It’s been 24 years since two men completed the largest art theft in American history from a Boston, Massachusetts’s museum and since then none of the 11 paintings stolen have been recovered. But former FBI agent Tom McShane, who worked as an undercover operative for 26 years recovering stolen art, is still in search of the missing paintings.
McShane, 69, has lived in Lynbrook for the last four years. He officially retired from the bureau in 1994 after working dozens of high-profile cases during his career. He published Stolen Masterpiece Tracker in 2006, chronicling his FBI career and some of the art he worked to recover, including paintings by Picasso, Rembrandt and Vermeer.
According to McShane, art theft is the number four criminal activity in the United States, surpassed only by illegal arms smuggling, drug smuggling and money laundering, yet it is seldom discussed in the general public or pursued like the top three criminal activities.
McShane estimates that the 11 paintings stolen from Gardner Museum in Boston are now worth $500 million. The paintings include a Vermeer and three Rembrandt’s. McShane estimated the Vermeer painting, entitled “The Concert,” could be worth as much as $250 million.
There is a $5 million reward for the paintings, McShane added, from Sotheby’s, a fine-art auction house, but said the reward is not enough. If someone were to have information about the paintings, they most likely would have to put their life in jeopardy to come forward, McShane said, so “$5 million isn’t going to cut it.” He would like to see the reward bumped up to $15 million to entice people with knowledge to speak up.
In his book, McShane writes that at around 1:30 a.m. on March 18, 1990, two men posing as police officers knocked on the Isabella Gardner Museum doors in Boston and said they were responding to a disturbance. The men asked the guard who answered if anyone else was working and he said his partner was making rounds. The guard was then asked to summon his partner and when he arrived the two guards were placed in handcuffs and taken to the basement.