Robert Guarante 1968 Booking Photo

Robert Gentile's connections with Robert Guarante, a bank robber seen above with a shirt over his head after an arrest in Natick, Mass., in 1968, intrigued federal authorities investigating the theft of half a billion dollars in art from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in March 1990. (William Rye / The Boston Globe)

Guarente was indicted for selling cocaine on April 1998. He was released from prison in December 2000 and died in January 2004.

Merlino and his crew were charged in the Loomis Fargo robbery on February 1999. Merlino died in prison and the others have decades left to serve on their sentences.

Luisi was charged in a cocaine conspiracy on July 1999.

When Guarente's wife told investigators in 2009 or '10 about the meal in Portland, only Gentile was a alive and out of jail.

A Postscript

One of New England's most colorful thieves, Florian "Al" Monday, believes he knows the significance of the list of stolen Gardener paintings — and their black market values — that the FBI found in Gentile's cellar.

He said it is his.

Monday said, in a recent interview, that he has been engaged in the murky business of stolen art at least since 1972, when he and a small group he recruited stole Rembrandt's "St. Bartholomew" from the Worcester Art Museum. In the process, one of them shot and wounded a security guard. The painting was quickly recovered and the gang was arrested. Monday got nine to 20 years in prison.

Because the Gardner thieves carried weapons, Monday said he was an early suspect in the theft of those Gardner paintings.

"Of course, everyone thought that I had stolen them since I'm the guy that invented that methodology, of robbing museums with a gun," Monday said recently.

He got stung in 2002 when he and a partner, a Rhode Island swindler who put up $250,000, tried to buy an etching they had been persuaded was one of the Gardner's Rembrandt pieces. It was a forgery.

Monday said he believes his list of the stolen Gardner art fell into Gentile's hands under similar circumstances.

Monday said he drafted the list for a partner, who knew both Gentile and Guarente. The partner wanted to buy Gardner art because he had lined up a pair of prospective buyers. Gentile was the middleman through whom Guarente and Monday's partner communicated, according to Monday and another source.

Monday said he was putting up the money for the deal, but would not say where he got it. He said he did not know and never met either Gentile or Guarente.

"Guarente? I know nothing about him," Monday said. "I never negotiated any prices for him. I hadn't heard of Gentile until recently. The list ... was a list of the paintings and the prices that I was willing to pay for them. That's what those figures are. It is not their value. It is what I was willing to pay for them."

The deal fell apart, Monday said, when the partner suspected that he was being hustled, and that Guarente had no Gardner art to sell.

Monday said his partner paid Guarente $10,000 when Guarente said he needed the money to travel to Florida to obtain whatever art was involved. Monday said he suspects Guarente never went to Florida.

The partner was next told that he had to pay to see proof that Guarente actually had the Gardner art. The proof was to be a photograph, purportedly of the stolen art.

Guarente mailed the photograph to Gentile. The partner, who carried a jeweler's loupe, recognized it as a photograph of a page in an art book. He left with the money but forgot the list.