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Sentencing In Separate Case This Week For CT Man FBI Has Linked To Art Heist

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Federal agents search the home of Robert Gentile. Photo by WTIC's Matt Dwyer.

Federal agents search the home of Robert Gentile. Photo by WTIC’s Matt Dwyer.

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By DAVE COLLINS, Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Robert Gentile is either a dangerous mobster who should remain locked up for illegally possessing weapons and selling prescription drugs or an ailing old man with no proven mob ties who poses no danger to society and should be released from detention, according to federal court documents.

The dueling depictions come from legal briefs filed by the prosecution and defense ahead of Gentile’s sentencing scheduled for Thursday in Hartford.

Prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of about four to four and a half years, while Gentile’s lawyer says he should get time already served and be released 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 single largest property heist in U.S. history– the still-unsolved theft of art worth an estimated half-billion dollars from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

Gentile, 76, 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 recent court filings in Gentile’s case.

In March 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 been detained since his arrest in February of last year and pleaded guilty in November to the weapons and prescription drug charges.

Federal agents say they found an arsenal of weapons at Gentile’s Manchester 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 attempt to find the stolen artwork, but didn’t find the paintings.

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.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham wrote in his sentencing memo 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.

“Common sense dictates that one conclude the defendant is a dangerous individual,” Durham wrote in a brief filed Saturday. “What even remotely lawful purpose was there for the defendant to be in possession of: multiple handguns, multiple silencers, a loaded pistol-grip shotgun hanging from a door frame inside his residence, a bullet-proof vest, police scanner, handcuffs, Tasers, switch blade knives, and explosive devices?”

Durham said a captain in the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra, Robert Luisi, told authorities that Gentile had committed robberies and possibly other violent crimes and once planned to rob an armored car carrying money from a Connecticut casino. Luisi also said that Gentile once lived with him in Waltham, Mass., and Gentile was his body guard.

In his brief Friday, Gentile’s lawyer, A. Ryan McGuigan, called Luisi’s allegations “hearsay” and said the government has never proven any link between Gentile and organized crime. He also said Gentile’s criminal record, before the current case, includes only old convictions for non-violent crimes.

McGuigan said Gentile is a family man and retired bricklayer, concrete mason and automobile dealership owner.

He said Gentile’s last conviction was for larceny in 1996 involving improper distribution of proceeds from his father’s estate. Gentile’s other convictions were in 1956, 1962 and 1963 for receiving stolen goods, carrying a deadly weapon in a motor vehicle and possession of illegal firearms, respectively, McGuigan said.

Gentile has a variety of age-related ailments including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, chronic lower back pain, knee trouble and obesity, McGuigan said.

Gentile took responsibility for the weapons and drug crimes, is remorseful and presents no danger to society, McGuigan said.

“He has learned his lesson, is sorry for what he has done and will not venture off the straight and narrow path again,” McGuigan wrote in his brief. “The likelihood of recidivism in the instant case is non-existent. Mr.

Gentile would like nothing more than to live out his remaining years in his modest home, with his ailing, house-bound wife, and his children nearby.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)    

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