Gardner Museum Heist —Blog

The Boston Globe and the New Fabulism

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Part Six

While the taller and taller tall-tales of Myles Connor's do not generally make it into the Boston Globe, many do appear at length, in the paper's "new media" projects, such as Last Seen Podcast, and the Netflix documentary, "This Is A Robbery."

In Last Seen Podcast, Connor describes how he and crew robbed the Museum of Fine Arts, armed to the teeth. They even had a machine gun he claims. In his book he says it was an M-16 rifle, legally a machine gun but not what people normally think of, when they hear the term "machine gun."

As "the exit was made down the front steps there was a phalanx of guards," Connor said, "that came rushing down, And there was a guy with a machine gun, brrrrr. Let the machine gun go off. They went right back." Except one guard, who was struck with the butt of a gun as he stood outside of a getaway van, grasping the stolen Rembrandt, as Connor advised his fellow robber not to shoot.

In "This Is A Robbery" Connor claims there were not one, but two machine guns.

This tall tale also appears in the book, "Stealing Rembrandts," written by the Gardner Museum's Anthony Amore, along with former Boston Globe reporter and occasional Globe freelancer, Tom Mashberg. The details are different in their account too. Connor appears to be quite incapable of telling any story the same way twice, although Anthony Amore said of Myles Connor in a 2017 interview, that he is "an amazing guy," and of his stories that, "they're all true."

There was nothing in Connor's deal in returning the stolen Rembrandt, about immunity from prosecution for the theft in a 1976 Globe article called "Deal for stolen Rembrandt made in jail cell." It only reports that federal authorities did not want to make deal at first because Connor would not name the people responsible.

An article from 14 years after the MFA Robbery, long after the statute of limitations has expired, called "76 art theft informer held on parole violation" only said of Connor's possible involvement that :Connor dictated from his cell in Charles Street jail the terms for the return of the painting."

Connor did not fit the description of the thieves put out by the Boston Police and he mischaracterized the description they put out in his book. The official descriptions of me, Ralph and Billy were so vague as to be laughable, identifying us only as white males about twenty years of age.

Actually the descriptions included other descriptors: Heights, weights and hair colors, and Connor did not fit any of them.

At the time of the robbery he was nothing like 20, he was a bulked up, balding 32 year old, who had been living a rock 'n roll and criminal lifestyle since his teens, including months in the hospital after a shootout with state police and five years in Walpole State prison. He did claim he was wearing a brown wig and chauffer's cap to cover up his red hair, but there was nothing in news accounts about either of the thieves wearing a hat.

In the Boston Globe news accounts, from the week of the April 14, 1975 Boston MFA, robbery, it was reported that the guard was struck inside of the museum, and that there were "two unknown white males armed with 9 mm semi-automatics" (Boston Globe April 15, 1975). In a Boston Globe review of Connor's book in 2009, by Shelley Murphy, she writes of the Boston MFA Heist, that "they pistol-whipped a guard who tried to stop them and escaped out a rear door," a very different account than from what is reported in the book she purports to be reviewing, in this story.

In 2007, the New York Times reported that as the thieves fled to a waiting car, the armed man fired three shots, hitting no one but adding a movie-scene flourish to what was then thought to be the most expensive art heist in American history."

The Globe's "new media" projects, related to the Gardner, add to the stature and standing of publicity seeking fabulists, such as Myles Connor, and Robert Luisi, as well as Boston Globe shills like Kurkjian and Murphy, while the critics judge these efforts purely for their entertainment value, and seem blissfully unaware of the wild inaccuracies in these offerings.

The Boston Globe's Netflix documentary, for example, makes frequent use of a mugshot of Robert Donati from 1961, when he was just 21 years of age, 29 years before the Gardner heist, even though a more recent photo, that was not used in the documentary, appears in Kurkjian's own book. The photo shows Donati looking more like the age he was at the time of the robbery, and nothing like someone you would think would be robbing an art museum.

If all of this extensive and specious Donati coverage was justified by the Calantropo lead, which became known in 2016, then they would share the most recent photo of him, not a photo of Donati from decades earlier, that barely resembles the man he was in 1990.

The 1961 photo was also used in Last Seen Podcast companion news stories, written by Kurkjian, and web pages related to Last Seen Podcast and the Gardner heist by WBUR, who produced Last Seen Podcast, jointly with the Boston Globe.

Some of these yarns seem to have no other purpose other than to increase the entertainment value and the continued viewing of these programs, since the officials narrative of the crime, which is irksomely vague and illogical. The mission demands something bright and shiny to deflect from the truth.

