Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Bobby The Cook Gentile, Gardner Art Remains Elusive As He Admits Weapons Charge

Robert Gentile, A Suspect In Gardner Museum Art Heist, Agrees To Plead Guilty To Weapons Charges

Robert "The Cook" Gentile, the geriatric gangster and key person of interest in the $500 million Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist, has agreed to plead guilty to federal weapons charges that he has long complained were contrived by the FBI to force his cooperation.
The plea agreement, reached Tuesday, appears likely to end a bitter standoff between the 80-year old Hartford hoodlum and investigators hunting for 13 masterworks that disappeared in the 1990 Gardner robbery in Boston, the world's most expensive and perhaps most baffling art theft.
It is unlikely, however, to move investigators any closer to the missing art. 
Since the widow of a mob associate tied him to the art in 2015, investigators have attacked Gentile with cooperating witnesses, informants, undercover lawmen, secret tape recordings and an endless string of his own incriminating statements. The result is what prosecutors presented in court as a persuasive case that, while not involved in the actual robbery, he was part of a Mafia crew that later acquired some of the art and he had personal possession of two paintings for at least a brief period about 15 years ago.

A variety of sources said Gentile could plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Hartford next week to as many as five felony weapons charges. Information was not available on what sentence he can expect. But it could be relatively short if Gentile gets credit for the time he has been jailed since his last arrest.He has been imprisoned for much of the past past seven years following convictions and arrests on drug and gun charges. Late last summer, wildly overweight and confined to a wheelchair, Gentile collapsed at an institution for federal prisoners outside Providence.He was taken first to a Rhode Island hospital, moved to a private hospital for inmates in South Carolina and eventually to a federal prison in North Carolina that serves as a nursing home for aging convicts. In recent days, much recovered, he was transferred to a state prison in Bridgeport while his lawyer, A. Ryan McGuigan, and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham negotiated a guilty plea. Neither would comment on the case.
A source with knowledge of the events said Gentile has experienced a remarkable turnaround. He was unable to walk six months ago, but has slimmed down and ambles when permitted, with a walker.
"He looks like a million dollars," the source said.
When he was first tied to the heist, Gentile agreed to cooperate, but federal prosecutors tore up the agreement within months after they determined he was lying to a federal grand jury.
Afterward, the FBI made him the target of a series of drug and gun stings, telling him in every case that he would be treated with leniency if he helped recover the art. Gentile repeatedly denied having knowledge of the art.
After his release from a sentence for drug sales, Gentile was arrested again within months for selling a loaded handgun to a convicted murderer working as an FBI undercover operative. While in prison awaiting trial on the gun charge the FBI searched his house — the third such search — and found three more guns and a silencer.
A federal judge once remarked that Gentile's modest ranch home in Manchester was a "veritable arsenal."
During interviews with The Courant, Gentile denied having any knowledge of the robbery or the art and said, if he might have suggested otherwise, it was because he was trying to swindle people who were offering to buy it. He said the information collected by the FBI is false.
"Lies," he said. "All lies. A frame-up."
In what became characteristic of the standoff between Gentile and the authorities, Durham rejected Gentile assertions in court last year. He said, among other things, that:
Gentile and mob partner Robert Guarente tried, but failed, to use the return of two stolen Gardner pieces to obtain a reduction in a prison sentence imposed on a Guarente associate. Durham revealed no additional detail, but knowledgeable sources said the beneficiary of the effort was to have been David Turner, who is serving 38 years for conspiring to rob an armored car.
While he was confined in a federal prison in Rhode Island on drug and gun charges in 2013 and 2014, Gentile told at least three people that he had knowledge of the stolen Gardner art. Durham suggested in court that Gentile and one of the people drafted some sort of contract involving the art, but would not elaborate outside court.
Guarente's wife told Gardner investigators early in 2010 that her husband once had possession of stolen Gardner art and transferred two paintings to Gentile before Guarente died from cancer in 2004.
Gardner investigators had reason to suspect Gentile since about 2010, when he submitted to a polygraph examination and denied having advance knowledge of the Gardner heist, ever possessing a Gardner painting or knowing the location of any of the stolen paintings. The result showed a likelihood of less than 0.1 percent that he was truthful. Gentile claims the examination was conducted improperly.
Some of the most important art ever created disappeared about 1:30 a.m. on March 18, 1990, as St. Patrick's Day celebrations wound down around Boston. Two men dressed as police officers bluffed their way into the museum, a century-old, Italianate mansion that was full of uninsured art and protected by an outdated security system
Among the missing art: a Vermeer, a Manet and five drawings by Degas. Two of the paintings — "Storm on the Sea of Galilee," Rembrandt's only known seascape, and Vermeer's "The Concert" — could be worth substantially more than $100 million.

No comments: