Guard working during ISG museum heist speaks out

Posted: 03/21/13 at 6:35 am EDT      Last Updated: 03/21/13 at 6:46 am EDT

BOSTON (WHDH) -- Monday, officials announced they have long known the identity of the thieves who pulled off the biggest art heist in history.

After 23 years, they are hoping new tips will lead them - to those stolen masterpieces.

Wednesday night, one of the two guards who witnessed the crime told his story. For years, he has lived under a cloud of suspicion and questions on how this crime could have happened on his watch.

Rick Abath was a security guard at the Gardner Museum that fateful night 23 years ago.

"Cops rang the doorbell. They said, 'Boston police. We got a report of a disturbance on the premises,' so I buzzed them in,” recalled Abath.

The so-called "officers" - then turned on him.

"The cop who was dealing with me turned to me and said, 'Don't I know you? Don't I recognize you? I think there is a warrant out for your arrest. Can you step out from behind the desk?'"

And then, Abath learned what was really going on.

"He finished cuffing me and he cuffed my partner and very dramatically said, 'Gentlemen, this is a robbery,'" said Abath.

Abath said he had no chance to press the panic button before being tied up.

The FBI says it knows the identities of those men who robbed the museum back in 1990 - getting away with half a billion dollars worth of masterpieces.

Abath said he is not surprised that he was immediately suspected of being part of the heist.

"I knew I would. I opened up the door. Once I sat down with the FBI, I think the first thing I said was, 'What do you want to know?' because I knew, I was like, 'Well, I was the guy who opened up the door. They're obviously going to be looking at me,’” said Abath.

Rick and the other guard were then chained up separately - in the basement

Of the museum.

The theft was discovered the next morning - by a morning guard - arriving to relieve them.

The artwork has never been recovered.

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