This is a Robbery on Netflix – What really happened in the real-life Lupin

Abby Robinson
·5-min read
Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

From Digital Spy

This is a Robbery, Netflix's new docuseries, recounts the extraordinary story of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a 15th-century Venetian-style palace in Boston from which 13 pieces of art, totalling half a billion dollars, were stolen on March 18, 1990 – the day after St Patrick's Day.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

A little after 1am, two white men dressed as Boston police officers entered the museum, forced the two security guards into the basement where they were handcuffed and blindfolded, and then got to work, shutting off the alarm, stealing the security footage and helping themselves to the following:

  • The Concert - Vermeer

  • A Lady and a Gentleman in Black - Rembrandt

  • Eagle Finial - Pierre-Philippe Thomire

  • Chez Tortoni - Manet

  • Three Mounted Jockeys - Degas

  • Study for the Programme - Degas

  • Landscape with an Obelisk - Flinck

  • Leaving the Paddock - Degas

  • Procession on a Road Near Florence - Degas

  • Gu vase

  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - Rembrandt

  • Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee - Rembrandt

No-one has ever been charged, although the FBI did announce that it knows who is responsible back in 2013. But it wouldn't give specifics.

"In 2010, this investigation accelerated," said Richard DesLauriers, from the FBI's Boston branch (via WBUR). "FBI agents developed crucial pieces of evidence that confirmed the identity of those who entered the museum and others associated with the theft who belonged to a criminal organisation.

"We've determined that in the years since the theft, the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia area... where it was offered for sale. However, we do not know where the art is currently located."

Japan, Saudi Arabia, Jamaica and France were just some of the destinations mentioned by the series' various talking heads.

More than eight years on from that development, the stolen artworks have yet to be recovered and very few persons of interest from the investigation are still alive. The offer of a $10 million reward "for information leading to the recovery" still stands, and there's a separate reward of $100,000 for the Napoleonic eagle finial.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

The docuseries cycles through various individuals suspected by the authorities, from Richard Abath, one of the guards on duty the night of the robbery, to Myles Connor Jr, whose rap sheet lists art thefts, armed robberies and drug dealing, among other offences.

He was in prison when the heist took place, but many are still convinced that he played a role. Connor himself has never admitted any wrongdoing.

Some even believed that the stolen art could have been used by the IRA to purchase arms, a theory rubbished by a former IRA press officer in the documentary.

Photo credit: Brooks Kraft - Getty Images
Photo credit: Brooks Kraft - Getty Images

The FBI's attention then turned to the mafia. They were alerted to Carmello Merlino, part of the Patriarca crime family, who owned the TRC Auto Electric repair shop in Dorchester, a neighbourhood in Boston. It was a front for criminal activity, including a "$1million cocaine operation" according to one former agent.

Through the use of informant Anthony Romano, who had a grudge against Merlino, the authorities were privy to a conversation about the "crime of the century" which would be carried out by David Turner and Stephen Rossetti.

Turner served 21 years in prison for a planned armed robbery of an armoured car depot, before being released in 2019. But his original sentence should have kept him behind bars until 2032, which has led many to believe that he offered up vital information to the authorities about the heist. It's not uncommon for stolen artwork to be used by criminals as leverage for benefits such as shorter sentences and early releases. He has also denied any involvement.

"They think that I was the person who committed the robbery, which is false," he said in 2003 (via Boston Magazine). "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."

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Another key suspect was mobster Robert "Bobby" Gentile. When the police raided his home in 2012, they found a list detailing the stolen artworks and their blackmarket prices.

Gangster Bobby Guarente was also suspected by the authorities and allegedly had two of the paintings, which he supposedly gave to Gentile while their wives were dining together.

Charlie Pappas, Leonard "Lenny" DiMuzio and George Reissfelder, who all worked at Merlino's garage, were also under suspicion.

In the documentary, Reissfelder's sister-in-law said that she believes he was one of the robbers, and she also recalls helping him hang Manet's Chez Tortoni – or "tortellini", as she liked to call it – on a wall in his apartment.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Antique dealer William P Youngworth III, informally known as Billy, claimed to know the whereabouts of 11 of the works and initially wanted $5 million in exchange for that information. He later upped his demand to $50 million.

Youngworth also wanted immunity from prosecution and for Connor Jr, with whom he was friends, to be released early from jail.

Connor later claimed that two associates of his, David A Houghton and Robert "Bobby" Donati, with whom he had previously robbed five paintings from an estate in Maine in 1974, were responsible.

This is a Robbery is streaming now on Netflix.

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