Ex-con: Investigators scoured home in Gardner museum probe
Investigators on the long, cold trail of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum thieves searched for the elusive stolen art in the home of a grizzled former safecracker from Worcester last month but walked away with only a handful of postcards, an envelope, an old photo and pieces of the ex-con’s unfinished crime-caper novel, the Herald has learned.
Anthony “Chucky” Carlo, 62, said some 30 investigators — including officers in riot gear — punched holes in the walls of his duplex, rifled through closets, cut open couches and tore up attic insulation in a 10-hour raid to find any trace of the treasures stolen by night 21 years ago.“I opened the door and there they were in battle gear. Vests, big guns, everything. Like they were expecting me to bust out a carbine. Needless to say, I was kind of shocked,” Carlo told the Herald of the Oct. 25 search. “They had some heavies there. I told them, ‘Hey guys, this is going to be an embarrassment to you.
“They pretty much looked everywhere and they left. The warrants said they were looking for the paintings or anything pertaining to the Gardner museum,” he said. “They thought they were coming up with something. They weren’t doing it just to roust me.”
Officials from the FBI and the museum declined to comment.
Carlo, whose last brush with the law was a minor drug rap a decade ago, said authorities seized an envelope, postcards he received some 30 years ago and the outline of a lurid page-turner he never finished writing.
“You know, just crime, sex, drugs, rock and roll,” he said. “Then I realized I didn’t have the talent.”
They also took a photograph of the old Summer Street jail in Worcester as workers prepped it for demolition.
“They said, ‘What do you have that for?’ I says, ‘I don’t know. I must have been planning to break in there,’ ” Carlo said. “It was an amusing photo.”
What it wasn’t was one of the 13 pieces of near-priceless art stolen in the early-morning hours of March 18, 1990, when men dressed as cops infiltrated the museum and made off with works, including Rembrandt’s only known seascape, a rare Vermeer, a series of drawings by Edgar Degas, a finial from a Napoleonic flag, and a Chinese beaker. Suspects have died and disappeared; clues have led to dead ends.
Carlo said he knows of the heist only what he saw in media reports. He said he helped police recover paintings stolen from the Worcester Art Museum in 1972.
“That’s when I learned about art. Nothing but aggravation,” he said.
Carlo says the search and subpoena are evidence of a lesson he’s learned the hard way over the years: Once a con, always a suspect.
“I’m an old man and they still won’t get off my case,” he said. “They don’t ever let you live it down.”