Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Heist, Stolen Art, Stolen Story

Sean Hicks, nephew of Winter Hill Gang founder, is writing a script for film about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist

Sean Hicks has been out of prison for a little more than a year, which is the longest consecutive period of freedom he's had since he was incarcerated 20 years ago.
In that time, Hicks has moved to downtown Worcester, partially as a way to get a fresh start, and partially as a way to distance himself from his associations with the notorious Irish crime syndicates in Boston, specifically the one his uncle, Howie Winter, once led: The Winter Hill Gang.
As part of his probation, Hicks is no longer allowed to communicate with anyone in organized crime, including his uncle.
"I've given my life to the streets and half my life in prison, and I'm only 46," Hicks said. "Why does my uncle live in Millbury now? Because there's nothing left to prove in Boston. The days of traditional crime are over."
When he was 29-year-old, Hicks was put away for 10 years for his involvement in the Sept. 25, 2000 brutal stabbing of 22-year-old Celtics forward Paul Pierce. Hicks was part of the Boston-based hip-hop group Made Men, several members of which were found guilty of stabbing Pierce 11 times in the face, neck, and back at the Buzz Club, a late night dance club in the Boston Theater District. Pierce had to undergo lung surgery to repair the damage.

He would end up serving an additional five years in prison between 2011 and 2016 for shooting in South Boston of two Chinese gangsters, Hicks said.
According to prison records obtained by MassLive, Hicks was accused of committing a "racially-toned" stabbing during one of his prison stays. Prison officials wrote that because of Hicks' high propensity for violence and long-standing associations to organized crime, he should be kept in maximum security prison.
He was released nearly a year ago, and he says he's been focusing most of his time on leaving his violent past behind.
"This is the longest period I've ever made it out of prison. At times, it's overwhelming. It seems I've never been able to escape my past. It's kind of hard to change people's preconceived perception of you," Hicks said. "But I'm fortunate because I've met my wife, my older daughter is in my life again, and I've been able to rekindle doing the things I love."
During that time, he has remarried, reconnected with his family and begun work writing and attempting to sell his life's story.
More specifically, Hicks is focusing on getting production started on a film based on a script he wrote about the infamous unsolved Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist called "No Loose Ends.

