Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Monday, November 28, 2011

stolen Art Watch, Nuremberg Defence, Best Form Of Attack


'The FBI told us to do it!' Seven robbers go on trial accused of £20 million art heist

Art thieves stung by FBI on trial in France

Five art thieves arrested in an FBI sting operation went on trial today for the brazen theft from a museum on the French Riviera of four paintings by Monet, Sisley and Brueghel.

The five were detained in 2008 following an operation involving a famed FBI art crimes investigator, Robert Wittman, but their lawyers claim they were enticed by the agency into committing the crime.

The works, valued at 20 million euros ($27 million), were stolen in August 2007 from the Musee des Beaux-Arts Jules Cheret in Nice in a heist that saw the thieves threaten staff, stuff the paintings into bags and escape in under five minutes.

Two of the men, Pierre-Noel Dumarais, 64, and Patrick Chelelekian, 59, are accused of having organised the heist with their alleged accomplices, Patrice Lhomme, 46, Gregory Moullec, 41, and Lionel Ritter, 39.

The five admitted at the trial in southern France on Monday to having carried out the robbery but denied accusations from museum staff that they were armed.

They face between 30 years and life in prison if convicted on the charges of organised armed robbery and criminal association. A verdict is expected on Friday.

The paintings -- "Cliffs Near Dieppe" by Claude Monet; "The Lane of Poplars at Moret" by Alfred Sisley; and "Allegory of Water" and "Allegory of Earth" by Jan Brueghel the Elder -- were recovered in a sting organised by the FBI and French police in June 2008.

The paintings were allegedly stolen on the orders of a French citizen living in Florida, Bernard Jean Ternus, who pleaded guilty in a US court in 2008 to conspiring to sell the art works. He was sentenced to five years and two months in prison.

Ternus allegedly told the thieves he had buyers lined up to pay three million euros for the paintings, which because of their fame would have been difficult to unload on the black market.

Ternus arranged for the thieves to meet the buyers in the southern French port city of Marseille but was unaware that he had been dealing with undercover French police and FBI agents reportedly working for Wittman, then the FBI's top art crimes investigator.

The five were arrested after finalising the deal and Ternus was detained in Florida.

The suspects' lawyers allege that Wittman, who last year published a book on his exploits entitled "Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures", effectively ordered the heist to infiltrate European art crime gangs.

Wittman was working undercover at the time on the world's biggest unsolved art crime -- the 1990 theft of works worth an estimated $500 million by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas, Manet and other artists from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

"It is a shame that (FBI) agents, in order to recover paintings stolen on their territory, are making orders that... lead to other thefts on French territory," said Ludovic Depatureaux, a lawyer for Dumarais.

Both the Monet and Sisley paintings had previously been stolen from the same museum in 1998 when thieves were said to have broken into the curator's home and forced him to drive to and let them into the premises.

But they were recovered a week later and the curator subsequently pleaded guilty to having masterminded the theft.

The FBI was implicated in a £20 million art theft today - as seven armed robbers went on trial accused of stealing a Monet, a Sisley and two Breughels.

All face up to 30 years in prison following the heist at the Beaux Arts museum in Nice, on the French Riviera, in August 2007.

Now their high-profile trial in nearby Aix-en-Provence is set to throw light on the apparent links between the American crime-fighting organisation and those it tries to bring to justice.

Pierre-Noel Dumarais, the 64-year-old leader of the gang who broke into the gallery dressed as cleaners, insists they were all 'persuaded' by the FBI to do so.

He admits that he brandished a Colt 45 pistol and hand-grenades at staff as he stole 'Allegory of Water' and 'Allegory of Earth' by Breughel, as well as Alfred Sisley's 'Avenue of Poplars at Moret' and Claude Monet's 'Cliffs Near Dieppe'.

Their combined worth was at least £20 million.

But Ludovic Depatureaux, for Dumarais, insisted that 'the operation only went well because the museum was not protected at all' with CCTV or armed guards.

Defence counsel argues that Robert K Wittman, a 55-year-old FBI special agent from Miami working undercover as a corrupt art dealer called 'Bob Clay', effectively 'ordered' the heist because he wanted to infiltrate art crime gangs working across France.

His ultimate aim was to recover a Vermeer and two Rembrandts stolen from a museum in Boston, USA, in 1990 .

Wittman thought Dumarais might lead him to 'the Dutch paintings', but only if he remained convinced that he was a gangster who approved of stealing paintings to order, said Depatureaux.

Mr Depatureaux said: 'Wittman thought that he would infiltrate those who stole or still hold the Vermeer and Rembrandt. The Nice heist was just collateral damage.'

The barrister added: 'My client's modus operandi did not start from the premise: let's steal some paintings then find a buyer. They were a bunch of amateurish stooges some of whom only met on the day of the heist.

'These canvasses disappeared in order to recover two key paintings belonging to U.S. heritage. I'm not sure that the U.S. would appreciate it if French agents acted likewise.'

Calling for the charges to be dropped, Mr Depatureaux said gang members were the victims of 'police provocation'.

But Mr Wittman said: 'In the U.S., we law enforcement officers used to call that 'throwing fecal matter against the wall and seeing what would stick'.

'I don't think anything I did 'encouraged' anyone to obtain Chechen hand grenades and semi automatic pistols in order to commit armed robbery. It is a fanciful defence at best, at worst, it is a defence of desperation used only when criminals are caught.'

Denying that the gang members were amateurs, Mr Wittman said: 'They were good criminals, but terrible businessmen.'

Mr Wittman, now retired, recovered around £200 million worth of stolen art during his career, including Geronimo's war bonnet, an original copy of the U.S. Bill of Rights, and works by Rembrandt, Rodin and Rockwell.

His ultimate aim has always been to recover the Vermeer, two Rembrandts and five sketches by Degas worth £350 million stolen from Boston and remaing one of the art world’s most enduring unsolved crimes.

The latest case in which he is involved in Aix, which is expected to end on Friday, continues.

The defendants deny a charge of ‘armed robbery and possession of stolen goods committed by an organized gang’, the court heard.

All of the paintings were recovered with the help of the FBI 10 months after the heist, which took less than five minutes, French police admitted in court.

It was Bernard Ternus, a Frechman based in Miami, who first told the gang that U.S. criminal buyers were interested in old master paintings.

In fact, the buyers were the FBI and trying to recover the works stolen from the Gardner Museum in Boston in March 1990.

It was while Ternus was trying to sell the Nice paintings to Wittman at a ‘knock down’ price of £2.7 million pounds, that he was arrested and the works recovered

Ternus is already serving a five year, two month sentence in Miami for his part in the negotiations to sell stolen art.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, FBI Icon Robert Wittman Accused Of Gardner Art Heist Sting Attempt


FBI art crimes chief 'ordered theft of Monet and Sisley paintings from French gallery'

Seven people go on trial on Monday for the multi-million pound theft of a Monet, Sisley and two Breughels in Nice but their leader claims the FBI's art crimes chief "ordered" the heist.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/8916105/FBI-art-crimes-chief-ordered-theft-of-Monet-and-Sisley-paintings-from-French-gallery.html

The men face maximum sentences of 30 years in prison for armed robbery at the end of the week-long trial in Aix-en-Provence. The leader's lawyer claims they were a bunch of bumbling art amateurs talked into the heist by the world's most notorious art detective bent on catching bigger prey.

