Fairfield University is full of opportunities to learn about various real-world topics and meet many amazing professionals at events. Most recently on Jan. 23 at 5 p.m., the Fairfield University Art Museum’s Department sponsored a talk led by Special Agent Geoff Kelly, the head of the FBI’s Art Crimes Task Force. He was in charge of investigating the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist of 1990 in Boston, MA, where 13 artistic masterpieces were stolen and never to be seen again. 

For any true crime junkies, this event was a great kickoff to the Spring Semester. Students were caught sitting at the edge of their seats for the entirety of the event, hoping to finally find out who was responsible for stealing $500 million worth of irreplaceable artifacts. 

Junior Rhea Brennan attended the event because it piqued after she saw an email advertising it. Brennan said that she’s “impressed the school was able to secure such a key member of the investigation” and that it “was one of the most interesting events that [she’s] eever gone to here.” She adds, “Kelly was so involved, you just got to see so much behind the scenes of the investigation that the public normally doesn’t get.” 

Other audience members seemed to feel the same, as they hung onto Kelly’s every last word. Even though most attendees had been in class all day or at work, everyone seemed overjoyed to be there and almost every seat in the building was filled. The main event even went on for 30 minutes more than scheduled and not a single person felt the need to leave. Audience members asked many questions, like “where can we read more about this?,” “Did you finally catch the guys?” and “Is the investigation continuing even though it’s 33 years later?”. 

Junior Maddie Bombard also said that she “can’t wait to look more into the heist.”

For resources, Kelly pointed attendees, like Bombard, in the direction of multiple books, like Stolen, commissioned by the Gardner Museum and The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser. These books go into every detail possible pertaining to the theft for people who left the talk wanting more. 

However, Kelly provided so much insider information that getting those books may not be necessary. He explained that he “scoured through the security cam footage, connected cars outside of the museum to infamous mobsters in the Boston area, considered the security guard as a top suspect, set up numerous sting operations” and investigated the homes of mob members that seemed connected to the crime. 

The FBI received countless tips from people claiming to have the stolen art and set up stings that Kelly described as “hopeful efforts” because any clue could help lead to the stolen pieces. None of these amounted to anything, except for the search of Boston mobster Robert Gentile’s Portland, Maine home. 

Kelly explained that he finally felt like the case was coming to a close when searching the home. His crew unearthed the box assumed to house the stolen items underneath a shed in Gentile’s backyard. Kelly said that he “prepared for his picture, expecting to open the box and have his Aha! Moment,” but the box was empty. 

The case still remains unsolved and Kelly urged audience members “to keep looking and keep the faith.” He goes to events like these “to spread the word” and maybe “it’ll spark something in someone’s memory” that helps the investigation. He hoped that Fairfield students can help keep the case alive and maybe he’ll inspire students to pursue a career, like his in the future. “There’s a $10 million reward in it for you if you can find the pieces, just let me know and maybe we can split it” Kelly joked to the audience. 

Events like these help students figure out what they want to do for a possible career and let them take part in great educational opportunities, which many audience members felt like this event did. 

For those who want to check out the Gardner Museum, they still have the remaining frames that housed the stolen artwork hanging on the walls in hopes the artwork will one day be returned.

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