DiMuzio, Reissfelder, and Donati, the publicly named, but not officially named suspects are all former criminals, dead now over thirty years, with no one really with the interest or wherewithal to stick up for them. Two of the three, Donati and DiMuzio are the victims of unsolved homicides, and the other, Reissfelder, spent 15 years in prison, and was then released, after he was exonerated for the murder that sent him to prison for at the age of 27.

How is it that the government informs the public that a head of state of a vital American ally, Saudi Arabia, is responsible for the death of a Washington Post journalist, but they still cannot reveal the identities of the Gardner Museum robbers, besides casting aspersions on people without evidence?

"Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia approved the assassination of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, "according to an intelligence report that the Biden administration released," the New York Times reported in 2021.

"Amore says: "If I tell you who did it and I tell the public... I will go back to 7000 phone calls... Instead what happens is when I get calls and people mention the right people, we're able to focus in on good leads

This is less than a year after contradicting the FBI's 2013, and 2015 claims that they had identified the thieves, by stating: "We have an idea what the gang was."

So why does Amore go on podcasts hinting that it is Robert Donati, why did he and Mr. Kelly show me [Tom Mashberg] a PowerPoint presentation that detailed their best sense of what happened," hinting that it was Reissfelder and DiMuzio.

Their inconsistent story about the identify the thieves, combined with a refusal to name them, to conceal who actually did do it

In a 2013 BBC documentary, about stolen art, which included interviews and appearances by Myles Connor, Tom Mashberg, the FBI's Geoff Kelly, and Gardner Museum chief investigator, Anthony Amore, Alastair Sooke said:

Whether as art thief Myles Connor claims the perpetrators are now dead the FBI won't say in fact their position seems to me to be very odd. They know who did it but won't say who."

But no one in the American media has publicly observed how very odd this is.

On December 6, 2013 WGBH's Emily Rooney said to the FBI's Geoff Kelly, "I've watched the entire public service that you've put out a couple times, almost a year ago now and you say in there you know who did it, why can't you say?"

Kelly replied: "Well you know we have to temper what we what put out there in the public…We still have an investigation here and we still have to preserve the integrity of the investigation and because of that we can't tell you everything and I know it's kind of a little tantalizing to kind of to put that out there and not be able to follow it up and say this is who we think did it"

But in the pages of the Boston Globe "tantalizing," has been a positive, not a negative, when it comes to the Gardner heist coverage is part of the brand.

In 2016, Murphy and Kurkjian reported that - A notorious Boston mobster who disappeared into the federal witness protection program has resurfaced in Tennessee with a new identity, a new life, and a tantalizing clue involving the world's largest art heist.

In 2015 Murphy reported "the [Gardner heist] clues are voluminous and tantalizing

Murphy said she found the announcement that the FBI knew who the thieves were "tantalizing," in Netflix "This Is A Robbery," in 2021.

"Still, there are aspects of the Turner-Merlino tale that remained tantalizing, even as the trail grew cold." Kurkjian reported 2010.

And most recently, on November 30, 2021, Shelley Murphy reported: The reported sighting of the stolen finial, so soon after the theft, offers a tantalizing clue in the enduring mystery, bolstering other accounts linking Donati to the crime.

It is not an enduring mystery. The FBI admits they know who did it. They admit they are covering it up. The other accounts linking Donati to the crime," originate from Boston Globe fabulist Stephen Kurkjian, and all are so sketchy, they do not appear in the Boston Globe.

This account-linking-Donati to the Gardner heist claim is an example of the sinister synergy of the Boston Globe's multi-headed hydra of disinformation regarding the Gardner heist reporting.

Kurkjian's links of Donati to the case do not appear, outside of the Boston Globe newspaper and website, except in passing, however they do appear in deceitful, disinforming projects with financial ties to the Boston Globe, such as Last Seen Podcast, and Netflix This is A Robbery, and an error filled book on the Gardner heist by Kurkjian, one of the Globe's primary reporters along with Shelley Murphy on the Gardner heist case.

The Globe doubled down on the tantalizing bit, of Calantopo's uncorroborated claims, exactly one month later in a year-in-review piece. The article referenced the original news story: "A new, tantalizing clue in the Gardner Museum art heist Paul Calantropo, a 70-year-old fine arts appraiser, speaks publicly for the first time about his decades-old meeting with Bobby Donati, a potential suspect in the Gardner thefts.

"Speaks publicly," In the original story, the Globe's Shelley Murphy said that Calantropo "in an (sic) "lengthy interview with the Boston Globe…" But out of this "lengthy interview," the Boston Globe was only able to salvage two measly quotes, and in neither of them did Calantropo say that Donati showed him the finial.

One was: "'Jesus, Bobby why didn't you steal the Mona Lisa?' Calantropo recalled asking him," and

"I was pretty crestfallen," said Calantropo, a member of the group who is convinced that Donati hid the artwork somewhere before he died. "I believe the secret of the location died with Bobby."

