By Steve Neavling
The mystery behind the theft of $500 million worth of masterpieces from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 continues to baffle federal investigators.
But the FBI believes an aging Connecticut mobster knows the whereabouts of the paintings, the Boston globe reports.
An assistant U.S. attorney told a judge on Wednesday that a Robert Gentile, 79, told at least three people he knows where the paintings are since he was jailed several years ago on drug and gun charges.
An undercover agent posing as a drug dealer said Gentile offered to sell the paintings for $500,000 apiece before the deal collapsed.
“There is a legitimate law enforcement interest in trying to recover the paintings,” US District Judge Robert N. Chatigny said.
Among the stolen paints were three Rembrandts, a Manet, Vemeer and Flinck.
The theft is considered the world’s largest art heist.
Allegations that an FBI agent stole more than $100,000 in drug money could spell trouble for a painstaking investigation that netted indictments of 52 alleged members and associates of a Southern California street gang tied to the Mexican Mafia, CNN reports.
The former agent, 10-year veteran Scott M. Bowman, was charged with theft in June.
Authorities are worried that the allegations against Bowman could be time-consuming and costly, potentially compromising the multi-defendant cases.
Bowman is accused of stealing the money to fuel a spending spree on cars, cosmetic surgery and a Las Vegas getaway with his girlfriend.
By Steve Neavling
Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger’s girlfriend once against refused to testify about the time the couple spent in hiding, the New York Post reports.
As a result, Catherine Greig, 64, was indicted for contempt of court on Tuesday.
Authorities want to know who helped Bulger while he was on the lam for 16 years.
“Catherine Greig has yet again failed to do the right thing,” said Boston FBI agent Joseph Bonavolonta in a press release. “Her refusal to testify has hindered the FBI’s efforts to seek justice for the victims of (Bulger’s) crimes.”
Greig, who already is serving an 8-year sentence in connection to Bulger, could serve more time for refusing to testify.
By Steve Neavling
Legendary former FBI Agent Jack Garcia spent much of his life chasing mobsters.
Now the man who infiltrated the Gambino crime family will be hunting down animal abusers as the lead investigator for a Long Island-based animal rescue group, the New York Post reports.
Garcia, who retire from the bureau in 2006, said he’s ready to be a positive change again.
“I went from driving around Gambino captain Greg DePalma to driving my daughter to school. It was a big transition. It took a lot of time to get used to it. So when this opportunity came around . . . I wanted to get involved,” said Garcia, who wrote a book, “Making Jack Falcone,’’ on his undercover work.
“The acts of violence on defenseless animals is as vicious as some of the crimes I’ve investigated. And I’ve seen it all.”
Bonanno capo Vincent Asaro has a lot of firsts on his Mafia resume. The 80-year-old Queens man is a third generation mobster, having followed his father and grandfather into the mob. He added yet another generation when he sponsored his son to be a “made man.” He is also the only wiseguy ever charged with taking part in one of Gang Land’s most famous crimes, the storied $6 million Lufthansa Airlines heist. A former heroin addict, Asarokicked the habit “cold turkey” in the 1950s. He also kicked some ass. After a group of men abused his old man, he used his fists to pummel them, one at a time, while a cohort held the rest of the crowd at bay with a firearm.
Those are some of the high — or low — lights of Asaro’s career according to a trio of federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, who want to keep him behind bars for how ever many years he has left. That’s where he’s been for the past 16 months as he awaits trial for the daring pre-dawn Kennedy Airport robbery in 1978, as well as for a 1969 murder.
Last week, prosecutors asked Judge Alynne Ross to let them use evidence about Asaro’s “heroin use, illegal gambling and borrowing money” at his upcoming trial. They say that is “necessary to complete the story of the charged crimes” for the jurors who will have to decide whether Asaro is
guilty of murder and a slew of other crimes in what they describe as a 45-year-long racketeering conspiracy.
The prosecutors say they have “many witnesses” prepared to testify how Asaro “evolved from a teenage heroin addict into a mastermind of the Lufthansa Heist.”
The witnesses would describe a “powerful but broke mafia leader,” one who substituted one addiction for another by blowing all the money he made during his life of crime by “gambling, both illegal and legal, to anextreme degree.”
He is not the first mobster to become addicted to heroin, but Asaro, who was on a three-member Bonanno family ruling panel in 2012, is the first known ex-junkie to serve as an Administration member of one of the notorious Five Families.
“The defendant’s story is one of redemption and loss,” prosecutors Nicole Argentieri, Alicyn Cooley and Lindsay Gerdes wrote. “Witnesses are expected to testify regarding the defendant’s drug addiction and how he apparently beat it ‘cold turkey’ so that he could join the Asaros’ ranks of mafia soldiers. In addition, (they) are expected to testify that (Asaro) at one point was demoted from the rank of captain due to, among other things, his repeated appropriation of money from the individuals assigned to him in order to feed his gambling addiction.”
In the 1960s, after he kicked his heroin habit, Asaro “earned respect from the mafia for being an earner,” by taking part in “robberies, the sale of stolen goods and loansharking,” prosecutors wrote. In that decade, his father Jerome schooled him, and introduced him to James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke, the murderous Luchese gangster who is the recognized mastermind of the heist, they wrote.
In a voluminous 72-page filing, the prosecutors write that testimony by six cooperating witnesses will directly link Asaro’s heroin addiction and his obsessive gambling losses to his guilt of many charged crimes in the indictment, particularly the Lufthansa robbery.
“Many cooperating witnesses and civilian witnesses with personal knowledge of the defendant are expected to testify that the defendant struggled with heroin addiction as a teenager and into his twenties,” wrote prosecutors Argentieri, Cooley and Gerdes.
Among those prepared to testify about the Bonanno veteran are Asaro’s cousin Gaspar (Gary) Valenti, 68, who says he took part in the Lufthansa heist with Burke, as well as a second witness, former Gambino associate Anthony Ruggiano Jr., 61, who would detail Asaro’s heroin use — as well as his compulsive gambling, the prosecutors wrote.