After 27 years, the heist remains the highest valued theft of private property in history, with $500 million still missing, and according to Hicks' attorney, Torin Dorros, many in the entertainment industry are interested in the story.
"The story and Sean's involvement are pretty well known across industries, including major players in the entertainment world. There is already a fair amount of interest, and we are actively talking with writers and producers on how to most effectively tell the story," Dorros said.
These days, Hicks can be found at The Grid in downtown Worcester. He likes to frequent The Brew, a cafe where he can often be found in the middle of the day drinking a beer and meeting with his family, business associates or lawyers.
He's got the look of a man who has spent more than 15 years in prison. Sleeves of tattoo ride up and down his arms and circle his neck. Three inky teardrops lay underneath one of his eyes.
Despite the worry-lines and wrinkles that adorn his face, Hicks often wears a big smile on his face, the kind of smile that says "I'm capable of anything."
Hicks recently teamed up with two experienced Hollywood writers, Samuel Franco and Evan Kilgore. The writers are currently working on the upcoming film, "Mayday 109," about the sinking of John F. Kennedy's PT boat in World War II. Ansel Elgort, the star of "Baby Driver," signed on to play Kennedy in July.
Hicks is also receiving legal representation from Brown & Rosen, a law firm with experience representing entertainment clients, such as the United Nations Association Film Festival and several artists that appeared on "Making the Band," "Love and Hip Hop" and "R&B Divas," according to the firm's site.
Dorros said getting Hicks' story published comes with several risks and challenges, specifically because the script could implicate numerous parties, potentially causing a stir in the Boston criminal underground. When asked about what his uncle thought of the script, Hicks said he is no longer allowed to speak with him or anyone else involved with organized crime due to his probation.
"I want to bring his story to the world, but we do tread cautiously only because he has a special history," Dorros said. "The only concern is that we want to always make sure that third parties, whether that's news agencies or investigators or otherwise, don't take things the wrong way."
Hicks started writing his life's story roughly five years ago. He was inspired to start writing after receiving a copy of Stephen King's book "On Writing," while in prison.
This period of writing and self-reflection gave him the resolve to turn his back on criminal life and turn his stories into something of substance.
"I finally grew up and matured. I've always given my life to my family and done what's right by the streets, at my own peril. I just turned 46 and decided I've done enough: It's time for me," Hicks said.
While Hicks was away, Whitey Bulger, the notorious head of the Winter Hill Gang, was arrested after dodging authorities for 16 years and started talking to investigators.
Records from the Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Cedar Junction acquired by MassLive indicate that Bulger linked Hicks and his uncle to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist.
According to those records, prison authorities were aware and worried that Hicks was working on a script and other related media about the Isabella Gardner heist. Prison authorities were hoping to keep him in maximum security status for reasons relating to his writing and a reported stabbing incident that took place between Hicks and another inmate.
When Hicks heard that Bulger had linked him and Winter to the largest art heist in the history of the world, he was not surprised.
"He's been ratting people out since the '50s. Once a rat always a rat," Hicks said.
He said Bulger knew he was never going to receive a plea deal, but was hoping to keep his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, out of prison. For this reason, Bulger informed on several of his associates, Hicks said.
Despite being linked to the unsolved heist, Hicks said he has never been questioned about any possible involvement in the crime.
"He knew he was never going to get a plea, but he was trying to keep Catherine out of prison. That would be a last ditch act of humanity," Hicks said.
The indignant act of writing a script about a crime Boston's most notorious gangster connected him to fits Hicks' aggressive and risky persona.
The script is in many ways a defiant response to the many reporters and writers who have attempted, and failed, in Hicks' opinion, to capture the truth about what really happened on March 18, 1990.
He said he was inspired to write a story about the heist after reading Boston Globe reporter Stephen Kurkjian's "Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World's Greatest Art Heist." That book, and the works of Boston Herald reporter Howie Carr pushed Hicks to "set the record straight" on the heist.
"A reporter for the Globe came up with the idea for a movie and wrote a novel and a few people inside and outside of prison weren't happy about the novel he wrote, and I agreed with them. I just thought, 'I can do better than that,'" Hicks said. "If you have a story coming out, you don't want to get it wrong because you can get a lot of people on the streets in trouble."
Hicks calls his version of events a "hypothetical," but his hypothetical is backed by decades of life growing up the Boston underworld.
Hicks thinks it was a setup, a scheme to get rid of two troublesome gangsters and maybe get away with some priceless art.
The Italian Mafia, Hicks claims, was commissioned by a wealthy broker to pull off the heist. The mafia tried to take advantage of the situation by sending in two members they believed to working with police.
If the robbers failed, which is what the mafia expected, they would be taken to prison. If by some miracle they pulled it off, the mafia would have an excuse to "cut the loose ends," Hicks said.
The script will tell the story of the planning, execution and direct aftermath of the heist based on Hicks' theory. The title of the film, "No Loose Ends," references the mafia's intent to kill people connected to crimes in order to squash an investigation.
"Everything in the mob is compartmentalized. You can't just get rid of two guys because you want to get rid of two guys. They were sent in on a suicide mission," Hicks said.
Production on the film is expected to begin summer 2018, Hicks said. Part of the film is expected to be filmed in WorcesterAttorney's from Hicks' legal team said they could not disclose actors being approached for the film, but said they are reaching out to several recognizable Boston area stars.
In the meantime, Hicks is continuing to work on revitalizing his music career and publishing a 76,000-word manuscript loosely based off of his life in organized crime. He's working on an album with the Worcester-based band Four Year Strong.
This next period of his life is like a second-act for Hicks, a chance to give meaning and substance to his destructive criminal past.
"When you start going away when you're 17, 18, 19, you end up spending your life in prison ... Now I've got nothing left to do with my life other than try to make something of my past," Hicks said

FBI agent tells Norfolk crowd he's still optimistic about solving famous Boston art heist case

FBI Special Agent Geoff Kelly is optimistic he will solve what some consider the most famous art-heist case in history.
It’s been 27 years since about $500 million of art was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, but that amount of time is a “drop in the bucket” compared to the amount of time it has taken for other art to be recovered, he said.
Kelly spoke at the Chrysler Museum of Art on Wednesday at an event held by the FBI called “Nothing Sketchy.”
He’s been on the case since 2002 and said he never imagined that 15 years later he would still be trying to find the missing art.
On March 18, 1990, two thieves dressed as police officers, talked their way into the museum by claiming to be responding to a broken window, then tied up the two guards, and stole 13 pieces of art.
Among the works: three Rembrandts, including his only known seascape, Vermeer’s “The Concert” and works by Degas, Manet and Flinck.
Today, empty frames hang on the wall where the pieces were once displayed.
Kelly speaks about the case around the country to try to get the word out.
“The fact that I’m here talking at all about a case that’s open and pending in the bureau is kind of unusual,” Kelly told the audience of about 100. “But this is an unusual case.”
The museum is offering a $10 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the works, according to its website.
Kelly said he has traveled the world to investigate tips and is confident the art will one day be returned.
Authorities have for years been pressuring Robert Gentile, an 81-year-old reputed Connecticut mobster for information on the art, the agent said. Gentile is incarcerated and awaiting sentencing on federal gun charges, according to The Boston Globe. He previously served time on drug and other gun charges. The Globe reported in September that Gentile’s sentencing was postponed because of questions about his competency. A judge scheduled a hearing to November, The Globe said.
Kelly has been with the FBI for 22 years, mostly investigating violent crime and art theft.
He said he was one of the original members of the FBI’s elite Art Crime Team and has recovered more than $70 million in stolen art and antiques. Kelly also said he tracked down one of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jerseys when it was stolen.
Kelly encouraged the public to reach out to the FBI or the museum if they know anything about the Gardner case. The Boston FBI office can be reached at 857-386-2000 and the museum’s director of security can be reached at 617-278-5114.