At lunchtime on August 5, 2007, thieves dressed in blue overalls and ski masks burst into the poorly guarded Musée des Beaux Arts.

Their leader, Pierre Noël-Dumarais, then 60, pointed a Colt 45 at the welcome desk while four accomplices unhooked four paintings from the museum walls and stuffed them into black bin bags. Five minutes later, they made their escape in a blue Peugeot van.

In the boot were two Breughels – Allegory of Water and Allegory of Earth – Alfred Sisley's Avenue of Poplars at Moret and Claude Monet's Cliffs Near Dieppe. While their combined value has been estimated at 22 million euros, their stolen sale price would be no more than three million euros.

The French police had few leads bar DNA from a cigarette butt and a bin bag, but they would soon receive help from across the Atlantic.

Robert K Wittman, then FBI special agent and chief of its Art Crimes Team, first got wind of the paintings while undercover as a shady American dealer moving stolen art for crime syndicates and drug lords. He was told about the works by Miami-based Frenchman Bernard Jean Ternus, with links to Marseille's Brise de Mer Corsican mafia clan.

Now retired, "Bob" Wittman recovered around $300 million-worth of stolen art and objects in his 20-year career, including Geronimo's war bonnet, one of the original 14 copies of the US Bill of Rights, and works by Rembrandt, Rodin and Rockwell.

But the greatest unsolved art crime in history still eluded him, namely the 1990 theft from the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in Boston of a long-lost Vermeer, two Rembrandts and five sketches by Degas worth around $500 million.

His pulse raced when his plump, shaggy-haired French connection, Mr Ternus, alias "Sunny" boasted that he could get hold of the Vermeer and a Rembrandt.

To "hook" Sunny, Mr Wittman invited him to a party on a Miami yacht, complete with bikini-clad models and staged the sale of five fake masterpieces to a Colombian drugs baron in exchange for gold and diamonds. The entire crew and cast were FBI agents, but Sunny fell for it.

This is where the version of events diverges.

Mr Wittman says that during subsequent conversations about the Rembrandt and Vermeer, Sunny offered him and his co-agents other works, including two Picassos and the Nice paintings.

"I had no idea about the Nice theft nor had I ever met or spoken to the defendants until after it occurred," Mr Wittman told The Daily Telegraph.

"We couldn't turn down (the sale offer) as they were all crimes."

However, Ludovic Depatureaux, the lawyer of the gang's alleged leader, Mr Noël-Dumarais, claims that Mr Wittman encouraged the theft by expressing an interested in "Dutch paintings".

"In autumn 2006, he effectively placed an order with Bernard Ternus, saying he was interested perhaps in Vermeer and Rembrandt, but in Dutch paintings in general, and had buyers.

"Wittman thought that (via the Nice thefts), he would infiltrate those who stole or still hold the Vermeer and Rembrandt. The Nice heist was just collateral damage.

"My client's modus operandi did not start from the premise: let's steal some paintings then find a buyer. They were a bunch of amateurish 'stooges' some of whom only met on the day of the heist.

"These canvasses disappeared in order to recover two key paintings belonging to US heritage. I'm not sure that the US would appreciate it if French agents acted likewise."

He said Mr Wittman was guilty of "police provocation" and that he would call for charges to be dropped.

Mr Wittman said: "In the US, we law enforcement officers used to call that 'throwing fecal matter against the wall and seeing what would stick'".

"I don't think anything I did 'encouraged' anyone to obtain Chechen hand grenades and semi automatic pistols in order to commit armed robbery. It is a fanciful defence at best, at worst, it is a defence of desperation used only when criminals are caught."

He denied they were amateurish. "They were good criminals, but terrible businessmen."

The trial runs until Friday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, Search Not Close, Myles Away !!

‘NOTHING BUT AGGRAVATION’: Anthony ‘Chucky’ Carlo, 62, said investigators punched holes in walls and tore through closets looking for some of the missing art stolen in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist.

Ex-con: Investigators scoured home in Gardner museum probe

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1383174&srvc=rss

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.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, FBI Indifference Prevents Gardner Art Recovery



Another Bulger? Feds Probe FBI Mob Informant Use - Boston News Story - WCVB Boston

Another Bulger? Feds Probe FBI Mob Informant Use

Mark Rossetti Charged With 'Criminal Enterprise'

The Department of Justice is investigating the Boston FBI’s relationship with a reputed East Boston mobster who worked as a paid informant for the agency for decades, Newscenter 5 has learned.Last week a six-person panel of investigators began to look at allegations from Massachusetts law enforcement officials that the FBI lied about its use of reputed Mafia capo Mark Rossetti, 54, as an informant, said Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston).

An FBI spokesman in Washington said the agency is conducting its own investigation. “Regarding the Rossetti matter, an inspection team from FBI headquarters in Washington D.C., is currently reviewing.’’Lynch – who has filed legislation that would give Congress control over the FBI informant program – told Newscenter 5 it appeared that Rossetti was “running a criminal enterprise” while in the informant program.Rossetti was an informant on par with James “Whitey” Bulger – whose unholy marriage with the FBI led to a 2004 Congressional investigation.

Several sources told Newscenter 5 Rossetti's cooperation earned him hundreds of dollars in taxpayer monies a month, and a free cell phone.“He was a top echelon informant,’’ said defense attorney Steve Boozang, as he argued during a court hearing that wiretaps used to snare Rossetti and his accused underlings should be thrown out. “You don’t start off as a top echelon informant. You have to rat yourself up the ladder.”

Rossetti’s alleged criminal enterprise was busted by prosecutors from the Attorney General and Essex County District Attorney’s Offices in March of 2010 after a sweeping indictment that put Rossetti at the head of a crime family chart alleging drug dealing, racketeering, shakedowns and other violent crimes.

In a court hearing last month, prosecutor Dean Mazzone said that the FBI was not truthful with investigators about Rossetti’s informant status when the 18-month sting began with wiretaps at the reputed Mafiosi’s East Boston headquarters, The Bunker.

His informant status was discovered by accident. State troopers listening to wiretapped cell phone conversations recognized the voice of an FBI agent talking to Rossetti.“The federal informant was intercepted talking to his federal handler on a wiretap in this case,’’ said defense attorney Robert George, who also argued on behalf of an accused bookie in the Rossetti case that the wiretap evidence should be disregarded.

