Identify The Evidence and Help Us Solve a Real Crime!

Boston, a city rich in history, is known for events such as the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, and the Battle of Bunker Hill. The largest city in New England is also known for several firsts, such as the first public school in the country, the first college (Harvard in neighboring Cambridge), and the first subway system.

However, there’s another event in Boston history that has piqued the investigative interest of The Graveyard Shift. The event is not one of Boston’s happiest memories. It’s a true crime that, when set to page, reads like a well-plotted work of fiction. In fact, it’s a convoluted story with many characters, plot twists, and tons of suspense that would fit comfortably between the covers of a Lawrence Block novel – a real Bernie Rhodenbarr kind of story.

On March 18, 1990, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was robbed of art worth $500,000,000.00. That’s half a billion dollars worth of paint, canvas, and talent that cannot be reproduced. Included in the treasured collection were paintings by Rembrandt and Manet.

The two men who supposedly broke into the museum were able to beat the elaborate security system, outfox and overpower two security guards, and take the prized artwork, all without leaving a trace. The two security guards working the graveyard shift say the robbers were dressed as Boston Police officers. According to one of the security guards known only as Richard A., the museum’s alarm system had sounded a couple times during the night. Two of the alarms were fire alarms, but there was no fire. After the alarms sounded, Richard A. went to the basement to reset the main control panel. A few minutes later, according to the alarm records, Richard A. set off a motion detector on the first floor of the museum.

Soon, at 1:24am Richard A. opened a side door to allow two men dressed as Boston police officers to enter the otherwise locked building. Opening the door to anyone was not standard procedure.

The security guards claim the two “police officers” placed them under arrest for outstanding warrants and then handcuffed them. It’s not clear if there were actually warrants on file for the two guards. If not, why were they so cooperative? Once the phony officers had the two guards handcuffed one of the intruders said, “Gentlemen, this is a robbery.”

The two guards were led to the basement, about 120 feet apart, and handcuffed to pipes. The robbers also wrapped duct tape around Richard A’s. head. Once the two guards were restrained the robbers then carried out their plan of stealing the artwork.

Neither the robbers nor the artwork have been found.

Now, the museum’s security director, Anthony Amore (Mr. Amore used to be with TSA. You may remember him from the Richard Reid “shoe bomber” case. Mr. Amore was the lead investigator on the case), has asked The Graveyard Shift and its readers for help. We hope to identify what could be a key piece of evidence in the case.

Mr. Armore and I are asking you, the readers of The Graveyard Shift, if you’d please take a look at the photo below. The image is of two keys that were found in the possession of a person of interest in the case. Do any of you know what type lock these keys fit? Have you ever seen keys like them? Perhaps they fit a storage building or locker? A public storage facility?

If you have any ideas or suggestions please post them in the comments section of this blog. If you’d rather remain anonymous feel free to contact me at I’ll forward all comments to Mr. Amore. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Do you have any knowledge of, or information about this case? Have you seen any of the missing the art? If so, please contact the Boston FBI office at 1-617-642-5533.

Unknown Suspect Number One
Race: White
Sex: Male
Age: Late 20’s to mid 30’s
Height: 5’7″ to 5’10”
Weight: Unknown
Build: Medium
Eyes: Dark
Hair: Black, short cropped
Complexion: Fair to medium
Facial Structure: Narrow
Facial Hair: Wearing a dark, shiny mustache, appearing to be false
Glasses: Wearing square-shaped, gold framed glasses
Clothing: Fully ornamented dark blue police uniform and hat, and dark shoes, with patch on left shoulder, possibly with wording “Boston Police.”
Equipment: Carrying a square black radio (with 5″ to 6″ antenna) on belt
Accent: Possibly Boston

Unknown Suspect Number Two
Race: White
Sex: Male
Age: Early to mid 30’s
Height: 6’0″ to 6’1″
Weight: 180 to 200 pounds
Build: Fairly broad shoulders, lanky from the waist down
Eyes: Dark
Hair: Black, medium length, puffy with additional length in back, rounded off just over the collar
Complexion: Fair to medium
Facial Structure: Round
Facial Hair: Black shiny mustache appearing to be false
Glasses: None
Clothing: Same as Unknown Subject Number One
Equipment: Same as Unknown Subject Number One

Persons with information regarding the Gardner Museum theft should contact the Boston F.B.I. office at 1-617-742-5533. Callers will be assured confidentiality by use of a code name. REWARD

A FIVE MILLION DOLLAR Reward is offered for the safe recovery of all stolen items in good condition. The recovery of an individual object will result in a portion of the reward, based upon the object’s market value.

