Could Whitey Bulger Solve the 'Holy Grail of Art Crime'?

If he didn't steal the paintings, he might know who did
By Tim Karan,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2011 4:22 PM CDT
Could Whitey Bulger Solve the 'Holy Grail of Art Crime'?
Vermeer's "The Concert" was one of 13 paintings stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.   (AP Photo/Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)

Could the arrest of longtime Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger mean the end to a major unsolved art-world crime? In 1990, two men dressed as cops broke into a Boston museum and stole 13 paintings—including three Rembrandts, five Degas, and a Vermeer—worth more than $500 million. Bulger, then head of the city's Irish American mob, has long been rumored to have played a role, and if he didn't, many believe there's no way he doesn't know who did have a hand in the biggest art heist in US history, reports the Los Angeles Times.

"He was quite a powerful figure at the time of the heist," says the author of a book about the theft, which has been called "the holy grail of art crime." Some say Bulger hid the paintings as a "get out of jail free card"; others think he sent them to the Irish Republican Army. Although Bulger was more involved in collecting criminal taxes than organizing heists, some say it's unlikely it happened without his knowledge. "If he was interested, he could have found out what was going on," says a former FBI art squad head. "I think there's a good chance he knows something." (Read more Whitey Bulger stories.)

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