The FBI’s lack of cooperation with the Rossetti case led State Police Lt. Col. Steve Matthews to seek a meeting with Boston agency heads. He was quick to say that state police have a good relationship in terrorism and bank robbery and other joint squads.Organized crime cases have long been a problem, he added.“It’s well documented we have had some issues historically concerning organized crime cases,’’ Matthews said. “I do have some concerns and we will address that with the FBI.”

Back-story

FBI The Set Up (Part one)

An armored car heist gone south and the biggest museum theft in history combine to expose more dirt on the secretive Boston FBI. Did the feds frame a suspect for a different crime just to make him talk?

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/articles/fbi_the_set_up_part_one/

As David Turner rode past TRC Auto Electric -- a notorious Dorchester hangout of thieves, dealers, and other assorted lowlifes -- he had no idea how badly things had gone wrong. All he could see was that the repair shop looked deserted. That was troubling since this was where he and his companion, Stephen Rossetti, were supposed to meet three other men this Sunday morning to pull off an expected $50 million robbery of an armored car depot.

Circling some 3,500 feet overhead, the two FBI agents watching from a surveillance plane must have chuckled as the would-be millionaires turned their red Honda Accord around and drove back the way they'd come. After all, Turner and Rossetti couldn't be caught joyriding at 6:30 in the morning with a trunkful of semiautomatic weapons. A few minutes later, they pulled into a parking lot in Quincy, tossed the guns into Turner's Chevy Tahoe, and drove back to Dorchester, continuing to circle aimlessly around the neighborhood of Vietnamese lunch counters and auto service centers.

By this time the FBI's patience had worn thin. As Rossetti tells the story, he was driving down Morrissey Boulevard when two GMC Suburbans came out of nowhere and smashed the Honda to the side of the road. Agents swarmed around the vehicle, busting out all four windows with the butts of their guns and pointing pistols at the occupants, screaming at them to get out.

The FBI's search of the Chevy Tahoe back in Quincy turned up five semiautomatic handguns and a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle -- all of them loaded. And there was more. Along with Halloween masks, police scanners, and masking tape, authorities discovered an explosive-fragmentation hand grenade. Possession of one of those by a felon is worth 30 years.

Now in prison after being convicted on six counts of conspiracy, attempted robbery, and firearms possession, David Turner awaits sentencing this month. He'd be hard-pressed to deny that he was on the way to a criminal rendezvous, or that he was present at another meeting to plan the robbery. After all, reams of surveillance reports, photos, and wiretap recordings place him at the scene of the crime. Cases don't get shut more tightly -- but that's when this one takes a bizarre turn.

Turner insists the reason he was arrested in Dorchester that frosty February morning is that the FBI framed him -- essentially recruited him to do the crime and did everything but bring the guns themselves. What's more, an agent of the Boston office of the FBI has since admitted to lying in court and withholding evidence that could bolster Turner's story. Not that this should surprise anyone. This is, after all, the same FBI office that turned a blind eye for years to the murderous rampages of South Boston mob lord James "Whitey" Bulger -- and just last month saw a former agent accused of even helping Bulger commit murder.

That same willingness to bend the rules may explain why, when agents finally got Turner under the bright lights of an interrogation room, they didn't just want to talk about the armored car theft. They wanted to talk about a different, unsolved crime that has haunted and embarrassed the FBI for more than a decade: the theft of 13 priceless paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

"They think that I was the person who committed the robbery, which is false," says Turner in a letter written from Plymouth County Correctional Facility. "They thought that if I was facing serious charges, I would be motivated to help facilitate the return of the paintings. Well, they got the serious charges against me, and now I am going to die in prison."

One lawyer familiar with Turner's long history with police, however, sees this as nothing more than an 11th-hour tactic to avoid prison: "A lot of luck combined with a keen ability to manipulate the criminal justice system resulted in Turner having avoided prosecution far too long," says former assistant attorney general Bob Sikellis, who unsuccessfully pursued Turner for years. "The supposed Teflon has now worn thin."

The rainbow tie-dyed T-shirt asks it. Why are those frames empty? The guide explains that Mrs. Gardner left strict instructions in her will that nothing in the museum could be moved, or the entire collection would be sold. So when two thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum at 2 a.m. after St. Patrick's Day 1990 and cut several paintings out of their frames, the frames were left hanging in place. "Thankfully," says the tour guide, "she didn't stipulate anything about art being stolen."

Among the pieces lifted were Vermeer's The Concert, Rembrandt's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, and a later Rembrandt self-portrait. Together, the 13 works are now worth an estimated $500 million -- making the heist, some say, the largest art theft in history. Any hopes of speedily recovering the artwork were dashed in a twisting investigation littered with colorful suspects. There was Myles Connor, an art thief convicted for shooting at a police officer. There was William Youngworth III, an antiques dealer and sometime car thief. Then there was Carmello Merlino, a career criminal who robbed a Brinks truck in 1968, and more recently ran a million-dollar cocaine ring out of the auto repair shop he managed in Dorchester -- TRC Auto Electric.

Into this cast stumbled an oily lowlife named Anthony Romano, whose rap sheet reads like the U.S. Criminal Code. Then a 40-year-old car mechanic, he'd been convicted several times for assault and armed robbery, among other crimes. In court he freely admitted having been a heroin addict for most of his life. In short, he was a perfect FBI informant.

Romano called the feds when he was serving time in Concord, New Hampshire. He claimed to have a bead on some books stolen from the Adams Historical Museum in Quincy, and, sure enough, the tip panned out, the museum got back its books, and Romano got parole. So when in the fall of 1997 he called again with some information on the infamous Gardner Museum robbery, he earned a meeting with Neil Cronin, the FBI's lead agent on the case. Romano explained that a fellow convict, Carmello Merlino, had talked about the paintings as if he knew where they were. He mentioned another suspect, too: a guy in Merlino's crew by the name of David Turner.

Coincidentally, Romano had called his old friend Merlino after getting out of jail -- completely on his own initiative, he says -- and got a job at TRC as a mechanic. For a few hours every morning, the two worked alone, bullshitting about lottery tickets, teenage girls, and rumors of potential scores. It was then, Romano says, that Merlino asked him if he knew anyone "clean" who might be willing to get a job at an armored car drop-off.

"What are you looking at, anyways?" Romano asked. "The joint in Easton," answered Merlino. Romano knew the spot. The Loomis, Fargo depot in Easton seemed the perfect score. It was in a quiet, rural area mostly ignored by police, and was rumored to hold up to $50 million. Or so Romano told David Nadolski, of the FBI's Bank Robbery Task Force, who he says he promptly called to report Merlino's plan. For the next year, Romano continued working double shifts as a mechanic for TRC and as an informant for the FBI. At the same time, the FBI was negotiating with Merlino for return of the paintings. Agent Cronin visited him three times, twice with Nadolski in tow, but was unsuccessful in securing the booty. Then, in the fall of 1998, Nadolski asked his informant, Romano, a question: Would he wear a wire to secretly tape conversations with Merlino about the Loomis robbery?

