"FBI has confirmed sighting of Gardner artwork after heist" reports Bob Ward in a television segment on May 21 for Fox 25 News (MyBoston.com).
In his first TV interview, FBI Special Agent Geoff Kelly, the Bureau's leading investigator on the Gardner Case, tells FOX 25's Bob Ward the trail for the missing Gardner artwork has not grown cold. Kelly said the Bureau has confirmed sightings, from sources the Bureau deems credible, of the Gardner artwork in the years after it was stolen. He also identified three persons of interest in the Gardner case, all with ties to organized crime: Carmello Merlino, Robert Guarente, and Robert Gentile. Kelly said in the late 1990's, two FBI informants told the Bureau that Merlino was preparing to return Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee, in an effort to collect the reward. However, Merlino and his crew were soon arrested in an aborted armored car heist and the painting was never returned. Kelly believes Guarente somehow passed control of the stolen Gardner artwork to Gentile, a Manchester, Conn. man. Kelly believes Gentile has ties to organized crime in Philadelphia, PA and that Gentile helped bring some or all of the stolen Gardner artwork to Philadelphia where it was last seen in 2000, offered for sale. In 2012 Gentile's home and property in Manchester, Conn. were extensively searched but no sign of the stolen Gardner artwork was located. However, Kelly said authorities recovered police paraphernalia, including "clothing, articles of clothing with police and FBI insignias on it, handcuffs, a scanner, two way radios, and Tasers" and these are not common items. Gentile, through his lawyer, denied having any connection to the Gardner art heist or with moving the artwork after the fact. Both Merlino and Guarente are now dead. If you have any information about the Gardner Museum artwork, call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI. There is a $5 million reward in this case.
Read more (and see the video which includes an appearance by Anthony Amore, security director of the Gardner museum): http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/25583520/fbi-has-confirmed-sightings-of-gardner-artwork-after-heist#ixzz32SaaZt9e
In Ulrich Boser's book, The Gardner Heist: The True Store of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft (HarperCollins, 2009) the index included 11 references to Carmello Merlino who died in prison in 2005. Merlino is described as the "gangland captain" of David Turner who was picked up by the FBI on Feb. 7, 1999 and questioned about the Gardner heist (page 100):
"The FBI told me that they had information from several sources that I was an actual participant in the robbery," Turner recalled. "What was said was 'Give us the paintings right now, and you can go home."
Boser described Merlino as a 'South Boston mobster' (p. 101) whose:
'body shop grew into an underworld flea market for looted goods. "If there was something you wanted stolen, that was the place. You could go there and just put in an order, and they would have crews running all sorts of places, South Shore Malls, downtown, everywhere," retired state police officer Eddie Whelan told me.
[Interesting sidebar -- the art stolen from Jeffrey Gundlach was recovered by police in an automobile stereo shop in Pasadena, CA in 2012.]
Merlino was picked up on a drug charge in 1992, and through an intermediary, he offered to return the paintings for a reduced prison sentence. He told prosecutors that the masterpieces were "very big and international," that the deal has to be kept quiet or he would be killed. But Merlino never offered any hard evidence of the lost art ... [but] it was clear that Merlino did not have direct access to the art, that he was attempting to secure the masterpieces from someone else.Boser wrote on page 201:
Perhaps mob associate Robert Guarente was the mastermind? He was a friend of Turner's, a frequent visitor to Merlino's body shop, and had connections to Myles Connor. But Guarente died in 2004 without any sign of the paintings. The FBI confidential informant reports also imply that Turner himself had the loot. That seems impossible. Turner would have almost certainly given up the canvases to get out of his thirty-eight year prison sentence.