A federal court in Connecticut has rescheduled a hearing at which lawyers for an accused Connecticut mobster will ask a judge to dismiss gun charges against him, contending they are an effort by federal agents to make him talk about the biggest art heist in U.S. history.
Robert Gentile, 79, was arrested in April and charged with illegally selling a gun to an informant posing as a convicted killer. His lawyers argue that Gentile knows nothing about the art theft.
U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny late on Monday approved a request by Gentile's attorney to delay the hearing as he awaits transcripts of taped conversations between the defendant and the informant.
Defense attorney Ryan McGuigan contends the arrest was a ruse, the second attempt by U.S. federal agents to force Gentile to divulge the whereabouts of some $500 million in artwork stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum a quarter-century ago.
That theft, in which men dressed as Boston police officers stole 13 pieces of art, including works by Rembrandt and Vermeer, stands as one of the longest unsolved mysteries in Boston criminal history.
None of the missing art has been recovered, but a 2012 search of Gentile's home turned up a handwritten list of the stolen art pieces, their estimated value on the black market and police uniforms, according to court papers.
McGuigan contended that the April arrest marked the second time that Gentile has faced prosecution as a result of a federal sting operation.
"The government's serial efforts to leverage Mr. Gentile's cooperation in this manner constitutes improper coercion such that it constitutes outrageous government misconduct," McGuigan wrote.
Gentile has pleaded not guilty to the firearms charges.
The Boston office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in August released surveillance video taken the night before the heist showing a security guard admitting a man into the Gardner museum, saying it hoped the images would generate new leads.
(Reporting by Richard Weizel; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by G Crosse and Matthew Lewis) Photo credit: Eric Wustenhagen/Flickr