The day after Thanksgiving that year, Romano told Merlino that a "gambling fucking degenerate" he knew had gotten a job as a guard at the depot and would let them past the door. Over the next few weeks, Romano insisted the robbery would be a breeze. The vault was always open, he told Merlino, and there were few alarms. As the plan came together, Merlino said he'd recruit his nephew Billy as the getaway driver, and they would all split the cash. Romano didn't think that would be enough manpower. "You gotta have five or six guys," hesaid. "You're gonna have to have a fuckin' donkey chain lugging them fuckin' bags." It's unclear who first raised David Turner's name -- that conversation occurred off tape -- but once Turner's name had surfaced, Romano asked Merlino several times about his attempts to reach him. Merlino complained that Turner wasn't answering his pages until, finally, in early January, he said angrily: "I'll call him once more today, and that will be the end of it." The next day, Merlino had good news: Turner had called back.

David Turner grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in Braintree and worked side-by-side with his father to fix up a tired house on Sagamore Street. Then one day when he was 13, he found his father lying on the floor, dead of a heart attack. "David was devastated for months," says Joan Moran, a former neighbor. "He became very shy and very withdrawn."

It wasn't until high school that he blossomed. He was nicknamed "crackerjack" because he seemed to excel at everything. "Whatever he did, he was the best at it," says Chris Ruggiero, a longtime friend of Turner. Voted "most unique" in the high school yearbook, Turner was a star on the football and basketball teams, and well liked by teachers, coaches, and girls.

He also attracted some less savory admirers. At night in the park near his home, he hung out with Charles Pappas, a neighborhood kid who had also recently lost his father -- a drug dealer, shot dead in Chinatown in 1981. When Turner and Pappas ventured into Kenmore Square, Pappas would tap his connections to get them into the clubs. Turner's friends say that's where their mischief stopped. But police say Pappas introduced Turner to Carmello Merlino and the two became "right-hand men" in his drug empire, selling cocaine at area motels.

Try as they might, however, police couldn't get the goods on Turner. In 1985, Pappas and Turner were charged, but acquitted, of murdering a gay New Bedford social worker who allegedly offered them a ride from Provincetown. Six years later, Turner was charged with a daring robbery of nearly $50,000 from two safes at Boston's Bull & Finch Pub, better known as the inspiration for the Cheers TV show -- but again a jury found him innocent.

Even more chilling, in 1990 two hoodlums burst into a Canton home, handcuffed a woman to the stairway with a gun to her head, and stole $130,000 in cash and jewelry. The woman, Andrea Freedman, identified Turner as the man who held the gun and agreed to testify. Pappas, too, agreed to testify against Turner. But Charlie Pappas died in a hail of bullets in Braintree a few weeks before the trial. Turner's alleged accomplice turned up dead in the trunk of a car in East Boston, at which point Freedman and her boyfriend changed their minds about testifying. Turner walked.

Friends say rumors of Turner's exploits are nothing more than guilt by association. "When Charlie started hanging out with us, that's when all these bad accusations came to be," says his friend Ruggiero. He confirms that Pappas introduced them to Merlino and his crew, but says they were merely casual acquaintances. "We used to stop there on a summer day," he says, "and listen to the old-timers and their stories. That would be the extent of it."

A 1996 Boston Globe story offered a different opinion, calling Turner "the Teflon gangster of the South Shore" for his ability to squirm out of convictions. With Merlino scheduled to be released from jail the following year, the article went on to say: "Police have a hunch the two men might revive their working relationship." None of the diners at the Bickford's underneath the Southeast Expressway in Dorchester on January 28, 1999, were aware of the conspiracy in their midst. Silverware clinked as families and elderly couples finished off southwestern scrambles and fisherman's platters, paying little attention to the four men hunched over coffee at a green Formica tabletop.

Merlino was worried about the guards. "Just supposing whatever fuckin' freaky thing happened that these two motherfuckers or one of them can get up," he blustered. Romano shifted in his seat, conscious of the FBI wire hidden underneath his denim jacket and jeans.

"He's not gonna get up," said a shifty-looking guy in a dark shirt and tan vest. "I'll make sure these guys are secured." This was Stephen Rossetti, a wiseguy who had robbed an armored car in Revere in 1982. The guards, Rossetti explained, could be tied with nooses that would tighten if they moved. That was enough to ensnare Rossetti in the conspiracy. Wearing a red jacket, David Turner sat quietly, listening to Merlino and Rossetti brag about their scores. He added only a few words, saying that the cops would know something was up if he and Merlino were seen together, and that during robberies "a half-hour feels like three hours."

Prosecutors later tried to use those words to prove that Turner had taken part in schemes like this before -- and so wouldn't have blinked at taking part in this one. Merlino had said as much several times on tape, calling him a "veteran" who was "good with" guns. But those statements were hearsay. Prosecutors needed more to prove that Turner walked willingly into the Loomis robbery and that this wasn't what his lawyer claimed it was: entrapment.

It's one of the first rules of law enforcement: Police can't perpetrate crimes in order to catch criminals. That's why the cops on TV don't sleep with prostitutes or deal coke on street corners. In reality, of course, it's never that simple. To prove entrapment in court, a defendant must show that he was targeted (someone wanted him to do it), coerced (somebody pressured him to do it), and not predisposed (he wouldn't have done it if somebody hadn't encouraged him). That's why entrapment defenses almost always fail. The bar is set too high. But this case seemed to have all the necessary pieces. The FBI confirmed to lawyers that Merlino and Turner had been targeted as suspects in the Gardner robbery since 1992. The FBI's Cronin, during questioning, even admitted that he believed that if Turner was facing heavy charges, he could provide information on the Gardner robbery -- though he later said at trial he didn't have "any information at that point indicating that David Turner had access to the paintings."

But Merlino's defense weakens under the weight of a year's worth of informant reports saying that the repair shop manager was cajoling his subordinate Romano to find him a "clean" insider at the armored car facility. When Romano finally said he had the insider, Merlino did initially balk at the plan, saying, "It ain't for me." But he was soon dictating the terms of the plot himself. And if Merlino was predisposed to committing the crime, then the other men he recruited lose any claim that they were entrapped.

All of them, that is, except Turner. Of Merlino's three coconspirators, Turner is the only one who could say that the FBI directly targeted him because of his suspected role in the Gardner robbery. He could also say he was coerced to participate, since Romano pushed Merlino to get in touch with him. (In legal terms, this is called "vicarious entrapment" -- when a government agent directs an unwitting intermediary to put pressure on a third party to commit a crime.) As for whether he would have committed the crime on his own, without a nudge from the FBI, the evidence is split.

In addition to the fact that he had not said anything incriminating on the tapes, Turner could point out that he had never actually been convicted of any serious crimes. His previous convictions include only drug and a few gun charges. And he had a good job at the time he was recruited, working construction on the Big Dig. He'd just bought a plot of land in Canton and was building a house. Whatever he had done in the past, it didn't appear that he was looking for trouble -- until an insistent friend kept dangling a $50 million score before his eyes.

