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The last person the FBI believed had paintings from the Gardner Museum heist has died

Robert Gentile died of a stroke at Hartford Hospital.

Robert Gentile is brought into the federal courthouse in a wheelchair Monday, April 20, 2015, for a continuation of a hearing in Hartford, Conn. (Cloe Poisson/The Hartford Courant via AP)

Robert Gentile, the last person believed to have treasures from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist of 1990, has died.

Gentile’s attorney Ryan McGuigan told Boston.com Gentile died Friday of a stroke at Hartford Hospital. The FBI considers Gentile the last person known to have possessed items from the heist, but Gentile denied this until his death, McGuigan said.

On St. Patrick’s Day in 1990, burglars stole more than half a billion dollars worth of art. In that theft, two men showed up at the museum in the overnight hours dressed as police officers. They restrained the security guards and left soon after with 13 pieces from the collection, including works from Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas. The art has never been found.

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In 2013, the FBI announced that the art had traveled from Boston to Connecticut to Philadelphia, while some ended up in Maine. A woman from Maine reportedly told the FBI her husband had handed two paintings to Gentile in 2003, according to WTNH.

Gentile, who had an extensive criminal record and served time in prison, was believed to have connections with those suspected of getting the art after it had been stolen, but he denied ever having any of the works.

“I had nothing to do with the paintings. It’s a big joke,” Gentile said in a phone interview with The Associated Press in 2019 after being released from prison.

Authorities didn’t think so. They said the widow of another mobster said her husband gave Gentile two of the paintings, and that Gentile talked about the stolen work while in prison.

In a search of his home that led to his 2013 conviction for illegally selling prescription drugs and possessing guns, silencers, and ammunition, prosecutors said federal agents found a handwritten list of the stolen paintings and their estimated worth, along with a newspaper article about the museum heist a day after it happened.

There is currently a $10 million reward for information that leads directly to the repossession of the stolen art.

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Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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