Conn. man thought linked to heist to be sentenced

Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A reputed Connecticut mobster is expected to be sentenced in federal court in a weapons and prescription drugs case that revealed federal authorities' belief that he had information on the largest property heist in U.S. history.

Robert Gentile, 76, of Manchester, pleaded guilty in November to illegally selling prescription drugs and possessing guns, silencers and ammunition. Prosecutors on Thursday will seek a prison term of four to four-and-a-half years. Gentile, who has been detained since his arrest in February of last year, is asking a judge to release him either on probation or home confinement.

The case made national news last year when prosecutors revealed that the FBI believed Gentile had information on the still-unsolved theft of art worth an estimated half-billion dollars from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

Two men posing as police officers stole 13 pieces of artwork including paintings by Rembrandt, Manet, Degas and Vermeer. FBI officials said earlier this year that they believe they know who stole the paintings but still don't know where the artwork is.

Gentile has denied knowing anything about the art heist, no one has been charged in the theft and there's no mention of it in the prosecution and defense's recent sentencing recommendation memos to Judge Robert N. Chatigny.

Federal agents said they found an arsenal of weapons at Gentile's home including several handguns, a shotgun, five silencers, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and homemade dynamite. Authorities also searched the property with ground-penetrating radar in what Gentile's lawyer called a veiled and unsuccessful attempt to find the stolen artwork.

Gentile and a co-defendant, Andrew Parente, were also charged with selling dozens of prescription drug pills including Dilaudid, Percoset and OxyContin. Parente also has pleaded guilty and is set to be sentenced later this month.

Prosecutors said that Gentile has been identified by several people as a member of a Philadelphia crime family who has been involved in criminal activity for virtually his entire adult life. Gentile denies being a mobster.

When he pleaded guilty in November, Gentile said he wanted to spare the state and himself the expense of a trial and hoped to get out of prison in a few years to be with his ailing wife.

"I'm sorry for what I did," he told Chatigny "I don't have that many years to fight the case because I'm a very sick man. ... I don't want any more trouble."

Both Gentile and his wife have heart problems and other ailments.

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