At trial, however, prosecutors argued that Romano was hardly hell-bent on recruiting Turner -- on tape, he told Merlino only that they would need more guys, and asked several times whether he'd been able to reach Turner. That, they argued, was hardly coercion. "This isn't a case done as a means to an end," assistant U.S. attorney James Lang told the Boston Herald. "The government didn't bring a hand grenade, five pistols, assault rifles, walkie-talkies, and masks to an armored car depot." And that's where Turner's argument falls apart, say prosecutors. The agency didn't stash Turner's car with enough firepower to start a small army. He did.

In a small victory for Turner, the judge did give the jury instructions to consider his "vicarious entrapment" defense. But the jury apparently was uninterested. Three jurors in the case, reached separately, all say that they barely considered entrapment in their deliberations. "I felt the Gardner had nothing to do with it," says one, who asked not to be identified. "I believe that the other jurors didn't either."

Billy Merlino's mother broke down crying after she heard the verdict read in court on October 24, 2001. All four men, guilty. Carmello Merlino got 47 years. Stephen Rossetti, 51 years, 10 months. Billy Merlino got 13 years, 4 months. But Turner's sentencing hearing has been delayed twice, as his lawyer fights to get him a new trial. It turns out that even with all the evidence introduced in court, the FBI kept some to itself -- evidence that suggests its agents were more interested in Turner than they let on. Evidence about a character known as the "Fat Man."

The group that would walk through the door at TRC Auto Electric on any given day could put The Sopranos' Bada Bing to shame. If there was a Big Pussy character among them, it had to be the corpulent Richard "Fat Richie" Chicofsky. An FBI informant since the 1960s, he had been recruited by Paul Rico, the same agent who cultivated Whitey Bulger and now faces trial for helping him murder an Oklahoma businessman. In the late 1990s, however, Fat Richie was assigned to Special Agent Neil Cronin, who he was helping with the investigation into the Gardner Museum robbery.

It was a period of hope for the retrieval of the paintings. The Boston Herald ran stories almost weekly about the negotiations with Myles Connor and William Youngworth III. After those public negotiations had failed, however, far more private discussions were taking place at TRC Auto Electric. According to FBI informant reports, Chicofsky was talking constantly to Merlino about returning the paintings, even bringing him a contract that specified when and where the booty would be handed over.

In fact, while Romano was gathering information for the FBI about the Loomis, Fargo robbery, he was noting the comings and goings of Fat Richie, unaware that he, too, was an FBI informant. And Merlino wasn't the only one Chicofsky suspected of having knowledge of the Gardner crime. According to reports filed in court, he told agents he believed that Turner was one of the people who actually stole the paintings, and that Turner would collect a portion of the reward money for their return. Once, Chicofsky even met with Turner. "Would you be willing to do something with me, work with me?" Turner allegedly asked Chicofsky. Chicofsky, the report says, "was 100 percent sure Turner was referring to the return of the Gardner Museum paintings." None of this was revealed at Turner's trial, even though the defense had asked for all documents that named Turner or Merlino in connection with the Gardner robbery and even though it refutes the agents' assertions that they had no specific information linking Turner to the paintings. "The government had possession of the very evidence that was requested by the defendant pretrial and that would have supported his defense, but they failed to disclose that evidence," Turner's lawyer Robert Goldstein argued in papers filed in court.

The FBI blamed a faulty indexing system for its failure to reveal the "Fat Man" reports. Besides, the agents added, FBI policies compelled them to protect the identity of an active informant, a point Turner's lawyer finds preposterous. "FBI institutional guidelines do not trump a person's constitutional right to have evidence brought forward that could exonerate him," Goldstein says. Put on the stand in a hearing after the trial, Special Agent Nadolski struggled to explain the omission. "Would you ever testify falsely or misleadingly to protect the identity of an informant?" Goldstein asked him. "No," Nadolski said. But Goldstein reminded the agent of his testimony during trial that the FBI was getting information that Merlino had access to the paintings only through Romano. Goldstein asked, "That's not true, is it?" Nadolski said nothing for several seconds. "No," he finally said, "I would have to say that we were also getting that information through Chicofsky." Goldstein pounced. "So you failed to disclose the fact that there was, in fact, another confidential informant?" "I did not talk about Chicofsky." After that admission, the defense tried to put Chicofsky himself on the stand, but the Fat Man refused to testify. The judge let him off, saying, "It is doubtful that the failure of the government to produce the Chicofsky . . . reports prior to trial, while lamentable, in any way prejudiced Turner's right to a fair trial." The judge's reasoning was, in effect, that while they may have provided more evidence that Turner had been directly targeted by The Dutch Room in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is an eerie place. No impressionist flowers or ballerinas here: The portraits are as dark and heavy as the furniture. "Bloody Mary" Tudor glowers with pursed lips of accusation. The enigmatic face of Van Dyck's A Lady with a Rose -- the so-called "Gardner Mona Lisa" -- seems to conceal more than it reveals. And a self-portrait of Rembrandt stares with eyes like black marbles at the opposite wall, where only the backdrop of a faded tapestry fills a golden frame carrying his name.

The question comes up on practically every tour. This afternoon, a heavyset woman with a southern accent and a rainbow tie-dyed T-shirt asks it. Why are those frames empty? The guide explains that Mrs. Gardner left strict instructions in her will that nothing in the museum could be moved, or the entire collection would be sold. So when two thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum at 2 a.m. after St. Patrick's Day 1990 and cut several paintings out of their frames, the frames were left hanging in place. "Thankfully," says the tour guide, "she didn't stipulate anything about art being stolen." Among the pieces lifted were Vermeer's The Concert, Rembrandt's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, and a later Rembrandt self-portrait. Together, the 13 works are now worth an estimated $500 million -- making the heist, some say, the largest art theft in history. Any hopes of speedily recovering the artwork were dashed in a twisting investigation littered with colorful suspects. There was Myles Connor, an art thief convicted for shooting at a police officer. There was William Youngworth III, an antiques dealer and sometime car thief. Then there was Carmello Merlino, a career criminal who robbed a Brinks truck in 1968, and more recently ran a million-dollar cocaine ring out of the auto repair shop he managed in Dorchester -- TRC Auto Electric.

Into this cast stumbled an oily lowlife named Anthony Romano, whose rap sheet reads like the U.S. Criminal Code. Then a 40-year-old car mechanic, he'd been convicted several times for assault and armed robbery, among other crimes. In court he freely admitted having been a heroin addict for most of his life. In short, he was a perfect FBI informant.

Romano called the feds when he was serving time in Concord, New Hampshire. He claimed to have a bead on some books stolen from the Adams Historical Museum in Quincy, and, sure enough, the tip panned out, the museum got back its books, and Romano got parole. So when in the fall of 1997 he called again with some information on the infamous Gardner Museum robbery, he earned a meeting with Neil Cronin, the FBI's lead agent on the case. Romano explained that a fellow convict, Carmello Merlino, had talked about the paintings as if he knew where they were. He mentioned another suspect, too: a guy in Merlino's crew by the name of David Turner.

