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Robert Gentile, man believed to have knowledge of stolen Gardner artwork, may plead guilty to drug and gun charges

A reputed mobster believed to have information about artwork stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum may be set to plead guilty to drug and weapons charges in federal court in Connecticut.

Robert Gentile, 76, of ­Manchester, Conn., had pleaded not guilty in March to several charges, but he has a change-of-plea hearing scheduled Nov. 14 in US District Court in ­Hartford, court records show.

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Gentile’s lawyers could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

He has been questioned repeat­edly about the 1990 Gardner heist, and investigators searched his home in May with ground-penetrating radar and dogs, one of his lawyers, A. Ryan McGuigan, said at the time.

That search followed one investigators conducted on his property after his arrest in February. Authorities had refused to comment on the search in May but have said they believe Gentile could have information about the heist.

McGuigan has adamantly denied that his client knows anything about the art theft.

“And so what I believe is happening is that the government is asking Your Honor to set a punitive bond to keep [Gentile] uncomfortable, essentially to torture him in the physical state that he’s in so that he gives them the information that they want,” McGuigan said during a court hearing in March, according to a transcript. “And the travesty is that he just doesn’t have that information to give them about anything to do with the Gardner Museum.”

In response, Assistant US Attorney John Durham denied that prosecutors were trying to keep Gentile detained to force him to discuss the art theft.

“But counsel raises it and it is true, there is reason to believe that Mr. Gentile had some involve­ment in connection with stolen property out of the district of Massachusetts,” ­Durham said.

An FBI spokesman referred questions Wednesday to the US attorney’s office in Connecticut. A spokesman for that office declined to comment on the case. Representatives of the museum could not be reached.

The theft at the museum, in the Fenway early on March 18, 1990, remains one of the most scandalous in art history. The robbers made off with 13 master­works, including three by Rembrandt and five by ­Degas.

After Gentile’s house was raided in May, the widow of a Mafia associate told the Globe that she informed investigators in 2009 that she saw her husband give a painting to Gentile, and that her husband had shown it to her in the 1990s.

In the drug case, Gentile ­allegedly sold prescription painkillers to a man cooperating with the FBI. He was also indicted on weapons charges.

Milton J. Valencia and Martine Powers of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.
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