason.)  We’re told that Whitey interacted with Corsetti, a combat vet from Vietnam, and whispered one of those “do you know who I am” talks allegedly telling him “I’m Jimmy Bulger and I  kill people.”

Many of the murders attributed to Whitey were done by others. He was allegedly in a crash car for a half-dozen who were murdered by Murderman  nor did he have much to do with the Wheeler or Callahan murders. Jimmy the Gent was all hands on. He is suspected in over 50 murders. Most of the people who pulled the Kennedy heist with him he murdered so they either wouldn’t talk or complain about their cut of the loot. Yet no one has suggested that he terrorized New York City. He was but a minor blip in the annals of crime. - See more at: http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20140124/BLOGS/301249982/2011/OPINION#sthash.1cJSsaBF.dpuf

'Goodfellas' Cold Case Cracked With Witnesses, Secret Tapes

For decades, those responsible for a 1978 pre-dawn robbery at the Lufthansa cargo terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, immortalized in the movie “Goodfellas,” eluded authorities. Only one person, an airline employee, was convicted, suspected organized crime associates were murdered and more than $6 million in cash, gold and jewels was never recovered.
That changed yesterday when authorities arrested Vincent Asaro, 78, alleging he’s a Bonanno crime family captain who participated in the Dec. 11, 1978, heist, the largest U.S. robbery at the time and the biggest in New York City history.
The break in the 35-year-old case came after the Federal Bureau of Investigation recruited new cooperating witnesses, including a cousin of Asaro who prosecutors said had been in on the heist. Authorities used information from at least four cooperating witnesses, DNA evidence and secretly made recordings in building a case that resulted in five arrests of alleged Bonanno crime family members as part of a broader organized crime sweep.
An indictment announced by U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn, New York, describes the trade craft of organized crime practiced by Asaro and his four alleged Bonanno cohorts, including extortion, racketeering, gambling, loansharking and threats of violence and murder.

‘Wise Guys’

“These ‘Goodfellas’ thought they had a license to steal, a license to kill and a license to do whatever they wanted,” George Venizelos, head of the FBI’s New York office, said in a statement. “It may be decades later, but the FBI’s determination to investigate and bring wise guys to justice will never waver.”
The defendants are charged with racketeering, which carries a term of as long as 20 years in prison. Asaro faces as long as life in prison, prosecutors said in a memo to the court. Four of the five defendants pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marilyn Go in federal court in Brooklyn. All five remain in federal custody.
“This is the sequel to ‘Goodfellas,’’ Gerald J. McMahon, a lawyer for Asaro, said after court yesterday.
‘‘Marty needs a screenplay,’’ he said in reference to the movie’s director, Martin Scorsese. Asaro will go to trial, McMahon said. ‘‘He will walk out of the doors a free man,’’ he said.
McMahon denied that Asaro was involved in the Lufthansa heist. ‘‘He doesn’t even know how to spell it,’’ he said.

Gold, Jewels

According to prosecutors, the team walked into the darkened Lufthansa Air Cargo building and left with gold, jewels and 50 boxes of cash, each containing $125,000.
Soon after the heist, federal authorities suspected that at least 10 members of the team were murdered, said Edward McDonald, then the federal prosecutor who oversaw the investigation.
‘‘Many of the people we believed to be participants were executed afterward, some within weeks, to silence them,’’ McDonald, now a partner at Dechert LLP, said yesterday in an interview. ‘‘There was a feeding frenzy in the press, and for months it was the subject of an intense federal investigation.’’

No Money

Asaro, the only one of the five defendants yesterday linked with the Lufthansa heist, was rankled that he didn’t get his share of the spoils, which was supposed to be $750,000 each, according to court documents. In a Feb. 17, 2011, recording cited by prosecutors, he alleged that it was kept by his associate James ‘‘Jimmy the Gent’’ Burke, who died in prison in 1996, and in the Hollywood telling was played by Robert De Niro.
‘‘We never got our right money, we were supposed to get, we got f---- all around. Got f---- all around. That f------ Jimmy [Burke] kept everything,’’ Asaro said in the recordings, according to court documents.
‘‘Neither age nor time dimmed Asaro’s ruthless ways as he continued to order violence to carry out mob business in recent months,’’ Lynch said in a statement.
Asaro was also singled out for his role in the murder of Paul Katz, who the U.S. said owned a warehouse in Queens that Asaro and his associates used to store stolen items. After the warehouse was raided in the late 1960s, Asaro and Burke became concerned that Katz would become an informant. In 1969 Katz was taken to a vacant home in Queens where Burke killed him with a dog chain because it was believed ‘‘he was a rat who was cooperating with law enforcement,’’ according to court papers.