Coincidentally, Romano had called his old friend Merlino after getting out of jail -- completely on his own initiative, he says -- and got a job at TRC as a mechanic. For a few hours every morning, the two worked alone, bullshitting about lottery tickets, teenage girls, and rumors of potential scores. It was then, Romano says, that Merlino asked him if he knew anyone "clean" who might be willing to get a job at an armored car drop-off. "What are you looking at, anyways?" Romano asked. "The joint in Easton," answered Merlino. Romano knew the spot. The Loomis, Fargo depot in Easton seemed the perfect score. It was in a quiet, rural area mostly ignored by police, and was rumored to hold up to $50 million. Or so Romano told David Nadolski, of the FBI's Bank Robbery Task Force, who he says he promptly called to report Merlino's plan. For the next year, Romano continued working double shifts as a mechanic for TRC and as an informant for the FBI. At the same time, the FBI was negotiating with Merlino for return of the paintings. Agent Cronin visited him three times, twice with Nadolski in tow, but was unsuccessful in securing the booty. Then, in the fall of 1998, Nadolski asked his informant, Romano, a question: Would he wear a wire to secretly tape conversations with Merlino about the Loomis robbery?

The day after Thanksgiving that year, Romano told Merlino that a "gambling fucking degenerate" he knew had gotten a job as a guard at the depot and would let them past the door. Over the next few weeks, Romano insisted the robbery would be a breeze. The vault was always open, he told Merlino, and there were few alarms. As the plan came together, Merlino said he'd recruit his nephew Billy as the getaway driver, and they would all split the cash. Romano didn't think that would be enough manpower. "You gotta have five or six guys," he said. "You're gonna have to have a fuckin' donkey chain lugging them fuckin' bags." It's unclear who first raised David Turner's name -- that conversation occurred off tape -- but once Turner's name had surfaced, Romano asked Merlino several times about his attempts to reach him. Merlino complained that Turner wasn't answering his pages until, finally, in early January, he said angrily: "I'll call him once more today, and that will be the end of it." The next day, Merlino had good news: Turner had called back.

David Turner grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in Braintree and worked side-by-side with his father to fix up a tired house on Sagamore Street. Then one day when he was 13, he found his father lying on the floor, dead of a heart attack. "David was devastated for months," says Joan Moran, a former neighbor. "He became very shy and very withdrawn." It wasn't until high school that he blossomed. He was nicknamed "crackerjack" because he seemed to excel at everything. "Whatever he did, he was the best at it," says Chris Ruggiero, a longtime friend of Turner. Voted "most unique" in the high school yearbook, Turner was a star on the football and basketball teams, and well liked by teachers, coaches, and girls.

He also attracted some less savory admirers. At night in the park near his home, he hung out with Charles Pappas, a neighborhood kid who had also recently lost his father -- a drug dealer, shot dead in Chinatown in 1981. When Turner and Pappas ventured into Kenmore Square, Pappas would tap his connections to get them into the clubs. Turner's friends say that's where their mischief stopped. But police say Pappas introduced Turner to Carmello Merlino and the two became "right-hand men" in his drug empire, selling cocaine at area motels.

Try as they might, however, police couldn't get the goods on Turner. In 1985, Pappas and Turner were charged, but acquitted, of murdering a gay New Bedford social worker who allegedly offered them a ride from Provincetown. Six years later, Turner was charged with a daring robbery of nearly $50,000 from two safes at Boston's Bull & Finch Pub, better known as the inspiration for the Cheers TV show -- but again a jury found him innocent.

Even more chilling, in 1990 two hoodlums burst into a Canton home, handcuffed a woman to the stairway with a gun to her head, and stole $130,000 in cash and jewelry. The woman, Andrea Freedman, identified Turner as the man who held the gun and agreed to testify. Pappas, too, agreed to testify against Turner. But Charlie Pappas died in a hail of bullets in Braintree a few weeks before the trial. Turner's alleged accomplice turned up dead in the trunk of a car in East Boston, at which point Freedman and her boyfriend changed their minds about testifying. Turner walked. Friends say rumors of Turner's exploits are nothing more than guilt by association. "When Charlie started hanging out with us, that's when all these bad accusations came to be," says his friend Ruggiero. He confirms that Pappas introduced them to Merlino and his crew, but says they were merely casual acquaintances. "We used to stop there on a summer day," he says, "and listen to the old-timers and their stories. That would be the extent of it."

A 1996 Boston Globe story offered a different opinion, calling Turner "the Teflon gangster of the South Shore" for his ability to squirm out of convictions. With Merlino scheduled to be released from jail the following year, the article went on to say: "Police have a hunch the two men might revive their working relationship." None of the diners at the Bickford's underneath the Southeast Expressway in Dorchester on January 28, 1999, were aware of the conspiracy in their midst. Silverware clinked as families and elderly couples finished off southwestern scrambles and fisherman's platters, paying little attention to the four men hunched over coffee at a green Formica tabletop.

Merlino was worried about the guards. "Just supposing whatever fuckin' freaky thing happened that these two motherfuckers or one of them can get up," he blustered. Romano shifted in his seat, conscious of the FBI wire hidden underneath his denim jacket and jeans. "He's not gonna get up," said a shifty-looking guy in a dark shirt and tan vest. "I'll make sure these guys are secured." This was Stephen Rossetti, a wiseguy who had robbed an armored car in Revere in 1982. The guards, Rossetti explained, could be tied with nooses that would tighten if they moved. That was enough to ensnare Rossetti in the conspiracy. Wearing a red jacket, David Turner sat quietly, listening to Merlino and Rossetti brag about their scores. He added only a few words, saying that the cops would know something was up if he and Merlino were seen together, and that during robberies "a half-hour feels like three hours."

FBI The Set Up (Part two)

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/articles/fbi_the_set_up_part_two/

Prosecutors later tried to use those words to prove that Turner had taken part in schemes like this before -- and so wouldn't have blinked at taking part in this one. Merlino had said as much several times on tape, calling him a "veteran" who was "good with" guns. But those statements were hearsay. Prosecutors needed more to prove that Turner walked willingly into the Loomis robbery and that this wasn't what his lawyer claimed it was: entrapment.

It's one of the first rules of law enforcement: Police can't perpetrate crimes in order to catch criminals. That's why the cops on TV don't sleep with prostitutes or deal coke on street corners. In reality, of course, it's never that simple. To prove entrapment in court, a defendant must show that he was targeted (someone wanted him to do it), coerced (somebody pressured him to do it), and not predisposed (he wouldn't have done it if somebody hadn't encouraged him). That's why entrapment defenses almost always fail. The bar is set too high. But this case seemed to have all the necessary pieces. The FBI confirmed to lawyers that Merlino and Turner had been targeted as suspects in the Gardner robbery since 1992. The FBI's Cronin, during questioning, even admitted that he believed that if Turner was facing heavy charges, he could provide information on the Gardner robbery -- though he later said at trial he didn't have "any information at that point indicating that David Turner had access to the paintings."

