A bank robber downsizes

By JOHN LARRABEE  |  April 27, 2011

A COMPULSIVE COLLECTOR

Within a few years of the Gardner heist, several criminals began hinting they'd been involved and were ready to sell book or movie rights. No one gave serious thought to the offers until Connor spoke up, claiming he'd been the mastermind. To cover his ass, he said he'd plotted the robbery years earlier as nothing more than an intellectual exercise, and two pals later decided to put the plan to use. The cronies he named in his story were both conveniently dead.

There were amazingly few skeptics among the journos who lined up for interviews. Profiles appeared on ABC's Nightline, on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and in the pages of Time. In 2009, HarperCollins published Connor's autobiography, The Art of the Heist, co-authored with Jenny Siler. William Monahan, screenwriter of The Departed, has optioned the film rights.

Connor is a man with a diversified criminal portfolio. He casually admits to having been a drug trafficker and leading a gang that robbed banks and armored cars throughout the Northeast in the '70s. "Love of adventure and plain recklessness" motivated him to move into museum burglary, according to his book.

To further explain his motivation, he describes himself as a compulsive collector who once hoarded Japanese swords, Chinese vases, Paul Revere silver, scrimshaw, and antique guns. Most of his mementos disappeared while he was in prison in the '90s, apparently pilfered by a criminal associate.

Connor is often described as having a Mensa-level IQ; whether or not that's true, he certainly possesses a rare ability to charm, cajole, and con. This gift first became apparent when he was incarcerated in a Massachusetts prison, and helped another inmate negotiate the return of rare coins lifted from Harvard's Fogg Museum. "If Myles didn't become a criminal," says one former (and now reformed) associate, "he would have made a great Boston politician."

He also led a rock band, Myles and the Wild Ones, that played Boston clubs in the '70s. The act included spot-on impersonations of Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. A stroke eventually destroyed his once impressive vocal range, but he still occasionally performs monotone Johnny Cash hits.

Hollywood has always portrayed the archetypal art thief as a bon vivant whose home is a villa in the south of France or a tower rising from the moors. A glimpse of Connor's domestic home-life dispels all those Cary Grant notions. For the past 10 years, he's lived in a modest ranch house in Blackstone, Massachusetts, a six-pack suburb on the Rhode Island border. Neighbors sometimes gripe about his lack of interest in lawn maintenance. The yard is often strewn with car parts, construction materials, and barrels filled with empty beer cans bound for the recycling center.

These days his collecting mania is apparently confined to animals. He and his longtime girlfriend keep a small menagerie that includes dogs, horses, reptiles, and exotic birds. Three years ago, an emu busted out of the backyard barnyard and went on the lam for several weeks. The Woonsocket Call reported sightings throughout northern Rhode Island.

John Larrabee can be reached at larrabeemail@aol.com.

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