Carmello Merlino was just like every other suburban father, shuttling his son to hockey practice while operating an auto repair shop in the gritty Boston neighborhood of Dorchester, except, according to a close relative, he just “couldn’t walk away from a score.”
Convicted of robbing a Brinks armored truck in the late 1960s, Merlino opened an auto repair garage in the gritty Boston neighborhood of Dorchester when he was paroled in the 1980s. Geoff Kelly, the FBI’s lead agent on the Gardner investigation, believes that the heist may have been plotted there. Merlino talked about having access to stolen paintings after being arrested for operating a cocaine trafficking ring out of the garage in 1994. A few years later, the FBI placed an undercover informant into Merlino’s garage and secretly taped Merlino’s continued talking with associates about the Gardner paintings. Soon Merlino and the informant were plotting the robbery of an armored car depot in Easton, Massachusetts. The first thing that the FBI told Merlino and the three others arrested in the scheme was that all charges would be dropped if they could reveal the location of the stolen art. Unable to deliver, Merlino died in prison in 2005.
— Written by Stephen Kurkjian