The FBI believes that Robert Gentile, a 75-year-old Hartford-based mobster whose criminal record stretches back to the 1950s and who’s currently being held in a Rhode Island prison for selling prescription drugs, may have information that could help solve the 20th century’s most famous art heist. Gentile says he wasn’t involved in the 1990 theft of 13 masterpieces from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, but federal authorities have denied him bail in hopes that the ailing mobster will spill the beans. They claim he was active with a group of Boston thieves in the years following the heist, and could offer a clue in the famously lead-less investigation to track down works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, and Degas stolen 22 years ago. “The government has reason to believe that Mr. Gentile had some involvement with stolen property out of the District of Massachusetts," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham said, the Hartford Courant reports. Gentile’s lawyer, A. Ryan McGuigan, says his client is being held in hopes that he’ll divulge information he doesn’t have. "What is happening, Your Honor, is that the government is asking you to set a punitive bond, to keep him uncomfortable, to torture him," McGuigan told U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny in court on Tuesday. “He unfortunately doesn't have the information that the government is looking for. But the government believes he does.” For the last six decades Gentile, who lives in Manchester, Connecticut, has been involved in the local criminal underworld, having been inducted into Philadelphia’s mafia family by Capo Robert Luisi, Durham said. When Lusi was arrested a decade ago and faced with a major prison sentence, he told investigators that Gentile and members of his crew were responsible for a great number of crimes — including a plot reminiscent of “Ocean’s 11” to rob armored trucks transporting cash from Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino. Gentile also acted as Lusi’s bodyguard for a time, and was allegedly involved in a number of truck hijackings, though none of his alleged criminal activities seemed to implicate the old, ill mobster in the famous art theft. But his associates speculated that had he known anything about the missing paintings he would have tried to claim the $5-million reward for information leading to their recovery years ago. After pressing Durham on the charges that Gentile was being kept in jail order to pry information about the heist from him, Chatigny denied the mobster bail, saying he was too dangerous. Gentile isn't the first local mobster to be implicated in the Gardner robbery. In 2010 the legendary gangster James "Whitey" Bulger — the real-life inspiration for Jack Nicholson's character in the Martin Scorsese movie "The Departed" — was suspected of knowing something about the heist. Investigators eventually concluded that he was not involved in any way, leaving another cold lead in the hunt for the $50 million treasure trove.
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