But Merlino's defense weakens under the weight of a year's worth of informant reports saying that the repair shop manager was cajoling his subordinate Romano to find him a "clean" insider at the armored car facility. When Romano finally said he had the insider, Merlino did initially balk at the plan, saying, "It ain't for me." But he was soon dictating the terms of the plot himself. And if Merlino was predisposed to committing the crime, then the other men he recruited lose any claim that they were entrapped. All of them, that is, except Turner. Of Merlino's three coconspirators, Turner is the only one who could say that the FBI directly targeted him because of his suspected role in the Gardner robbery. He could also say he was coerced to participate, since Romano pushed Merlino to get in touch with him. (In legal terms, this is called "vicarious entrapment" -- when a government agent directs an unwitting intermediary to put pressure on a third party to commit a crime.) As for whether he would have committed the crime on his own, without a nudge from the FBI, the evidence is split.

In addition to the fact that he had not said anything incriminating on the tapes, Turner could point out that he had never actually been convicted of any serious crimes. His previous convictions include only drug and a few gun charges. And he had a good job at the time he was recruited, working construction on the Big Dig. He'd just bought a plot of land in Canton and was building a house. Whatever he had done in the past, it didn't appear that he was looking for trouble -- until an insistent friend kept dangling a $50 million score before his eyes.

At trial, however, prosecutors argued that Romano was hardly hell-bent on recruiting Turner -- on tape, he told Merlino only that they would need more guys, and asked several times whether he'd been able to reach Turner. That, they argued, was hardly coercion. "This isn't a case done as a means to an end," assistant U.S. attorney James Lang told the Boston Herald. "The government didn't bring a hand grenade, five pistols, assault rifles, walkie-talkies, and masks to an armored car depot." And that's where Turner's argument falls apart, say prosecutors. The agency didn't stash Turner's car with enough firepower to start a small army. He did.

In a small victory for Turner, the judge did give the jury instructions to consider his "vicarious entrapment" defense. But the jury apparently was uninterested. Three jurors in the case, reached separately, all say that they barely considered entrapment in their deliberations. "I felt the Gardner had nothing to do with it," says one, who asked not to be identified. "I believe that the other jurors didn't either." Billy Merlino's mother broke down crying after she heard the verdict read in court on October 24, 2001. All four men, guilty. Carmello Merlino got 47 years. Stephen Rossetti, 51 years, 10 months. Billy Merlino got 13 years, 4 months. But Turner's sentencing hearing has been delayed twice, as his lawyer fights to get him a new trial. It turns out that even with all the evidence introduced in court, the FBI kept some to itself -- evidence that suggests its agents were more interested in Turner than they let on. Evidence about a character known as the "Fat Man."

The group that would walk through the door at TRC Auto Electric on any given day could put The Sopranos' Bada Bing to shame. If there was a Big Pussy character among them, it had to be the corpulent Richard "Fat Richie" Chicofsky. An FBI informant since the 1960s, he had been recruited by Paul Rico, the same agent who cultivated Whitey Bulger and now faces trial for helping him murder an Oklahoma businessman. In the late 1990s, however, Fat Richie was assigned to Special Agent Neil Cronin, who he was helping with the investigation into the Gardner Museum robbery. It was a period of hope for the retrieval of the paintings. The Boston Herald ran stories almost weekly about the negotiations with Myles Connor and William Youngworth III. After those public negotiations had failed, however, far more private discussions were taking place at TRC Auto Electric. According to FBI informant reports, Chicofsky was talking constantly to Merlino about returning the paintings, even bringing him a contract that specified when and where the booty would be handed over.

In fact, while Romano was gathering information for the FBI about the Loomis, Fargo robbery, he was noting the comings and goings of Fat Richie, unaware that he, too, was an FBI informant. And Merlino wasn't the only one Chicofsky suspected of having knowledge of the Gardner crime. According to reports filed in court, he told agents he believed that Turner was one of the people who actually stole the paintings, and that Turner would collect a portion of the reward money for their return. Once, Chicofsky even met with Turner.

"Would you be willing to do something with me, work with me?" Turner allegedly asked Chicofsky. Chicofsky, the report says, "was 100 percent sure Turner was referring to the return of the Gardner Museum paintings." None of this was revealed at Turner's trial, even though the defense had asked for all documents that named Turner or Merlino in connection with the Gardner robbery and even though it refutes the agents' assertions that they had no specific information linking Turner to the paintings. "The government had possession of the very evidence that was requested by the defendant pretrial and that would have supported his defense, but they failed to disclose that evidence," Turner's lawyer Robert Goldstein argued in papers filed in court.

The FBI blamed a faulty indexing system for its failure to reveal the "Fat Man" reports. Besides, the agents added, FBI policies compelled them to protect the identity of an active informant, a point Turner's lawyer finds preposterous. "FBI institutional guidelines do not trump a person's constitutional right to have evidence brought forward that could exonerate him," Goldstein says. Put on the stand in a hearing after the trial, Special Agent Nadolski struggled to explain the omission. "Would you ever testify falsely or misleadingly to protect the identity of an informant?" Goldstein asked him. "No," Nadolski said. But Goldstein reminded the agent of his testimony during trial that the FBI was getting information that Merlino had access to the paintings only through Romano. Goldstein asked, "That's not true, is it?" Nadolski said nothing for several seconds. "No," he finally said, "I would have to say that we were also getting that information through Chicofsky." Goldstein pounced. "So you failed to disclose the fact that there was, in fact, another confidential informant?" "I did not talk about Chicofsky." After that admission, the defense tried to put Chicofsky himself on the stand, but the Fat Man refused to testify. The judge let him off, saying, "It is doubtful that the failure of the government to produce the Chicofsky . . . reports prior to trial, while lamentable, in any way prejudiced Turner's right to a fair trial." The judge's reasoning was, in effect, that while they may have provided more evidence that Turner had been directly targeted by the FBI, the reports wouldn't provide any new evidence about Turner's predisposition to commit the crime. The three jury members interviewed agreed. When told of the new information about Chicofsky, all three speculated that it wouldn't have changed their verdict.

The revelation does, however, provide another example of the Boston FBI's coddling of informants that goes beyond the case of Whitey Bulger. In congressional hearings on the subject last year, witnesses offered up damning testimony of what Congressman and former U.S. Attorney Bill Delahunt called the Boston bureau's ongoing "culture of concealment." Even while those hearings were being held in Washington, it was apparently business as usual back in Boston.