43 replies
  1. tudza
    tudza says:

    Man, they stole a Vermeer. There’s only 30 something of those around total. Who do you sell something like that to? No ransom demands or anything?

  2. Ambiguiss
    Ambiguiss says:

    I have looked at the key photo multiple times over the last few months. The embossed symbol on the key is definitely not a Samsonite logo. To me, it looks like a smiling head, bald, with big eyes and even eyebrows. Does anyone else see this? And does anyone have or know of a logo like this?

  3. Richard A.
    Richard A. says:

    It’s OK Lee, you didn’t have to delete the remark; you took away the interpretation that any reasonable person would. They’re really well crafted articles.

    Thank you,
    Richard A.

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Richard A. – I’d only known what I read in the papers. So, to be fair to you I’ve deleted the comment. Thank you for stopping by. As always, there are two sides to every story.

  5. Richard A.
    Richard A. says:

    © 2009 Richard A. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized duplication or publication in part or whole is illegal and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    Let me apologize in advance, the above disclaimer is legal advice because of the situation I intend to address in this essay. However, the wonderful thing about copyright is it’s in effect as soon as intellectual property is fixed in a tangible medium. This, my friends, is a tangible medium, as is the Word document I typed this into. I also want to be clear that I am not here to discuss the crime. I’ve done that many, many times and I’m not going to allow myself to be drawn into an open discussion here.

    What I’m responding to here is the misperception that, as you put it Lee, “The guard known as Richard A. has repeatedly refused to assist police.” If you read The Boston herald articles carefully it never actually says that. It does say I have refused to assist in the investigation on numerous occasions over the past 19 years (I’m paraphrasing), but those articles never say what investigation I refuse to assist. I have cooperated fully with the police, F.B.I. and the Massachusetts office of the D.A. I have complies with every request, taken polygraphs, and looked at uniforms, patches, and handcuffs. I have answered every question, phone call, shown up early for every meeting I’ve been asked to attend and testified under oath.

    So what investigation are Anthony Amore & Tom Mashburg talking about? As far as I can tell there are two possible answers to that question. They may be confusing me with my partner, I’ve been told the other guard on duty that night did not initially want to cooperate with the police investigation. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it’s what I’ve heard.

    The more likely conclusion is that I refuse to cooperate with their (Amore & Mashburg) investigation. So let me tell you why I don’t cooperate with them.

    Anthony Amore first contacted me about two years ago in 2007. We had a few phone/email conversations in which he was trying to get me to send him the photographs of suspects that Steve Kurkjian has sent me over the years. Apparently I didn’t respond to him fast enough. So he dug into my background. OK, that’s what people investigating things do. He found a house I used to live in that had three names attached to it, mine, Mary Wineburg (a pseudonym for illustrative purposes and a true one at that, not just a private citizen’s real first name & last initial) and Becky O’Toole (another pseudonym). Well, Amore knew where I was, and he could find Becky, but he couldn’t find anything on Mary. So he set up a Gmail account under Mary’s name & emailed Becky pretending to be Mary & asking if she knew what was going on with me. It’s a bush league tactic as far as I’m concerned. But, in this case it’s one that blew up in his face because Becky and Mary are the same person. The woman in question was my ex and she legally changed her name while we were living in that house (name changes are public records, I wonder why Amore couldn’t find that). So he emailed my ex as her former self. This did not go over well, but he apologized to me and my ex and then things were quiet for a while.

    Amore didn’t contact me, but Ulrich Boser was writing a book. He was trying to contact me. He left messages at my work number, he sent me letters at my work address, and he was calling my mother on the phone. Then he spoke with Amore, and magically he had my home phone number. At the time I had Vonage, it’s like a cell number so it’s unlisted. Now, I know that for a couple of bucks anyone can get an “unlisted” cell phone number, the problem here is that the bill at the time was under my wife’s maiden name. So here’s a guy who had my full name & he can’t find me. He found out where I work, he found my mother, and until he talked to Amore he couldn’t even find my street address, much less my phone number. This brings us to Tom Mashburg. Mashburg seems to like saying that my name is all over public documents related to the crime. That might be true, but if it is true then my partners’ name is all over those same documents. Why didn’t Mashburg identify my partner? Well, he cooperated with their investigation is one possibility. But if my name is just out there in public documents, why did it take Mashburg 19 years to contact me. He’s been working on the story for, I think, about 10 years. Here, again, I think of Amore. Mashburg didn’t contact me until he had partnered up with Amore. Once Mashburg and Amore started working together, all of a sudden Mashburg knows who I am, where I am, and what my phone number is.

