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FBI focusing on recovery in '90 Mass. art heist

The Associated Press, Monday, March 18, 2013, 11:46am (PDT)

BOSTON (AP) — The FBI believes it knows the identities of the thieves who stole art valued at up to $500 million from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum more than two decades ago.

Richard DesLauriers, the FBI's special agent in charge in Boston, says the thieves belong to a criminal organization based in New England and the mid-Atlantic states. He says authorities believe the art was taken to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region in the years after the theft, and offered for sale in Philadelphia about a decade ago.

The FBI has a new website aimed at getting help cracking the case at www.FBI.gov/gardner . In a video, DesLauriers says the statute of limitations has passed for the crime of art theft and authorities are focused on recovering the art.

He calls the heist one of the largest art thefts in U.S. history.

The theft happened when two people posing as police officers fooled security guards into believing they were there for a legitimate reason before locking the guards in the museum's basement and making off with the stolen objects, FBI Special Agent Geoff Kelly says in another of the website's videos.

He says the FBI has tracked leads into Europe and Asia during a more than two-decade investigation into the crime on March 18, 1990.

Kelly says authorities realize that, after so many years, the art could be in the hands of people who had nothing to do with the crime and may not even know the objects were stolen.

Among the art stolen was Vermeer's "The Concert," one of only 36 paintings by the artist that are in existence, and two Rembrandt oil paintings, including the artist's only known seascape.

The thieves also made off with a number of Degas sketches.

There's a $5 million reward in the case.

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