Here’s Why the FBI’s Gardner Museum Investigation Focused on Robert Gentile

The Hartford Courant conducted interviews with a Gentile associate who acted as an informant in a failed sting operation.
gardner museum investigation robert gentile

‘THE CONCERT’ BY VERMEER, one of the artworks stolen from the Gardner Museum. / PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The 13 works of art taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on March 18, 1990 have been missing for more than two decades now, and for the past few years, the FBI’s investigation has been largely focused on one man—Robert Gentile.

A story published this week in the Hartford Courant, based on interviews with a Gentile associate who was enlisted by the FBI for a sting operation offers new details as to why authorities have continued to pursue the Connecticut mobster in connection to the missing museum works.

Sebastian “Sammy” Mozzicato was enlisted for the sting, executed in 2014, alongside his cousin and fellow Gentile associate Ronnie Bowes. Mozzicato’s account in the Courant, corroborated by sources close to the investigation, claims that Gentile has had access to the missing art since the late 1990s.

Gentile was first implicated in the Gardner investigation in 2010, based on a claim from the widow of Robert Guarante, a Boston mobster whose Maine farmhouse authorities had scoured in search of the missing artworks. The widow, Elene Guarante, told investigators that her husband had two of the paintings in his possession, but had passed them on to Gentile after a meeting in Portland, Maine.

The Courant reveals that Mozzicato told the FBI that in the late 1990s, he had been assigned to move a package of what he thinks were paintings between cars parked outside a condo in Waltham used by Gentile, Guarante, and other members of their gang, a Boston sector of the Philadelphia Mafia. He said that Gentile and Guarante then drove up to Maine.

Among other things, Mozzicato also told the FBI that he heard Gentile and Guarante discussing whether or not to give “a painting” as “tribute” to one of their mob bosses in Philadelphia and that Gentile once gave him photographs of five stolen paintings and instructed him to recruit a buyer.

Additionally, Mozzicato also revealed that he and Bowes had on numerous occasions seen what he believes is the gilded eagle that was stolen from the Gardner, which served as a finial for a Napoleonic flagstaff. He said he saw the object on a shelf at the used car business Gentile used to own in South Windsor, Connecticut, and that he thinks Gentile sold it at some point. Currently, the Gardner is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the item, separate from the overall $5 million reward.

The sting, which is recounted in detail in the Courant ultimately failed, with Gentile growing suspicious. He was arrested again in March 2015 and is currently awaiting trial on a weapons charge. While the FBI has given him another opportunity to forgo a long prison sentence in exchange for information about the art, Gentile maintains that he knows nothing.


Olga Khvan Olga Khvan, Assistant Digital Editor at Boston Magazine olga.v.khvan@gmail.com