Published: November 28, 2000
Myles Connor Starts Talking
In a November 25 article, convicted art thief Myles Connor named names in the 1990 heist of the artwork from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on Boston’s Fenway. The article appeared in the weekender edition of the Patriot Ledger, a daily newspaper serving the communities from Quincy to the Cape Cod canal and extending westward to Needham and Brockton. Ledger reporter Lane Lambert wrote the article based on a lunchtime interview in the home of Connor friend.
The two men identified by Connor have been mentioned before by the press, but this is the first time that Connor has publicly admitted planning such a theft, with their involvement apparently confirmed by a conversation after the act.
Connor’s name immediately surfaced following the March 18, 1990 Gardner heist. When the theft occurred, he resided in Lompoc, Calif.’s federal prison. However law enforcement officials investigating the Gardner theft suggested to the press that Connor possibly masterminded the crime, and that that possible connection has been repeatedly published during the past decade.
Connor, now 57, dropped out of art college in 1963 to become a musician and part-time art dealer, but soon became ensnarled in criminal activity. In an interrupted burglary of an Ellsworth, Me. home in 1965, he exchanged gunfire with local police, and was subsequently arrested. His most famous crime was the April 14, 1975 theft of a Rembrandt’s 1632 “Portrait of Elisabeth Van Rijn” from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Connor used the painting to negotiate a reduced sentence in an unrelated case, and the painting was returned on January 4, 1976. He has spent the last ten years in federal prisons following convictions for dealing cocaine and the interstate transportation of stolen antiques. He suffered a combination heart attack and stroke in 1998, and was released on parole in June 2000.
Following the interview, Lane wrote, “If Connor is guessing about who has the art, he has no doubts about who arranged the heist: Bobby Donati and David Houghton, two Boston-area organized crime figures who died in the early 1990’s.”
Connor told Lane that he and Donati had cased the Gardner museum in the 1970’s. Lane wrote, “Connor said Houghton and Donati used his break-in plan, and that he knows the pair were involved because Houghton told him during a visit at Lompac.”
Lane quoted Connor as saying, “David said, ‘hey, we’ve done this thing, and you’re gonna be out real soon because we have that kind of leverage.’ And then of course he died, and that was the end of my contact on the subject.”
In 1991 Donati’s corpse was discovered in the trunk of an abandoned Cadillac in Revere, Mass. Since the body had been hogtied and repeatedly stabbed, there was immediate speculation that he was murdered by organized crime figures.
In 1992 Houghton suffered a heart attack and died.
The names of Donati and Houghton have previously surfaced in a veiled manner in association with the Gardner case. FBI Supervising agent Thomas Cassano has avoided endorsing the associations. He has responded in general terms by noting that attributing actions and statements to the dead is easy, since those parties cannot contest the accuracy of the attribution.
MFA security was greatly bolstered between 1975 and 1990.A couple months before the Gardner theft, two individuals had attempted to enter the MFA using the ruse later employed at the Gardner. MFA security forces asked for more information, and the two individuals fled. In contrast, Gardner museum security in 1990 was substantially the same as it was in 1975, and the security guards had apparently not been alerted to the attempted entry at the neighboring museum.
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