MEMPHIS – An ex-Boston mobster who secretly moved to Memphis in 2013 is opening up about his life as the boss of a Boston mafia crew and his knowledge of the largest art heist in world history.
In the 1990s, Robert Luisi, Jr. was the leader of a mob crew in a Boston. Two of the men in his crew, Robert Guarente and 80-year-old Robert Gentile, are suspected by the FBI of stealing $500 million worth of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
Luisi moved to Memphis in 2013. With guidance from the federal government, he changed his name to Alonso Esposito and started a new life.
Now, Esposito lives in a Memphis suburb with his wife, Julie Esposito, and their children.
Guarente died in 2004. Investigators have searched Gentile’s home in Philadelphia, but didn’t find the paintings. Gentile is awaiting trial for unrelated charges, and he claims he knows nothing about the missing art.
For 26 years, the investigation has led investigators to dead ends. And even with Esposito opening up about his knowledge, the art is still nowhere to be found.
When asked if men in his crew were involved in the heist, Esposito said, “I think several of them were. Yeah, that was my crew.”
But Esposito said he didn’t connect with Gentile and Guarante until a few years after the heist.
“I was coming back to Boston from Martha’s Vineyard,” Esposito said, describing what he was doing on March 18, 1990 – the night the paintings were stolen. “That crew that they suspect actually did the robbery, I really didn’t hook up with them until about ’94.”
No one has ever been arrested for stealing the art, but leads have continually taken investigators to men related to Esposito’s former friends in Boston, Philadelphia, Connecticut and Florida.
Rafael Mares, a vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, said he filed the complaint because the MBTA needs to make up for the loss of late-night service as soon as possible.
“Some of the T’s most vulnerable customers were affected by the termination of late-night service,” he said. The MBTA “chose not to do anything about it. The service that’s so important for late-night shift workers has been terminated since March, and nothing else has been put in place.”
The complaint doesn’t ask the MBTA to restore late-night service, but the coalition wants it to fully vet alternative routes that could help the minority and low-income riders affected by the cancellation. Until a permanent decision is made, the complaint asks the MBTA to temporarily put other services into place to help those riders.
Spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the T does not comment on pending litigation, but wrote that the Federal Transit Administration “has informed the MBTA that the equity analysis on Late Night Service is properly documented and has met their requirements.”
The FTA in May responded to a complaint about the cancellation, saying that the MBTA “demonstrated the need to eliminate late-night service, and explained why alternative proposals were not feasible.”
Federal officials wrote that the MBTA would not have to take further steps to mitigate the cancellation, and that the service was eliminated in a way that complied with federal rules.
The MBTA initially offered late-night service on a trial basis, and then extended it for nearly two years. Under federal guidelines, a transit system must complete a civil rights analysis before cutting service if the service has been in place for more than a year.
In February, the T’s fiscal control board voted to end late-night service, saying it was not “cost-effective.” The T spent about $14 million annually to extend service for subway lines, popular bus routes, and the paratransit service from 12:30 a.m. to about 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night.
Initially, The Federal Transit Administration rebuked the MBTA for voting to get rid of the late service without completing a required analysis that would have shows whether minority and low-income riders would be hurt disproportionately. That research is supposed to determine whether the T must take extra steps to make up for the effects on those riders.
The T completed the analysis later, but said that it found “mixed results” as to whether the cuts would be discriminatory.
Tuesday’s complaint, however, says the T’s civil rights analysis was flawed because of the way it used population data to measure who would be affected. Instead of limiting data to smaller geographic areas with larger concentrations of minority and low-income riders, the study included all of Boston’s population, for example, which includes many higher-income and less-diverse areas.
The advocacy organizations allege that if the T had used the proper federal guidelines, it would have found that canceling the service placed a disparate burden on minority riders and a disproportionate burden on low-income riders.
MBTA officials have said they plan to revisit alternatives for late-night service, including an all-night bus service. But Tuesday’s complaint says the T should consider such changes to be mandatory, not voluntary.
The Conservation Law Foundation is joined in the complaint by Alternatives for Community & Environment, a Boston-based environmental advocacy organization that opposed T fare hikes, and the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition, also of Boston.
Supporters of late-night service said they do not expect the same hours and levels of service to be restored. But Stephen Clark, director of government affairs at the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said late-night workers who have fewer transit options deserve some help.