    Mashburg had contacted me by email through Amore about the enhanced photographs and the article he was writing. I talked to him one time on the phone and the third thing he said to me was that he was half way to the town where I live. I said, “Oh no that’s not gonna work.” And hung up on him. He called back and my wife informed him that he was not cut off he was hung up on and he has no business calling here in the first place. Immediately after that I checked my email only to find that, coincidentally, Amore was also in town and was hoping we could get together and chat. I hope the two of them had a nice dinner.

    I was in Boston a couple of months ago and emailed Anne Hawley (the Gardner Museums’ Director). I told her that I wanted to get together & tell her face to face why I don’t trust Anthony Amore. I wanted to tell her that I have nothing against the Museum but I would not, under any circumstances, deal with Amore. She got back to me saying that she was very busy with the expansion plans and could not meet with me (and that didn’t surprise or offend me) but I should speak with ……… drum roll……….cymbal crash….. Anthony Amore!!!! Now how much sense does that make?

    All of this is simple my personal experience. I could be wrong, maybe Amore didn’t give my phone number to Boser and Mashburg, but he did impersonate my ex, and admitted that himself to both me and my ex, so that makes everything else suspect in my eyes. So I ask you, if this were your experience with these people, would you cooperate with them?

    It would be great if Mashburg & Amore came on here, manned up, and simply admit that when they say I don’t cooperate with the investigation they don’t mean the official investigation. If they do, honestly, think that I haven’t cooperated in the past with the official investigation I’d love to see their evidence. But remember, I have the F.B.I. telling me, not only that I have cooperate fully with the investigation but also that no one from either the Boston Herald or the Gardner Museum contacted them before they ran that story.

    Richard A.

  6. PatMarin
    PatMarin says:

    Hubby says these are a set of car keys, the one on the left is the ignation key and the one on the right is the truck key.

    I think the one on the left looks like my file cabinet key but since I remembering car keys like that, I’ll have to agree with Hubby.

    Pat Marinelli

  7. policeartist
    policeartist says:

    I’m not much on keys, but I could look at the original notes on the composites and develop a more accurate drawing. The nose on unsub drawing #1 is proportionally too long. The aging (#2) is not accurate assuming the original drawing–missing the iris raised and rather bulbous nose. If the original artist used the FBI facial identification catalog, the images are still there.

    (also suggest statement analysis on original statements.)
    -Carrie Stuart Parks

  8. Seascribe
    Seascribe says:

    The key on the left looks just like the key to my old suitcase, circa 1989-92, somewhere around there. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was indeed a Samsonite. I’m not sure what brand my suitcase was, but I know it was a cheaper brand. The keys to suitcases in the early 2000s were a bit thinner and, and of course now they make something altogether different for those lovely TSA inspectors.

    The key on the right looks very much like the key to my safety deposit box at my bank, which I visited just yesterday.

    If I had been the detective, I would have had a hard time not rolling my eyes as Richard A. used the phrase, “Gentlemen, this is a robbery.” Really, Richard?

  9. BethAnderson
    BethAnderson says:

    Hi Lee. I asked about the Vidocq Society because they look at cold cases (don’t they?). I thought this one would qualify as it’s unsolved and there don’t seem to be any active leads. Maybe they don’t look at this type of case.

  10. jvimawriter
    jvimawriter says:

    The small metal key looks like the key to my condo mailbox. The key with black looks like a locker storage key, like what they give you at a gym.

  11. Liana Brooks
    Liana Brooks says:

    Lee… this is a random thought from reading the comments trail. I assume the guards are being pretty well watched but how closely together were they handcuffed?

    With one taped to the pipe and one not… to me that suggests a sudden change in method possibly brought on by an interruption. Or because there was only one thief left.

    I’m picturing a scenario where the guards go and take the paintings themselves. They have access to everything. They have probably been offered some money at some point to rob the place. And they may or may not have had accomplices.

    Then, after the paintings are stashed somewhere safe but nearby they go downstairs, Richard A has his partner cuff him and duct tape him. And then his buddy sits down and Richard locks the hand cuffs on.

    It only works if they were close enough to touch. Or if the second person could have manipulated the handcuffs to lock himself in place.

    Someone mentioned that a change in monetary status would be noticeable. $5000 isn’t that much (a nice amount but not even enough to pay off a car). And any body with a reasonable amount of intelligence is going to know better than to sell the goods and then run off with a new lifestyle.

