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This Massive Heist From 1990 Is So Shady And Interesting, And It's Still Unsolved All These Years Later

"You're not being arrested. This is a robbery. Don't give us any problems, and you won't get hurt."

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This week's (and previous) episodes of BuzzFeed Unsolved are now available on Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, and Roku TV. On this episode of BuzzFeed Unsolved, Ryan and Shane investigate the Gardner Museum Heist. Below are 15 of the many facts they discussed.

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BuzzFeedBlue / Via youtube.com

1. The Gardner Museum was built in 1901. It contains over 15,000 pieces of art, collected by the late Isabella Stewart Gardner.

John Singer Sargent / Via gardnermuseum.org / Via gardnermuseum.org

2. On March 18, 1990, the museum fell victim to a heist. Only 13 pieces were stolen, but their combined value was over $500 million.

@moneystalkers / Via instagram.com

3. On the night of the heist, two inexperienced guardsmen were on duty.

One of the guards, Richard Abath, was a musician who openly despised his job as a security guard.
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One of the guards, Richard Abath, was a musician who openly despised his job as a security guard.

4. Around 12:54 a.m., half an hour before the thieves entered the building, a fire alarm went off on the third floor.

It was investigated, but there was no fire. It's unknown whether or not this was part of the thieves' scheme.
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It was investigated, but there was no fire. It's unknown whether or not this was part of the thieves' scheme.

5. At 1:24 a.m., two men dressed as policemen buzzed into the security desk where Abath was stationed.

They claimed to be responding to a disturbance call and demanded entry. There were St. Patrick's Day parties happening in the nearby neighborhoods, so a disturbance call was feasible to Abath.
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They claimed to be responding to a disturbance call and demanded entry. There were St. Patrick's Day parties happening in the nearby neighborhoods, so a disturbance call was feasible to Abath.

6. Abath buzzed the policemen in, violating museum protocol.

One of the men said to Abath, "You look familiar. I think we have a default warrant out on you. Come out here and show us some identification."
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One of the men said to Abath, "You look familiar. I think we have a default warrant out on you. Come out here and show us some identification."

7. This was a trick to get Abath to leave his control desk, which had the only button capable of immediately alerting police.

Abath faced the wall and was handcuffed. He found it odd that he wasn't frisked beforehand, and realized then that it could be a robbery.
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Abath faced the wall and was handcuffed. He found it odd that he wasn't frisked beforehand, and realized then that it could be a robbery.

8. At this time, the second guard arrived, and he was also held captive by the two men.

The second guard asked why he was being arrested and was told, "You're not being arrested. This is a robbery. Don't give us any problems, and you won't get hurt." He responded, "Don't worry, they don't pay me enough to get hurt." The two guards were tied up with duct tape.
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The second guard asked why he was being arrested and was told, "You're not being arrested. This is a robbery. Don't give us any problems, and you won't get hurt." He responded, "Don't worry, they don't pay me enough to get hurt." The two guards were tied up with duct tape.

9. The robbers then went to the second floor and split up, removing various pieces of art from the wall.

During this time, an alarm went off. This alarm was there to alert guards if someone got too close to the artwork, but the robbers found it, and smashed it.
BuzzFeed

During this time, an alarm went off. This alarm was there to alert guards if someone got too close to the artwork, but the robbers found it, and smashed it.

10. At 2:28 a.m., the robbers returned to the security counter and checked on the guards in the basement.

Then, they removed tapes that'd captured their movement in and around the museum.
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Then, they removed tapes that'd captured their movement in and around the museum.

11. The pieces taken included three Rembrandt's. They tried taking a fourth Rembrandt, but apparently it was too difficult to move.

Some wonder why the thieves left behind pieces that were worth more, such as a Michelangelo and a Titian.
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Some wonder why the thieves left behind pieces that were worth more, such as a Michelangelo and a Titian.

12. Sometime between 6:45 a.m. and 8:16 a.m., the two morning shift guards showed up for work, but were unable to enter the museum.

The deputy security director called the police. They showed up at 8:30 a.m., and discovered the two night security guards handcuffed in the basement.
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The deputy security director called the police. They showed up at 8:30 a.m., and discovered the two night security guards handcuffed in the basement.

13. In April 1994, the museum received an anonymous letter that claimed to know the location of the missing art.

The writer claimed the paintings were safe, but if the museum wanted them back, they'd have to act quickly, because a buyer in another country might purchase them and claim legal ownership. The writer wanted $2.6 million to facilitate the return of the artwork.
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The writer claimed the paintings were safe, but if the museum wanted them back, they'd have to act quickly, because a buyer in another country might purchase them and claim legal ownership. The writer wanted $2.6 million to facilitate the return of the artwork.

14. The museum agreed to the letter's terms, and received a second letter from the writer.

The writer was pleased that the museum was interested in negotiating, but was discouraged by the local law, state, and federal authorities intervening. The writer openly wondered if they were trying to arrest the middleman. The museum hasn't heard from the author since.
BuzzFeed

The writer was pleased that the museum was interested in negotiating, but was discouraged by the local law, state, and federal authorities intervening. The writer openly wondered if they were trying to arrest the middleman. The museum hasn't heard from the author since.

15. There are multiple theories regarding who may've been responsible for the heist.

From a man named Brian McDevitt, who also committed a similar art robbery in the '80s and lived near the museum at the time of the heist, to the idea that it was an inside job, there's a lot of speculation as to who is responsible.
BuzzFeed

From a man named Brian McDevitt, who also committed a similar art robbery in the '80s and lived near the museum at the time of the heist, to the idea that it was an inside job, there's a lot of speculation as to who is responsible.

There are multiple theories and suspects, but ultimately, the identity of those responsible for the heist remains unsolved.

@gardnermuseum / Via instagram.com