By DAVE COLLINS, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A reputed Connecticut mobster was sentenced Thursday to 2 1/2 years in prison in a weapons and prescription drugs case that revealed federal authorities’ belief that he knew something about 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. With credit for time already served and good behavior, Gentile is expected to be released from prison in 10 to 12 months. He then faces three months of home confinement, followed by three years of supervised released.
Prosecutors were seeking a prison term of 4 to 41/2 years. Gentile sought a sentence of prison time already served and wanted to be released on probation or home confinement. He has been detained since his arrest in February of last year.
Gentile spoke at the hearing, telling the judge he’s been a hardworking man all of his life. He started talking about his wife, saying he loved her, before breaking down into tears.
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 and no one has been charged in the theft. But prosecutors revealed at the sentencing hearing that Gentile had taken a polygraph about the theft and claimed he didn’t know where the stolen paintings were, which an expert concluded likely was a lie.
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.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham said at sentencing that Gentile had been recorded by an informant saying he had associated with reputed Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger and another mobster. He did not elaborate on those associations.
But Durham said earlier in court documents 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.
Durham said a captain in the 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.
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.
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 as soon as possible to be with his ailing wife. Both Gentile and his wife have heart problems and other ailments, according to court documents.
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