    Pocket the money, invest some, pay off or pay down a few bills. Save it somewhere. Possibly an off-shore account. Or maybe Richard A was already paid in something less tangible than a traceable payment. Blackmail, paying off gambling debts, favor for an old family friend… there are quite a few ways to twist a dishonest persons arm. And Richard A and Co don’t sound like terribly honest people.

  12. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Debra – My, aren’t you the outdoors person! I’ll add you suggestions to the list that’s going to the investigator in charge (He’s been monitoring the site today). Thanks!

  13. debralee1
    debralee1 says:

    Lee, the key with the black on it looks like my boat key(a pontoon boat) and the other key looks like the one that opens my camper.

  14. Earth2Mary
    Earth2Mary says:

    Lee – I certainly don’t doubt the attention that has been put into this case. The frustration they experience must be unbelievable. I tend to get a little carried away with my assumptions at times!

    Oh, thanks! I’ll have to go check that out 🙂

  15. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Earth2Mary – I can assure you that all possible leads have been covered. This case has the attention of some of the top investigators in the country.

    By the way, you have a comment waiting to be approved on your blog.

  16. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Hi Beth. Thanks for the input. I’ll pass your information on to the investigator in charge.

    No, I doubt the Society has looked at the case since it’s still an open and ongoing investigation.

    Dave – I agree. You know, the guard was so upset about the robbery that he attended a Grateful Dead concert two days after the traumatizing event. Really worked on his nerves, huh…

    queen- I wish he would stop by. I’d love to hear what he has to say.

    Earth2Mary – The second guard was also restrained and led to the basement where he, too, was handcuffed to the pipes.

  17. Earth2Mary
    Earth2Mary says:

    It’d be easy for a person to duct tape the another person’s head to a pole. It’d be hard for someone to duct tape their own head to a pole, much less then discard of the roll of duct tape. No sign of a struggle, either? I’m with D. Swords on it sounding suspicious.

    The key on the left looks similar to the one that came with my violin case. Ohh…I need to stop surmising. Did the investigator interview a locksmith?

  18. BethAnderson
    BethAnderson says:

    The one on the left definitely looks like it fits a luggage lock. I had one like the one on the right and it unlocked my garage door (the overhead one). Has the Vidocq Society ever looked at this case?

  19. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    My guess is Ricard A. has already been rewarded to his satisfaction.

    It appears you’ve come to the same conclusion. A “deal” with him is probably the only thing that would loosen his lips, and a little of the reward. Of course, he may also know he could end up floating in the harbor.

  20. Earth2Mary
    Earth2Mary says:

    Before I read any comments, I’m going to say that the gold key (right) looks identical to a post office box key. I’d assume that the other belongs to a lockbox, probably fairly old (made before 1990’s) judging by the make of the key. And it looks cheaply made, so the lockbox (if it is a lockbox) probably isn’t that high security.

    Two questions: Where was the other security officer, and why wasn’t there any footage caught on camera?

    Gotta run–I might comment again later.

  21. queenofmean
    queenofmean says:

    The problem with Richard A getting a piece of the pie is he’d never be able to enjoy the money. If he began spending a lot of money, someone might get suspicious. Even if not the police, maybe a neighbor or acquaintance. Of course, if he agreed to help with the theft, he might not have thought far enough ahead to realize that.
    That would be pretty cool if he did drop by to share his story, huh?

  22. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I’m thinking everything surrounding this guy is odd. He claims that when the robbers applied the tape to his head (he had really long hair that brings to mind the Cowardly Lion on The Wizard of Oz) they asked him if he could breathe okay. They also told him (so he says) that he’d be rewarded if he kept his mouth shut. Maybe he’s still waiting for the reward. But I’d think the 5-million-dollar reward would loosen his lips a bit if he wasn’t involved in some way.

    Hey, Richard A., consider this an invitation to drop by The Graveyard Shift to tell your side of the story.

  23. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    Hi, Lee. Good luck with the keys. I think that will be like finding a needle in a haystack, but you don’t know until you try.

    I’m curious about one thing. Did the security guys take polygraphs, or have them offered? Perhaps you may know.
    Odd that they would tape Richard A’s head and not the other guard, if I am reading it right. Or maybe Richard wouldn’t keep his mouth shut.

  24. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    SZ – We’d all love a better photo, but this is the best we have. Now you guys see how tough some investigations can be. Believe me, I’ve had worse, and less, to go on before.

