Man thought linked to huge art heist pleads guilty

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HARTFORD, Conn. — A 76-year-old reputed Connecticut mobster pleaded guilty from his wheelchair Wednesday in a weapons and prescription drugs case that revealed the FBI’s belief that he has information about the largest art heist in history.

The 1990 theft of a half-billion dollars’ worth of art from a Boston museum was never mentioned at the hearing itself as Robert Gentile, of Manchester, said “guilty” nine times in U.S. District Court in Hartford. He faces a prison sentence of around four years.

Thieves struck the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as Boston was finishing celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Authorities say the culprits disguised themselves as police officers, tied up two guards and made off with 13 pieces of art including masterworks by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet. The artworks remain missing, and the museum is still offering a $5 million reward.

After Wednesday’s hearing, Gentile’s lawyer, A. Ryan McGuigan, said Gentile has cooperated with federal investigators in their attempt to find the stolen art and testified before a grand jury looking into the heist. McGuigan said Gentile knows nothing about the theft but was acquainted with people federal authorities believe may have been involved.

McGuigan said most of the people thought to have been involved in the heist have died.

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