(Reuters) - An 81-year-old accused mobster who prosecutors believe knows the whereabouts of paintings stolen in the largest art heist in U.S. history is due in a Connecticut courtroom on Thursday to plead guilty to charges related to an illegal gun sale.
Robert Gentile was charged in 2015 with illegally selling a loaded firearm to a convicted killer. The sale occurred during a Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operation that Gentile's attorney contends was aimed at pressuring him into providing details on paintings stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.
Gentile, who is in ill health and last year was moved to a South Carolina medical prison facility, has repeatedly denied knowing the whereabouts of any of the $500 million in art taken in one of the longest-unsolved high-profile crimes in Boston.
He is due to appear in U.S. District Court in Hartford, Connecticut, to change his not guilty plea, according to court filings show and his attorney, Ryan McGuigan.
The Gardner heist was carried out by two men dressed in police uniforms who apparently overpowered a night security guard who had buzzed them in through a back entrance. None of the 13 artworks, which include Rembrandt's "Storm on the Sea of Galilee" and Vermeer's "The Concert," has been recovered.
At a 2015 court hearing, federal prosecutors said Gentile was secretly recorded telling an undercover FBI agent he had access to at least two of the 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.
Due to a quirk in Gardner's will, the empty frames that held the paintings remain on the walls of the museum she built to house the collection she amassed with her husband.
(Writing by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Tom Brown)