All three men had argued they were set up by an informant on behalf of the FBI and that authorities were using the case as leverage to glean information about the Gardner heist, though they denied having any information.
The Globe reported last year that investigators recently connected Merlino’s crew to the late Robert Guarente, a Mafia figure whose associations with organized crime figures in Boston, Philadelphia, and Connecticut made him the latest focus of the investigation.
In the last three years, investigators convened a grand jury based in part on their interest in people connected to Guarente, who died in 2004 at 65. Investigators in the last two years searched homes of two people connected to Guarente, including the home and yard of Robert Gentile of Connecticut, an ailing Mafia figure who had ties to Philadelphia organized crime. Guarente and Gentile had ties to Robert Luisi Jr., who had ties to the Philadelphia Mafia.
The wife of Guarente told the Globe that she reported to investigators that Guarente gave Gentile a painting while Gentile was visiting their Maine home around 2003. The wife has given conflicting accounts to the Globe, but investigators recently searched her home, as well as Gentile’s.
The wife of Guarente told federal authorities that her husband had given three paintings to Gentile, according to a lawyer familiar with the case. In an interview with The Globe last year, she recalled that her husband had given just one painting to Gentile and that it did not look like any of those stolen from the Gardner museum.
Gentile was charged with drug dealing and convicted in federal court last year, and his lawyers have said that he was targeted in a sting because of the Gardner investigation.
His lawyer, Ryan McGuigan, said Monday Gentile “told the federal grand jury what I am telling you, he has no knowledge of who was involved in the theft or where the paintings went or where they are now.”
Shelley Murphy of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Milton J. Valencia can be reached at MValencia@globe.com.