Martin Scorcese’s 1990 blockbuster, Goodfellas, is beloved by many movie lovers. The turning point of the movie is the Lufthansa Heist, where mobsters arranged to steal millions from the Lufthansa airport. Though dramatized, this was a very real event in Mafia history, where mobsters from the Lucchese crime family stole $6 million in cash and jewels. VICE describes the heist, orchestrated by James “Jimmy The Gent” Burke (played in the movie by Robert DeNiro), as follows:
In 1978, the Bonanno family, one of the famous “Five Families”, reportedly controlled the turf of JFK Airport. They apparently gave their blessing to a group of Lucchese family–affiliated crooks, led by Burke, who allegedly went on to order the ritualized killings of those involved because Burke believed were attracting too much attention by flaunting their new wealth. (Burke was ultimately convicted, in the 1980s, of a college basketball point-shaving scheme and murdering a drug dealer.)
No mobster was ever charged with anything tied to Lufthansa, until now. Vincent Asaro, 80, a high-ranking member of the Bananno crime family is currently on trial for his involvement in the heist. He stands accused of being broke off directly from the riches taken during the heist, as well as the murder of a perceived rat, named Paul Katz, and burying him at Burke’s old home in Queens.
Authorities claim that Asaro presented a briefcase filled with gold and diamonds from the heist to then-Bananno don Joseph Massino. He was set up by an informant (his own cousin) in 2013:
According to an account provided to the feds by his cousin-turned-informant, Gaspare Valenti, Asaro kept his own involvement in the heist secret for years, while the rest of the organized crime world around him faltered. Valenti agreed in 2013 to wear a wire to get an admission out of Asaro after Valenti himself was convicted of racketeering. As recorded by the wire, Asaro reportedly said out loud that “We never got our right money, what we were supposed to get… Jimmy kept everything.”
Read the full story here.