Man linked to art heist sentenced to 54 months in weapons case

HARTFORD  — A reputed mobster who authorities believe is the last surviving person of interest in the largest art heist in history was sentenced to 54 months in prison in an unrelated weapons case.

81-year-old Robert Gentile was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Hartford.

He was sentenced to 54 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for firearm offenses, and for violating the conditions of his supervised release from a prior federal conviction.  Judge Chatigny ordered Gentile to serve the first six months of his supervised release in home confinement.

Federal prosecutors have said they believe the Manchester resident has information about the still-unsolved 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Thieves stole an estimated $500 million worth of artwork, including works by Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer.

Gentile has denied knowing anything about the caper.

Gentile's attorney, Ryan McGuigan, argued Tuesday that the federal government enticed Gentile to commit a crime. McGuigan said the FBI sent cooperating witnesses to engage Gentile in a bogus marijuana deal with the intent to pressure him to discuss his supposed involvement in the heist.

Gentile then sold a gun to one of the cooperating witnesses - also a convicted felon - leading to his arrest.

Prosecutors said Gentile shows no signs of stopping his criminal activity. Judge Chatigny agreed, saying, "This is just who you are."

Gentile tearfully told the judge he wants to go home and spend time with his ailing wife. He denied any knowledge of the paintings' whereabouts.

Gentile will serve his prison time at Butner Federal Medical Center in South Carolina. McGuigan calculated that Gentile will serve roughly 11 months in prison because of 35 months already served.

"We're happy with the outcome," said McGuigan. "It's a fortunate ending to a rather unfortunate set of circumstances."