  25. SZ
    SZ says:

    It would be cool to get picture of other side of keys if different looking Or an enlarged picture. I can get it to enlarge nicely on my computer

  26. SZ
    SZ says:

    Very fascinating indeed ! Any journeyman will tell you an apprentice can bring up some of the best questions. That may be why the investigator suggested some insight.

    The metal key for me is similar to the mail box key for the a 12 slot drop box to the apartment. Built here in the 70s

    The black one is similar to some tool box / trunk boxes I have seen in new trucks. However this was in 1990.

    Then it may not be a US key. Very tough. I am sure the investigator has had a plethora of locksmiths to “pick” on already.

  27. ramona
    ramona says:

    That black-topped key resembles one to our fire-proof safety box. The other one looks like the key to my office credenza.

    After reading all of these suggestions about a couple of common-looking keys, I’m thinking how complicated it must be to wade through all of these “tips” to discover something useful to a case. What a lot of time and patience that must take.

    Very eye-opening, Lee!

  28. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Thanks for the information so far. They’re all excellent possibilities.

    I’m not sure what has been done in the on-going investigation. The museum’s investigator asked for help so I’m assuming they’ve not yet learned what type lock these keys fit.

  29. Sheila Connolly
    Sheila Connolly says:

    I’ve looked at my four-generation collection of orphaned keys, and I would suggest that both belong to some sort of carrying/storage piece (like the Samsonite suitcase that Bob suggested).

    I have at least 11 Yale keys to various suitcases from that era (and find to my dismay and amusement that all share two specific keys). Obviously this key on the right shown above is not a Yale, which would be immediately obvious from the Yale stamped on it, plus the Yale keys have two grooves on the facing side.

    I do have two unidentified keys (made by Wright, from Rice Lake, Wisconsin) with single grooves, and another that opens a filing cabinet. The last is slightly larger than the Yales, which measure 1 5/8″.

    So I would guess that both keys fit whatever the thieves used to carry the paintings away–which would probably have been sizeable, given the size of the paintings? (I know you can roll them–carefully!)

    But surely the FBI would have enhanced these photos and searched all available records for carrying case types from 1990 and before?

  30. Liana Brooks
    Liana Brooks says:

    I have keys like that on my chain. The black one goes to a small lock, and I have one similar that goes to a suitcase lock.

    The other goes to a car top carrier. Or something with a lock like a car top carrier. Like a lock for a storage locker or self-storage place.

    Considering the circumstances I could see both those things being useful, a car top carrier to get away with and a storage locker to keep the paintings until sales could be arranged on the black market. Or just to keep and gloat over.

    The whole guard thing sounds fishy though. If this were a work of fiction I’d suspect that the alarms went off because someone was tampering with a line somewhere. I could see a guard letting a police officer in because an alarm sounded and they said they’d been called, but false warrants?

  31. Sarah Grimm
    Sarah Grimm says:

    I checked with my husband and the first thing he said when he saw the black topped key was ‘Outboard key’.

    Which might fit since the other one looks just like the keys that litter my desktop here and go to the customer’s boat ignitions. (My husband and I own a marine repair shop at a marina)

  32. quillracer
    quillracer says:

    The small metal key looks like one for a store’s drop box or possibly a cash register drawer. The other one looks like one for a lawn tractor or mower or a snow blower.

  33. queenofmean
    queenofmean says:

    The all metal one looks like a key to any number of things. I have ones similar to it that go to a fireproof safe, desk & filing cabinet. From the picture it’s hard to see much detail: like size, thickness, sturdiness. It looks as if letters or numbers have been stamped in it, but they’re not legible.
    The other one does remind me of keys you get when you rent lockers, say at an amusement park or someplace like that. Not the likely place to stash a half-billion dollars worth of art, tho. If the keys belong to wherever the artwork is being stored, I’m guessing the average person won’t be familiar with them unless maybe they work in a museum or library archives.
    I guess after 19 years, they’ve searched thru every possible clue muliple times. Not being able to find them must be very frustrating.

  34. Sarah Grimm
    Sarah Grimm says:

    I have a key ring full of keys very similar to the all metal key. They fit: boat ignition, padlock, desk, file cabinet & our flammable paint cabinet.

    I’ve seen one similar to the other key…hmm, I’ll ask my husband.

  35. JonathanQuist
    JonathanQuist says:

    Key piece of evidence, indeed…

    Would it be possible to get a higher resolution image, with some sense of scale (maybe a quarter or dime along with the keys)?
    The logo on the plastic-handled key, and the lettering on the other key would be helpful.

    The all-metal key is very similar to one I’ve got; I’m trying to recall where it came from.

Comments are closed.