Robert “Bobby” Guarente, a Boston mob associate, became a key suspect in the Gardner theft in 2010 — six years after his death. He had long been associated with the TRC Auto Electric gang. He was a father figure to David Turner. TRC’s leader Carmello Merlino even walked Bobby’s wife, Elene, down the aisle at their wedding.
There were a number of threads that began raising suspicions around Guarente, years after the artwork went missing.
His widow, Elene, told the FBI in 2010 that he had turned over several of the masterpieces to his good friend Bobby Gentile after the men and their wives had enjoyed a seafood dinner in Portland, Maine, eight years before. In 2005, Guarente’s friend Earle Berghman and Guarente’s daughter Jeanine approached the Gardner twice with what Jeanine claimed were remnants from the masterpieces. Berghman later told me about this, and he and others explained that the so-called remnants were actually chips of house paint on the first occasion and shreds of a magazine cover on the second.
In 2016, The Boston Globe learned from former mob leader Bobby Luisi that, back in 1998, Guarente told him he had buried some of the stolen Gardner art beneath a concrete slab of a house in Florida.
-- Written by Stephen Kurkjian