Dead Gangster Linked To Biggest Art Heist In American History Worth $500 Million

by : Emily Brown on :
FBI/Boston Police

A gangster who was killed in 1991 has been posthumously linked to America’s biggest art heist from a Boston museum. 

Details of the theft from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner museum were detailed earlier this year in a Netflix documentary titled This is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist, which explained how the crime remains unsolved more than three decades later.


The 13 items stolen during the heist include an ancient Chinese beaker and paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet and Degas worth a total of $500 million (£375 million).

Isabella Stewart Gardner museum (Alamy)Alamy

Two men dressed as police officers managed to walk out of the museum without being caught, and despite a $10 million reward for the art, the items remain missing to this day.

Now, 70-year-old retired appraiser Paul Calantropo has claimed gangster Bobby Donati attempted to sell one of the items taken in the heist prior to his death in 1991.


Speaking to The Boston Globe, per Metro, Calantropo said he recognised the bronze eagle sculpture Donati had in his possession from the museum and told him it was worthless due to its infamy.

He recalling telling the gangster: ‘Jesus Bobby, why didn’t you steal the Mona Lisa?’

Paul Calantropo (Paul Calantropo/Facebook)Paul Calantropo/Facebook

Calantropo had reportedly appraised diamonds and other jewellery for Donati on a number of occasions after they met decades earlier, though he is said to have always remained uneasy about the origins of the items.


He chose to keep quiet about Donati’s possession of the eagle because he feared for his safety, though five years ago he approached the FBI and recounted details from his encounter with the gangster.

After Donati showed the eagle statue to Calantropo the pair never met again, and one year later Donati was attacked and murdered outside his home in New England.

Empty frame in museum (Alamy)Alamy

The retiree described himself as being ‘pretty crestfallen’ after learning of Donati’s death, as he expressed his belief the secret of the location of the art ‘died with Bobby’.


Donati is thought to have had plans to use the stolen artwork as leverage to get a friend out of jail, and many believe he buried or hid the valuable haul in a secret location which will one day be uncovered.

Calantropo is now working with a group of experts to try and solve the mystery of the artwork’s whereabouts. The FBI reportedly would not comment on the matter other than to say it is ‘focused on recovering the art and returning it to its rightful place at the museum’.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University and went on to contribute to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming Senior Journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news, trending stories and longer form features.

Topics: News, Art, Boston, Theft


  1. Metro

    Gangster linked to unsolved £375,000,000 art heist 30 years after his death