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Mobster believed to have had answers to $500 million Boston art heist dies

Investigators had suspected Robert Gentile may at one time have had in his possession at least some of the artwork taken in March 1990.
/ Source: AP (Associated Press)

Robert Gentile, a mobster who for years denied suspicions from authorities that he knew anything about a trove of artwork valued in the millions that was stolen in a 1990 museum heist and remains missing, has died. He was 85.

His attorney, Ryan McGuigan, said Gentile died Sept. 17 after a stroke.

Investigators had suspected that Gentile may at one time have had in his possession at least some of the artwork taken in March 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

In that theft, two men showed up at the museum in the overnight hours dressed as police officers. They restrained the security guards and left soon after with 13 pieces from the collection, including works from Rembrandt, Vermeer and Degas. The art has never been found.

Robert Gentile
Robert Gentile is brought into the federal courthouse in a wheelchair for a hearing in Hartford, Connecticut, in April 2015.Cloe Poisson / Hartford Courant via AP

Gentile, who had an extensive criminal record and served time in prison, was believed to have connections with those suspected of getting the art after it had been stolen, but he denied he ever had any of the works.

“I had nothing to do with the paintings. It’s a big joke,” Gentile said in a phone interview with The Associated Press in 2019 after being released from prison.

Authorities didn’t think so. They said the widow of another mobster said her husband gave Gentile two of the paintings, and that Gentile talked about the stolen work while in prison.

In a search of his home that led to his 2013 conviction for illegally selling prescription drugs and possessing guns, silencers and ammunition, prosecutors said federal agents found a handwritten list of the stolen paintings and their estimated worth, along with a newspaper article about the museum heist a day after it happened.