FBI special agent Neil Cronin was killed in September, not by a gun-toting thug, but by a tractor-trailer that collided with his Toyota Camry while he was driving on I-495 in Wrentham. The next day, September 4, David Turner's sentencing was again postponed. The judge is set to deliver a ruling on Turner's latest motion for a new trial this month. Turner's lawyer says that however unsavory his client may seem, he still deserves a trial based on all available evidence. "Today it could be David Turner; tomorrow it could be someone else," Goldstein says. "When people stop playing by the rules, the system breaks down." Convincing a judge that Turner was merely an innocent pawn caught up in an FBI sting, however, will be difficult. A car filled with loaded guns heading to the scene of an imminent $50 million heist is a hard image to shake. Cronin's death, meanwhile, is a major setback to the Gardner investigation -- but not the end of it. Another agent will pick up the trail, untangling a web of suspects with two fewer strands to consider. Some day, perhaps soon, that agent may succeed where others have failed in recovering the stolen Rembrandts and the Vermeer. Until then, the frames will hang empty in the Dutch Room. As the tour guide tells the woman in the rainbow tie-dyed shirt: "In some ways [the frames on the walls are] a tribute to the paintings coming back. But now it's getting on from the event, and they still don't have any idea who did the deed."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Myles Away From The Gardner Art Heist


Art thief Myles Connor pleads guilty in Mendon hay heist


Milford District Court Judge Robert Calagione has ordered notorious art thief Myles J. Connor to pay $300 in fines and serve one year of probation after Connor pleaded guilty to an Aug. 31 theft in Mendon.

On Oct. 13, the 68-year-old Connor, of 21 Residential Lane, Blackstone, pleaded guilty to trespassing, larceny from a building and larceny under $250. He pleaded not guilty to being a common and notorious thief, according to court documents.

Calagione dropped the charge of Connor being a common and notorious thief after defense attorney Richard Eustis argued that the conditions for that charge did not apply to the theft, according to court documents.

Police said officers caught Connor stealing bales of hay from Twin Elm Farm on Bates Street in Mendon on Aug. 31, arresting him at 11:44 p.m. after a brief foot chase.

Connor was ordered Monday to pay $100 for each guilty charge, serve probation until Nov. 5, 2012, and to stay away from the Twin Elm Farm and its owners and employees, according to the documents.

For decades, Connor made headlines for crimes, both alleged and admitted.

In 2009, he released a book called "The Art of the Heist: Confessions of a Master Art Thief, Rock-and-Roller, and Prodigal Son," a memoir profiling his career as a cat burglar, con man, thief and museum heister.

In 1966, he was arrested after a rooftop shootout in Boston that ended with both a state police captain and Connor being shot. In 1973, Connor was arrested after leading undercover FBI agents to dozens of paintings that were stolen from the Woolworth family compound in Monmouth, Maine.

Connor was convicted in federal court of stealing several paintings from the Mead Museum at Amherst College in 1975 and served 10 years in prison.

In 1981, he was found guilty of fatally stabbing two 18-year-old women in 1973, but the conviction was overturned in 1984.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Boston Rivalry Prevents Gardner Art Recovery


Rossetti case proves Congress should oversee FBI informants

http://bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2011/11/02/rossetti-case-proves-congress-should-oversee-fbi-informants/N0u1MJRiXdIx6whq2p4u2I/story.html

THE VIOLENT and symbiotic relationship between confidential informants and the FBI in Massachusetts is not just fodder for a few good movies. The Whitey Bulger saga may be decades old, but now the Senate Judiciary Committee is asking questions about the bureau’s handling of New England mobster Mark Rossetti, the confidential informant and Mafia “acting consigliore’’ who worked for the FBI up until last year. While the inquiry into the Rossetti case is welcome, the problem appears to be systemic. The FBI’s confidential informant system is broken and needs to be seriously reformed.

The Justice Department seems unable to prevent FBI investigators from developing relationships with unsavory characters and then standing by while their informants commit serious crimes; in some cases, the informants turn out to be every bit as dangerous as the targets they’re informing on. Rossetti is a convicted armed robber and a suspect in at least six homicides. Representative Stephen Lynch of South Boston filed a bill to give Congress a more active role in setting informant policy. If the Justice Department is unable to make effective changes, then Congress would be more than justified in stepping in.

The history of the rules regarding the use of confidential informants began in 1976, when Attorney General Edward Levi issued the first set of criteria to govern both who could become FBI informants and how the FBI would handle them. Then, in the 1990s, after the revelation of the FBI’s involvement in Bulger’s crimes, Attorney General Janet Reno set strict standards for disclosure to the Justice Department should an informant engage in illegal activity, especially violence. The government’s aim, maintained throughout subsequent changes to the guidelines, was to stop FBI agents from declaring themselves to be both judge and jury over their own investigatory techniques.

But the Justice Department discovered as early as 2005 in a report by its inspector general that the changes weren’t enough to prevent abuses. The guidelines themselves provided a careful balance between the competing needs of utilizing unsavory informants and ensuring that law enforcement doesn’t get sullied in the process. But in nearly 9 out of every 10 cases reviewed, the guidelines were violated. In many of these cases, FBI agents essentially ignored approval processes and supervisory controls, allowing informants to engage in criminal activities without any restrictions.

The use of confidential informants is a risky business. Sometimes, informants in drug and gang cases should be authorized to commit crimes to further an investigation into the entire criminal network; but the decision shouldn’t be made by an agent alone. If the FBI were better at following the guidelines, it might have protected its own reputation and effectiveness. Having failed that, Congress is entirely justified in probing the Rossetti case, and Lynch is right to call for congressional oversight over federal law enforcement’s use of informants. It might just be the necessary next step to control the FBI, since it can’t seem to control itself.

Lawyers to suggest feds framed client

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1377984&srvc=rss

Lawyers for an alleged Whitey Bulger victim’s brother, now facing trial on gun and drug charges, say their defense will include the theory that twice-convicted drug dealer Chris McIntyre was set up by the feds around the time his family won a $3.1 million wrongful death suit against the FBI.

“We’ll be pursuing the theory that it was more than a coincidence that within days after the final arguments were given in the case, in which we soundly criticized the FBI, he was stopped and arrested at a train station,” attorney Jeffrey Denner told the Herald yesterday.

But Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley, called the insinuation “absurd. (McIntyre) was arrested and indicted on the facts of this case and this case only.”

The FBI declined to comment.

McIntyre, 52, is the brother of Quincy fisherman John McIntyre, who was 32 when he was kidnapped and tortured to death in 1984 to stop him from informing against Bulger and Stephen Flemmi for smuggling arms to the Irish Republican Army, Flemmi testified.

Wark said Christopher McIntyre, a twice-convicted drug dealer, was arrested by Amtrak police on July 17, 2006, trying to board a cross-country train with luggage containing a handgun, ammo, heroin and OxyContin after a “standard” check of the passenger manifest revealed an outstanding warrant for his arrest. “He dropped the bag and tried to run,” Wark said.

Police claim McIntyre was traveling alone. Denner said his client was taking his late wife, the handgun’s licensed owner, to California for cancer treatment.