The first quote sure sound like Kurkjian in his book "Master Thieves," he wrote: "Jesus, look at this," Cullity said to DeMarco when they reached the Dutch Room on the second floor," a bit of made up dialogue in his nonfiction book on the Gardner Heist case, "Master Thieves, page 59."

And in his introduction in Episode 2 of Netflix "This Is A Robbery " he says: "Jesus Christ. Look at this. Bastards. My name is Steve Kurkjian. I am a [hard bitten] retired newspaper reporter with the Boston Globe"

And in episode 4, Kurkjian says: "Jesus. He's walking around with police uniforms. What the hell's he doing with police uniforms?"

Also the second quote: Calantropo says "I believe the secret of the location died with Bobby," talk about prescience, Calantropo did not come forward until 2016, but Shelley Murphy reported the year before, in 2015 that: Kurkjian writes that when Donati was found murdered in the trunk of his car in Revere in 1991, the location of his secret hiding spot died with him. And over six years later Calantropo tells this same reporter almost the exact same thing: Kurkjian writes that former New England mob capo Vincent Ferrara claims that one of his associates, Robert Donati, confessed to him in 1990 that he robbed the Gardner museum, buried the artwork, and planned to use it to try to broker Ferrara’s release from prison. But when Donati was found murdered in the trunk of his car in Revere in 1991, the location of his secret hiding spot died with him.

And this tight knit little circle gets even tighter. While it is not in the Boston Globe story. in a WBUR interview, shortly after the story ran, Murphy said: "Kudos to Steve Kurkjian. He found this man."

And not only is Calantropo, the source of this story, he is also Kurkjian's business partner on an art recovery.

"In April, the group, [which includes Kurkjian and Donati] signed an agreement with the Gardner Museum, which stipulates that the members will share equally in the reward if they provide information that leads to the return of the artwork in restorable condition."

So the Gardner Museum is not offering a reward for information, only for the actual return for the art. But if you want to join a high profile consortium looking for the art, and you provide information that is consistent with a state sponsored narrative and the Boston Globe's disinforming media juggernaut you can get your picture in the paper wearing short shorts and your shirt half open on your boat and get a share of any reward money the group might someday take in.

This is the fourth uncorroborated source in the Boston Globe related to Boston brought into the Boston Globe by Kurkjian. There are others who have not made it into the Globe.

The only statement as opposed to state-seeded information we have from the FBI regarding Robert Donati's possible involvement is from 1997, when the Globe reported that: The FBI says it has no evidence linking either Houghton or Donati to the crime. If Houghton and Donati knew each other at all, it was through their mutual friend: Connor.

In 2015 Murphy reported: "Kurkjian writes that former New England mob capo Vincent Ferrara claims that one of his associates, Robert Donati, confessed to him in 1990 that he robbed the Gardner museum, buried the artwork, and planned to use it to try to broker Ferrara's release from prison."

Notice it says "that Kurkjian writes" and not that Ferrara says. The reason for that is that Kurkjian has this information from "an intermediary." So what the Globe is reporting here is what Kurkjian says, an anonymous source says, Vincent Ferrara says, the deceased Robert Donati said back in in 1990, in an interview 24 years later, 23 years after Donati died.

The other uncorroborated shill, Kurkjian and Murphy brought to the pages of the Boston Globe was ex-Mafia capo, Robert Luisi. At the time, Luisi was going by the name Alonso Esposito, an itinerant preacher in Tennessee, with a website and a self-published book out, going public from the federal witness protection program to tell his story.

Luisi/Esposito told a Tennessee television station, "I was sitting in the living room with Bobby Guarente, and he says, 'I know where the art is, it's buried in a cellar in Florida,' Esposito said. "He says 'do you have anybody that can fence it?' I said I don't know where to get rid of the art. I'm not a fence."

Guarente, never said he himself had the art, and had quite a bit of incentive about not being completely forthcoming about where the art was stored. It also could have just been idle boasting, by Guarente trying to impress his then boss, Luisi.

One problem with Luisi's story is that they don't typically have cellars in Florida. Also, Luisi cannot exactly pin down when Guarente told him that. He says "in the late 1990s," in a story about Luisi called "Notorious Boston mobster-turned-pastor has clues about Gardner heist," written by Stephen Kurkjian and Shelley Murphy for the Boston Globe.

Luisi was arrested in June of 1999, convicted, and was not released until 2013. Guarente died in 2004. Luisi came out with this uncorroborated story about twenty years after the alleged, uncorroborated conversation with Guarente took place, twelve years after Guarente died.

Since then Luisi has appeared in an A & E cable documentary about the case and in the Boston Globe's Last Seen Podcast where he can be heard saying in a promo as well as in Episode 9 saying: "You know, I was like a Tony Soprano. I had all the goomahs [women]. I had the money, the cars, the nice clothes, and in my neighborhood, I was a star." (Some neighborhood).