Buried Body

They buried his body in the basement of a vacant Queens home where it remained for about 20 years. Alerted that state law enforcement officials were again investigating Katz’s murder, Burke told Asaro and his son to dig up the body and move it to the basement of another Queens home to avoid detection, the U.S. said. In June, after receiving a tip, the FBI excavated the site and found human remains. DNA testing on a human skull, bones and corduroy cloth found at the scene later determined that the body was Katz’s.
After the FBI began excavating the Queens home on Liberty Avenue on June 17, ‘‘Cooperating Witness 1” made a secret recording of his conversation with Asaro, in which Asaro asked, “What happened?” according to court papers.
“The feds are all over Liberty Avenue,” the witness said on the recording.
“For what?” Asaro asked.
“You know,” the cooperator said.
After the witness asks Asaro what he should do, Asaro replied, “Nothing,” adding later, “Don’t call me.”
The U.S. said FBI agents observed Asaro drive past the excavation site that same day.

Devoted Life

The defendants, including Asaro, are his son, Jerome Asaro, 55, Thomas “Tommy D” DiFiore, 70, John “Bazoo” Ragano, 52, and Jack Bonventre, 45. Bonventre is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate in Brooklyn today. All five are scheduled to appear before Judge Allyne Ross on Feb. 19.
“Vincent Asaro devoted his adult life to the Bonanno crime family, with a criminal career that spanned decades,” Lynch said in a statement. “Far from a code of honor, theirs was a code of violence and brute force.”
Asaro’s participation in the heist was corroborated by information provided by more than four cooperating witnesses, including those who are associated with three crime families, according to court papers. One of the cooperating witnesses, who prosecutors identified as a cousin of Vincent Asaro, participated in the heist, has pleaded guilty and is aiding the U.S. in the hopes of getting leniency, authorities said.
The cooperating witness wore a wire to make secret recordings for the U.S. after he became suspicious that Asaro and his son intended to kill him, according to the U.S.

Federal Informant

Henry Hill, a federal informant whose life in organized crime was portrayed by Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas,” said convicted Lucchese crime family captain Paul Vario and Burke were the two behind the Lufthansa heist, according to Nicholas Pileggi’s book “Wiseguy.”
Burke died in federal prison while serving a 20-year prison term for murdering a drug dealer. He was never charged with the airport robbery.
Burke had a “close criminal association” with Vincent Asaro and shared an interest in Robert’s Lounge, a Queens bar that was a meeting place for Burke and his crew, according to papers filed by prosecutors.

Armed Holdup

According to the book “The Heist” by Ernest Volkman and John Cummings, the robbery was considered “the greatest cash robbery in American history,” larger than the armed holdup of the Brink’s Armored Car Co. in Boston in 1950, in which $2.7 million was stolen.
McDonald, who won the cooperation of Hill when he was a prosecutor, said that the U.S. convicted only one person tied to the JFK heist, Louis Werner, a Lufthansa cargo agent. Werner, arrested two months after the robbery, was found guilty of accepting $80,000 to provide information to the robbers to help them carry out the heist, McDonald said.
Hill also told federal investigators that Burke and Vario were behind the heist, McDonald said.
McDonald, who played himself in “Goodfellas,” said the U.S. was unable to obtain corroborating evidence to support Hill’s information and the probe also was hindered by the execution of people authorities linked to the robbery.
Eventually the U.S. won convictions against crime family members for extortion of airport shipping companies as well as the union that handled freight at the airport, McDonald said.
Vario was one of the men convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn 1986 for running a protection racket at JFK airport. Hill testified against Vario and his co-defendants at trial. Vario died in federal prison in Texas in 1988, while Hill died in 2012 in Los Angeles from heart problems tied to smoking.
“This case was larger than life,” McDonald said.
The case is U.S. v. Asaro, 14-cr-00026, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

The real Goodfellas: FBI arrest New York mafia suspected of carrying out the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist

