BOSTON (Reuters) - Federal agents on Monday searched the Connecticut home of an accused mobster who investigators have long suspected knows the whereabouts of masterpieces stolen from a Boston museum in the largest art heist in U.S. history, an FBI spokeswoman confirmed.
Robert Gentile, 79, is due to face trial in July for selling a loaded firearm to a convicted killer, a charge that his attorney contends was the result of a sting operation intended to pressure him into leading federal agents to paintings stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.
Gentile has repeatedly denied knowing the whereabouts of any of the $500 million in stolen art.
Boston FBI spokeswoman Kristen Setera said in an e-mail that agents were "conducting court-authorized activity" at an address that public records show as Gentile's residence but declined to provide further details.
Gentile's attorney did not immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.
The brazen theft at the private museum by two men dressed in police uniforms stands as one of Boston's longest unsolved crime mysteries. None of the 13 artworks, which include Rembrandt's "Storm on the Sea of Galilee" and Vermeer's "The Concert," has been recovered.
Due to a quirk in Gardner's will, the empty frames that once held the paintings remain on the museum's walls, a constant reminder of the theft.
At a court hearing last year, federal prosecutors said that Gentile was secretly recorded telling an undercover FBI agent that he had access to at least two of the stolen paintings and could sell them for $500,000 each.
A 2012 FBI search of Gentile's home turned up a handwritten list of the stolen art, its estimated value and police uniforms, according to court documents.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Alistair Bell)