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“Should you make the purchase, we will have more of the Monets than I think we will care for, but it strikes me we can sell some of those we now have, and thereby greatly improve our collection.” With this, an industrialist from the small town of Naugatuck, Connecticut, advised his twenty-eight-year-old son, honeymooning in Paris in 1893, to buy another Monet.

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Law enforcement officials descended today on a Manchester, Conn., house, digging in the yard of Robert Gentile, an alleged mobster who officials suspect may have information about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art theft.

Frances Drive was choked with unmarked police vehicles and television news crews and their vehicles, a resident said in a telephone interview this morning.

“It’s kind of hard to get in and out,’’ the neighbor said. “It’s kind of annoying.’’ She added, “It’s a quiet neighborhood. I’ve never seen anything like this.’’
Gentile’s attorney, A. Ryan McGuigan, said today that the FBI is leading the search.

“They have brought with them a ground-penetrating radar device, as well as two beagles and a ferret, to look for what they say are weapons. But we all know what they are actually looking for -- and they are looking for the paintings,” McGuigan said.

Tom Carson, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Connecticut, declined comment on the search in an e-mail.

“The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum does not have any comments about the Robert Gentile case,” the museum said in a statement. “The Museum continues to offer a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the artworks in good condition. Anyone with information about the theft, the location of the stolen artworks, and/or the investigation, should contact the Gardner Museum.”

Authorities have said that at least two men dressed as police officers talked their way into the Gardner on March 18, 1990, tied up the security guards, and left with 13 masterworks, including three by Rembrandt and five by Degas. Some of the stolen pieces could sell for $50 million on the open market, art experts say.

Despite an intensive search by law enforcement, no one has ever been charged in the case and none of the paintings have ever been recovered.

Gentile has been jailed on federal drug charges in what McGuigan has characterized as an effort to pressure the 75-year-old man into admitting he has information about the Gardner robbery when he does not.

“This case comes down to the fact that this guy sold his own painkillers to some kid who was working for the FBI, so they could search his house,’’ McGuigan said. “It’s a ruse.”

The neighbor said she knew Gentile and his wife, both of whom have been in the home for many years. She said she was concerned for the well-being of Gentile’s wife, who has continued to live in the home since her husband was taken into federal custody earlier this year.

“They are very nice people, very quiet people,’’ the neighbor said.

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