Agents Find 2 Guns, No Art at Alleged Gangster's Connecticut Home

PHOTO: Empty frames from which thieves took "Storm on the Sea of Galilee," left background, by Rembrandt and "The Concert," right foreground, by Vermeer, remain on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, March 11, 2010.
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None of the priceless masterpieces from a record art heist were found today in a search by the FBI on the property of an alleged mobster, according to his attorney.

Authorities conducted the search today on the property of Robert Gentile, 75, who was arrested in February on federal drug charges. The warrant allowed ground-penetrating radar to be used so agents could search for weapons, said A. Ryan McGuigan, Gentile's attorney.

The search today yielded two guns.

"Nobody cares about [the guns]. What they were looking for was stolen art," McGuigan told ABCNews.com at the end of the day.

The search warrant marked the second time the FBI had searched Gentile's property. Both warrants were for weapons, McGuigan said, because the statute of limitations on the art theft case had expired.

Among the masterpieces stolen more than 20 years ago were works by Degas and Rembrandt.

In March, a federal prosecutor said Gentile may have some connection to the art heist at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment today on the search or what connection Gentile could have to the heist.

During the early hours of March 18, 1990, two men disguised as police officers were let inside the museum through a security door. The museum's guard was told the officers were responding to a call.

Once inside, the thieves asked the guard to step away from the security desk, saying there was a warrant for his arrest. The move kept the guard more than a safe distance from the museum's emergency alert button.

The other guard was called to the security desk, where the thieves handcuffed the workers and marched them into the basement. The men were secured to pipes and their hands, feet and heads were duct-taped.

When the guards' morning replacement arrived, he discovered 13 pieces of art were missing, including work by Degas, Rembrandt, Manet and Vermeer. The art heist has produced few leads -- even with seasoned investigators on the case -- until now.

Gentile was arrested on federal drug charges after he allegedly sold prescription drugs to an undercover agent. McGuigan said he believes it was a ruse to allow authorities to search Gentile's home, because the statute of limitations on the art heist had expired.

"It is our contention he was set up by the FBI to sell drugs to an undercover agent so they could execute a search warrant on his home," McGuigan said.

The first search yielded firearms, ammunition and homemade silencers, adding more federal charges to Gentile's rap sheet. McGuigan said the FBI claimed the first search wasn't thorough enough, so they issued a warrant for a second search, which included the ability to use ground-penetrating radar in Gentile's yard.

"They're pretty thorough. The FBI doesn't miss things," McGuigan said, underscoring his point that his client's alleged crimes were a ruse to search his property for the missing paintings.

The heist has remained at the top of the list of the FBI's Art Recovery Squad. The works are worth an estimated half a billion dollars, making it the largest art theft in history, according to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Twenty-two years later, empty frames continue to hang in the museum as placeholders for the works the museum hopes will one day be returned.

Gentile pleaded not guilty to federal weapon and gun charges last month and is being held without bond.

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