Robert “Bobby” Donati, a petty criminal from Revere, had been eyed by authorities as a possible suspect in the Gardner heist since the mid-1990s. Legendary art thief Myles Connor was quoted saying that he knew Donati was responsible for the heist because the two had cased the museum years before. More recently, an intermediary for Boston mob leader Vincent Ferrara told me that Donati visited him in prison after he was arrested for racketeering in late 1989 and told him of his daring plan.
Donati said he intended to gain Ferrara’s release by pulling off a major theft that would so shock the city that authorities would be willing to negotiate to recover the stolen items, echoing the common underworld belief that a stolen masterpiece is a get-out-of-jail-free card. Ferrara, according to the intermediary, urged Donati not to go forward with the theft, saying the authorities would never consider such a deal for someone charged with racketeering. Donati visited Ferrara in prison two more times soon after the March 18, 1990 heist and told him that he robbed the museum and would be soon be approaching the authorities. If he did is unknown, but in September 1991 Donati was found brutally stabbed to death, stuffed in the trunk of a 1980 Cadillac a block away from his home
-- Written by Stephen Kurkjian