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FBI releases never-before-seen surveillance from Boston museum heist

By Danielle Haynes
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FBI releases never-before-seen surveillance from Boston museum heist
"Chez Tortoni" by Edouard Manet. Image courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

BOSTON, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Twenty-five years after two thieves posed as Boston police officers and stole more than a dozen priceless paintings and artifacts, the FBI has released never-before-seen surveillance footage Thursday hoping to get new leads in the case.

Investigators released footage from the day before the art heist showing a man enter the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum against the facility's policy.

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In 1990, two men disguised as police officers talked their way into the museum and overpowered the security guards. They escaped with possibly the biggest haul ever of stolen art, including Rembrandt's Christ on the Sea of Galilee and The Concert, one of only 34 definitive works by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, a Rembrandt etching, a Manet, and five Degas drawings. The thieves also took a Shang dynasty bronze beaker from China and an eagle-shaped finial or end-piece from a Napoleonic flag.

In March 2013, the FBI said it knew who was behind the theft, but so far they've been able to definitely prove it and track down the art.

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One visitor to the museum March 17, 1990, one day before the heist, is unknown to investigators, though.

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"Today we are releasing video images from the night before the theft -- images which have not previously been seen by the public -- with the hope of identifying an unauthorized visitor to the museum," said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. "With the public's help, we may be able to develop new information that could lead to the recovery of these invaluable works of art."

The footage shows a vehicle pull up to the rear entrance of the museum, where the thieves would enter one day later. The FBI says the vehicle matches the same description as one seen near the museum at the time of the theft.

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An unidentified man exits the vehicle and is allowed entry to the museum by a security guard against policy. The images are grainy and dark, but the FBI is hoping someone may be able to provide more information.

"This latest request for the public's assistance illustrates the FBI's continued commitment to the Gardner investigation," said Vincent Lisi, special agent in charge of the FBI in Boston. "By releasing this video, we hope to generate meaningful leads and ultimately recover the stolen artwork."

The museum has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the return of all stolen artworks in good condition.

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