The Boston Globe news story by Kurkjian and Murphy story reports that Maine State Police records indicate that Guarente listed a lakeside home in Orlando as his residence for several years in the early 1990s," but that changed by the time Last Seen podcast came out.

From the Boston Globe's Last Seen Podcast:

Jack Rodolico: "Steve knew Guarente had lived in Boston and Maine. But buried in his paperwork on him, he found a DEA report with an address he'd never previously noticed."

KURKJIAN: "And there was one place in Florida. So I said, "Mmmm, not eureka yet, but I think that's the place we ought to start looking."

So not Maine State police, the DEA. Guarente was a drug dealer so a DEA report, puts him more physically in Florida, than in state records from state police.

But look they did, the FBI did search at Robert Guarente's Florida address, an address his own wife knew nothing about. It was a solid lead. So solid that Anthony Amore and the Geoff Kelly couldn't be bothered flying down to Florida in the absolute dead of winter in New England, for the January 31, 2018 search of the empty lot.

More from the Boston Globe's Last Seen podcast?

HORAN: The ground penetrating Radar technician, Dupke used two different technologies -- radio and electromagnetic waves -- to determine whether there was something not naturally occurring below the ground's surface. If both types of waves identified an anomaly in the same spot, Dupke explained, then that spot warranted further investigation.

KURKJIAN: And in late December we get the report and eureka! They do see something four to six feet below the surface that they said they could not explain.

As Kelly Horan said in Episode Five: "This was big. This was new. This was the FBI lifting the lid off." But as it turned out, it was only a septic tank, something any qualified GPR technician could have told most especially in Orlando, Florida, without having to dig up the land.

What this was, was the Boston Globe grabbing the attention of the public, asserting control of the narrative, not because they had anything credible to offer, but because they had the access, they had the resources, they had the reputation. They would, to be sure, be at the very least, tantalizing.

And if that was all they were then must be all there is. because if there was any more than that, then surely, they would be right at the front of the line reporting about it, from an access compensated venue just beneath the net to take the easy shot.

Unless the Boston Globe had been persuaded to "kill alter or delay information in the case in exchange for the "assurance of a scoop" down the road, as Kurkjian reported the CIA was in an article he wrote when he was Washington Bureau chief for the Boston Globe in 1989"

To maintain the investigation's secrecy, [William M.] Baker asked the reporter to withhold publication, and in return offered to give the reporter the entire story once an arrest was made. "Obviously, this assurance of a scoop was a critical factor in his -- and his editors' -- response," Baker said in explaining why the Times decided to hold the story.

About a year ago, when the story broke with the arrest in West Germany of retired Army Sgt. Clyde Lee Conrad, Baker said he informed the Times reporter, who was able to produce "a lengthy account of the espionage ring and the arrests."

The reporter waited until March, however, to publish the account of Conrad's tricking of the CIA to pay him $50,000 for useless information.

The day after the story, "Notorious Boston mobster-turned-pastor has clues about Gardner heist," ran in the Boston Globe Anthony Amore the Gardner Museum's chief investigator of the robbery said to me in an email: "Well, I can tell you that the story ["Notorious Boston mobster-turned-pastor has clues about Gardner heist"] includes nothing new or newsworthy. It's all nonsense. And I know definitely that Luisi has no information on the paintings."

The lawyer for Vincent Ferrara, the man an anonymous source claims Donati stole the Gardner art in order to get him out of prison, said in 2021 that "Bobby Donati was a knock around guy who was essentially Vin Ferrara's Gardner Heist 'driver' (who I was then representing). When I met him [Donati], circa 1988-9, he was, in my humble opinion, not in any way involved [in the Gardner heist], just not what he would have been doing at the time."

Robert Fisher, a former assistant US attorney who oversaw the Gardner investigation from 2010 to 2016, said he remained unconvinced that Calantropo's account was proof of Donati's involvement.

"I think I need more than that story to make Donati the prime suspect. I would need corroboration that the story is even accurate, that this guy did, in fact, see the finial," the original story about Calantropo by Murphy reported.

But then it says that An anonymous "former convict who is among the five people who signed the agreement with the Gardner museum to share the reward," with Kurkjian and Calantropo and others said he believes Calantropo's account is credible.

The Boston Globe reports what anonymous ex-convict, who like Calantropo himself and Kurkjian, now has a fiduciary stake in Calantropo's uncorroborated story, yet, following the FBI's lead, refuses to even acknowledge the existence of hard evidence pointing in another direction, and normalizes the FBI's Gardner investigation, disinforming statements, and hijinks.


by Kerry Joyce

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