  • Five suspected mobsters have been arrested for their part in the 1978 Lufthansa heist at New York's Kennedy International Airport
  • The robbery was famously featured in the Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas
  • The arrests of four men and surrender of a fifth follows a discovery by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of human remains at a New York property in June
  • The home was once owned by James 'Jimmy the Gent' Burke last summer - who was played by Robert De Niro in Goodfellas
  • This is the first time any accused member of the mafia has ever faced charges in connection with the crime
  • The December 11, 1978, heist was one of the largest cash thefts in American history
  • The cash was never found and only one conviction has ever been made
It has taken them over 30 years, but the FBI have finally charged members of the New York mafia with the 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK - made famous by the movie Goodfellas.
Five high-ranking members of the Bonanno organized crime family were arrested and charged in pre-dawn raids on Thursday morning in connection with the $6 million robbery that is still one of the largest cash thefts in American history.
The arrests took place across New York and included Thomas 'Tommy D' DiDiore, who is believed to be the highest ranking member of the Bonanno family outside of prison and Vincent Asaro, 78, who is alleged to be a captain, or capo in the ranks of the crime family.
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Arrest 35-years later: Vincent Vinny Asaro (2-R), a captain in the Bonanno crime family, is escorted by FBI agents out of a federal building in New York, on Thursday 23 January 2014 - Asaro is suspected of being involved in the infamous Lufthansa heist of 1978
Busted: Vincent Asaro, an alleged captain in the Bonanno crime family, is led from Federal Plaza as he is charged in connection with the 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK International Airport


Boss: Thomas (Tommy D) DiFiore (C), reportedly connected to the Bonanno crime family, is escorted by FBI agents out of a federal building in New York, New York, USA, on Thursday to be charged in connection with the Lufthansa heist of 1978
Boss: Thomas (Tommy D) DiFiore (C), reportedly connected to the Bonanno crime family, is escorted by FBI agents out of a federal building in New York, New York, USA, on Thursday to be charged in connection with the Lufthansa heist of 1978

Arrest: TWo of five men arrested by the FBI this morning in connection with the infamous Lufthansa heist of 1978 leaves the court in Brooklyn this morning
Arrest: TWo of five men arrested by the FBI this morning in connection with the infamous Lufthansa heist of 1978 leaves the court in Brooklyn this morning


Bowed head: This morning 78-year-old Vincent Asaro, 55-year-old Jerome Asaro, 70-year-old Thomas Tommy D DiFiore, 52-year-old John Bazoo Ragano and Jack Bonventre were arraigned in Brooklyn for the 1978 Lufthansa heist
Bowed head: This morning 78-year-old Vincent Asaro, 55-year-old Jerome Asaro, 70-year-old Thomas Tommy D DiFiore, 52-year-old John Bazoo Ragano and Jack Bonventre were arraigned in Brooklyn for the 1978 Lufthansa heist

Tough guy: A man connected to the Bonanno crime family is escorted by FBI agents today in Brooklyn. Court papers unsealed in New York charge that the men were members of the Bonanno crime family
Tough guy: A man connected to the Bonanno crime family is escorted by FBI agents today in Brooklyn. Court papers unsealed in New York charge that the men were members of the Bonanno crime family

This is the first time any accused member of the mafia has ever faced charges in connection with the crime.
The arrests of the five men follows a discovery by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of human remains at a New York property tied to James 'Jimmy the Gent' Burke last summer.
Burke, the suspected mastermind of the heist, died in prison in 1996 while serving time for the murder of a drug dealer. Actor Robert De Niro played a character based on Burke in the film.
Vincent Asaro, identified as one of the leaders of the Bonanno gang, was charged with the theft of $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry from the Lufthansa Terminal at Kennedy on December 11, 1978.
At the time, it was the biggest cash heist ever in the United States. The stolen $5 million would be worth $17.9 million in 2013 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The crime stumped investigators for years, but a break in the case came last summer during a search that turned up human remains buried at the former home of Burke.
The indictment charges Asaro with the murder of Paul Katz in 1969, as well as robbery, conspiracy and other charges tied to the 1978 heist.
The Asaros, both alleged captains in the Bonanno organized crime family, also were charged together in a 1984 robbery of $1.25 million worth of gold salts from a Federal Express employee.
Information on their attorneys was not immediately available.
Iconic: More than $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels were netted in the heist, which took place on Dec. 11, 1978 and was made famous in the 1990 film Goodfellas
Iconic: More than $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels were netted in the heist, which took place on Dec. 11, 1978 and was made famous in the 1990 film Goodfellas
Burke owned Robert's Lounge, the saloon that a fellow Lucchese associate, the late Henry Hill - played by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas - described as Burke's private cemetery.
'Jimmy buried over a dozen bodies ... under the bocce courts,' Hill wrote in his book, 'A Goodfella's Guide to New York.'

