Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Last Surviving Person of Interest in Gardner Museum Heist Dies

Robert Gentile, 85, denied ever knowing about the heist

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The heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum remains unsolved to this day, and now the man who may have been connected to it has died.

Robert Gentile, a mobster who for years denied suspicions from authorities that he knew anything about a trove of artwork valued around $500 million that was stolen in a 1990 museum heist and remains missing, has died. He was 85.

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His attorney, Ryan McGuigan, said Gentile died Sept. 17 after a stroke.

Robert Gentile is brought into the federal courthouse in a wheelchair on Monday, April 20, 2015, for a continuation of a hearing that was held Friday after Gentile was arrested after selling a gun to an undercover agent.
Cloe Poisson/Tribune News Service via Getty Images via Getty Images
Robert Gentile is brought into the federal courthouse in a wheelchair on Monday, April 20, 2015, for a continuation of a hearing that was held Friday after Gentile was arrested after selling a gun to an undercover agent.

Investigators had suspected that Gentile may at one time have had in his possession at least some of the artwork taken in March 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

In that theft, two men showed up at the museum in the overnight hours dressed as police officers. They restrained the security guards and left soon after with 13 pieces from the collection, including works from Rembrandt, Vermeer and Degas. The art has never been found.

Gentile, who had an extensive criminal record and served time in prison, was believed to have connections with those suspected of getting the art after it had been stolen, but he denied he ever had any of the works.

“I had nothing to do with the paintings. It’s a big joke,” Gentile said in a phone interview with The Associated Press in 2019 after being released from prison.

Robert Gentile, person of interest in Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, dies at 85.

Authorities didn't think so. They said the widow of another mobster said her husband gave Gentile two of the paintings, and that Gentile talked about the stolen work while in prison.

In a search of his home that led to his 2013 conviction for illegally selling prescription drugs and possessing guns, silencers and ammunition, prosecutors said federal agents found a handwritten list of the stolen paintings and their estimated worth, along with a newspaper article about the museum heist a day after it happened.

In a statement, his attorney says, "Robert Gentile was reputed to be the last known person to possess the paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and was the last of his kind."

The art heist from the Gardner Museum continues to garner interest decades later, even as few big leads have surfaced. The story was covered in "Last Seen," a podcast from NPR and The Boston Globe that began in 2018, and more recently this year through Netflix's "This Is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist," a documentary series about the theft and investigation surrounding it.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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