MANCHESTER, Conn. (WTNH) — More than half a billion dollars worth of rare art was stolen 31 years ago from a museum in Boston and has never been found. The investigation has focused on one man from Connecticut: Robert ‘Bobby the Cook’ Gentile.
News 8’s Chief Political Anchor Dennis House’s sat down with Gentile for his first-ever TV interview to learn about him, talk about the crime, and ask him what he knows.
When News 8 asked, “Why do some people call you a reputed mobster?” Gentile answered, “Because people are scared of me. I had a lot of fights. I beat a lot of people up and I’m not a big guy. But I was a tough guy.”
“They can say what they want, they don’t bother me,” Gentile told News 8.
At 87, Robert Gentile doesn’t look like a man who’s been called a mobster or gangster.
“My life ain’t getting any better,” he said. “I’m lucky I’m here. I’m lucky I’m alive. Can’t you see I’m a cripple alright? Only place I go is shopping. I cook and eat, that’s my life and I am going to die pretty soon and I can’t breathe; that’s my life.”
Gentile was born during the Great Depression in a neighborhood in downtown Hartford later razed in the name of urban progress.
Gentile told us his father was tough and mean.
“I went to high school [but] I was only there for six months. I had to quit because my father said I had to pay $25 a week…My father was a mean guy. He took all the money…$25 a week, that was a lot of money.”
Gentile says his father took his money and save it.
During his short time at Hartford Public High School, Gentile met his future wife, Pat.
“I was walking down the corridor all the people changing schedule and I saw her walking toward me and she was beautiful.”
They got married and bought a house in suburban Manchester where they raised two children and where Gentile still lives.
In 1963, Gentil got into trouble and went to the notorious Hartford County Jail. He was convicted of a felony for being in a car where a sawed-off shotgun was found.
Gentile worked in the concrete industry, owned a pool company, and did fairly well. He told me he loved his Cadillacs. But according to the feds, Gentile was also in organized crime. The mafia.
Gentile says it’s not true that he was part of the Philadelphia mafia: “No, no it’s not true. Never.”
With the help of an undercover informant, the FBI caught Gentile on drug and weapons charges, items found at his home. He pleaded guilty and went to prison twice, where he nearly died.
According to Gentile’s attorney, that gave the FBI the opportunity to search his client’s home looking for the art missing from Boston.
They brought in heavy equipment to dig up the yard and went through the inside with power tools and high tech devices.
They didn’t find any paintings but did find a handwritten list of the stolen paintings with their black market value.
“This list of prices of the stolen art was in your possession in this house. How did you get here and why did you have it?” House asked Gentile.
“It wasn’t a list,” Gentile responded. “Well, it was a list. It was a piece of paper of all the paintings and all anybody wants to know if you have anyone who can buy them wants to buy them. He says ‘take this, read it.’ Took it home, never read it; I just put it down.”