Law enforcement have said that the arrested are Bonanno crime family members Vincent Asaro, 78; Jerome Asaro, 55; Thomas 'Tommy D' DiFiore, 70; John 'Bazoo' Ragano, 52; and Jack Bonventre, whose age isn't known.
Two of the suspects live in Queens, two in Long Island and one in upstate New York.
Life and film: James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke is led handcuffed from a law enforcenemt vehicle in this April 1979 file photo - and (right) as portrayed by Robert De Niro in the 1990 film Goodfellas
Life and film: James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke is led handcuffed from a law enforcenemt vehicle in this April 1979 file photo - and (right) as portrayed by Robert De Niro in the 1990 film Goodfellas
Life and film: James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke is led handcuffed from a law enforcenemt vehicle in this April 1979 file photo - and (right) as portrayed by Robert De Niro in the 1990 film Goodfellas

The exact connection between the search of Burke's home in Queens and the Lufthansa heist has not been made clear by the FBI as of Thursday.
Before today the only person ever convicted in connection with the robbery was airport insider, Louis Werner - who tipped off the men who stole the money.
The theft occurred in the middle of the night on December 11, 1978 and netted the robbers more than $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels.
At the time, it was the largest heist ever in America and led to a huge, decades-long search for the perpetrators that until now has been fruitless.
Six masked gunman took 64 minutes to steal the packets of cash, toss them into a van and escape.
The FBI has always agreed with the plot of the movie Goodfellas about all loose connections to the robbery being killed off by paranoid mob bosses.
Anger: The character of Jimmy Conway - played by Robert De Niro - becomes angry in the aftermath of the Lufthansa robbery and begins to kill those associated with the heist
Anger: The character of Jimmy Conway - played by Robert De Niro - becomes angry in the aftermath of the Lufthansa robbery and begins to kill those associated with the heist

Iconic: The 1990 Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas is considered by some to be one of the best movies about organized crime in modern American history
Iconic: The 1990 Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas is considered by some to be one of the best movies about organized crime in modern American history

Federal agents believe that Asaro was the key mafia overseer for JFK and as such would have been informed of Burke's plan to rob the currency shipment from West Germany.
The indictment charges Asaro with the murder of Paul Katz in 1969, as well as robbery, conspiracy and other charges tied to the 1978 heist.
ABC News reported Katz was killed, and his remains buried, because Burke believed he was working with law enforcement.
Burke was a specialist in hijacking and was arrrested in 1982 for a parole violation and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for match fixing involving the Boston College basketball team.
During his prison term, Burke was indicted for the murder of a known drug dealer whose body was found tied up hanging in a freezer truck in Brooklyn.
He was sentenced to 20 years to life for second-degree murder and died behind bars in 1996, at age 64, almost two decades after the airport robbery.
The cash has never been recovered from the robbery.-
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There is no appetite for terror campaign, says top dissident
A republican parade in Lodnonderry in 2011.
A republican parade in Lodnonderry in 2011.
There is no appetite for the ongoing campaign of dissident republican violence, a leading dissident has said.
Dominic McGlinchey Jnr, 36, whose father of the same name was the notorious INLA leader before his 1994 murder, said that republicans opposed to Sinn Fein’s strategy needed to “have a conversation about the future of the republican movement”.
The intervention by Mr McGlinchey comes as the latest in a lengthening line of veteran republicans at variance with Sinn Fein who have spoken out about the futility of the continuing campaign of bombings and shootings.
Several former IRA men have given interviews to the News Letter in which they have urged fellow republican opponents of Sinn Fein to desist from violence.
In December, former prisoner Anthony McIntyre told this newspaper: “Republicans lost the war and the IRA campaign failed and the dissidents need to be told that it failed rather than be allowed to continue thinking what they do.”
Richard O’Rawe said at that time that the dissidents’ “whole campaign is insane” and should stop.
Mr McGlinchey — who has vigorously denied an allegation that he had any involvement in the 2009 Massereene murders and has never been charged in relation to the attack — told the Irish News: “I don’t believe the appetite exists among the people. That’s not to say there is not considerable support among certain segments of republicanism for particular types of resistance but what is very clear is that the appetite is not there for a full-blown campaign.”
He added that dissidents needed to consider if “certain tactics are holding you back from entering a new field of battle”.