Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

FBI busts mobster suspected in famous Boston art heist

Federal agents trying to solve the biggest art theft in the nation’s history arrested a 79-year-old Hartford man on Friday after conducting their second sting against him in three years to force him to disclose the whereabouts of $500 million in stolen art, the man’s lawyer said.

The suspect, Robert V. Gentile, was arrested by F.B.I. agents on charges of selling a .38 Colt cobra revolver on March 2 to an unidentified man who was acting as a confidential informant for the authorities. Investigators say Mr. Gentile, who has been on probation as a result of a 2013 conviction that was part of the first Federal Bureau of Investigation sting against him, received $1,000 for the sale.

Mr. Gentile’s lawyer, A. Ryan McGuigan, said his client knew nothing about the art theft, which occurred 25 years ago at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and included works by Rembrandt and Vermeer. Officials investigating the robbery have said in recent weeks that they thought Mr. Gentile remained their strongest lead in the frustrating case because most of the men they had identified as suspects in the robbery were dead.

“It’s the same F.B.I. guys doing the same thing as last time,” Mr. McGuigan said. “They won’t stop squeezing my client.”

Federal officials refused to comment on the arrest Friday. But at a hearing in United States District Court in Hartford, a federal prosecutor, John Durham, said that investigators had a recent recording of Mr. Gentile discussing the sale of some of the stolen paintings.

Mr. Gentile was first imprisoned in May 2013 after he was convicted on federal charges of weapons possession and illegal sale of prescription narcotics. He was sentenced to 30 months and released on probation after serving one year because of his poor health.

After his first arrest, Mr. Gentile told officials he had no knowledge about the whereabouts of the 13 pieces of art stolen from the Gardner Museum on March 18, 1990. Investigators dug through his property and underneath a shed in his backyard looking for clues to the theft, and found what appeared to be a price list for each of the items.

At the time, Mr. McGuigan said, the authorities said they would drop the charges against Mr. Gentile and even grant him some of the $5 million in reward money if he told them the location of the stolen art. Mr. McGuigan said it would be “illogical” for his client to withhold information with so much reward money at stake. Prosecutors later said that Mr. Gentile performed poorly in a lie-detector test when questioned about the theft.

Mr. McGuigan said that in court on Friday, he and Mr. Gentile again adamantly denied that Mr. Gentile had any information about the crime. Mr. McGuigan said his client had diabetes and required a wheelchair. He questioned why Mr. Gentile was arrested on Friday during a visit to his parole officer when the alleged gun sale occurred more than six weeks earlier.

“If he’s such a danger to the community,” he said, “why did they wait so long to take him in?” Mr. McGuigan said the two F.B.I. special agents who arrested his client on Friday are the same men who offered Mr. Gentile a deal on the Gardner case in 2012. The agents, Geoff Kelly and James Lawton, are the lead agents on the Gardner investigation, according to the F.B.I.

In an interview in March, Mr. Kelly said he remained convinced that Mr. Gentile, a reputed member of organized crime, had knowledge of the art through longtime underworld associates in Philadelphia.

Mr. Gentile will be back in court on Monday after spending the weekend in jail, his lawyer said, adding that the weapons charge carried a prison term of 10 years and that he would accuse the F.B.I. of entrapment.



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