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Arrest Made In “Goodfellas” Lufthansa Heist

Submitted by on January 24, 2014 – 9:52 am2 Comments

An aging mobster has been arrested in connection to a 1978 Lufthansa airline heist at NYC’s JFK Airport, was immortalized in Martin Scorsese‘s 1990 classic Goodfellas. The arrest was part of a sweep involving organized criminals, several of whom were connected to activities on which Scorsese’s film was based.

Vincent Asaro, 78, was arrested by federal officials in the pre-dawn hours on Thursday. The alleged Bonanno crime family captain was charged with crimes including running an illegal gambling and bookmaking operation, murder solicitation, connection with the 1969 murder of mob associate Paul Katz, and armed robbery and racketeering in connection with the airline heist. Also mentioned was an arson charge involving a restaurant in Queens, which bears resemblance to another episode from the Goodfellas movie.

Asaro’s son, Jerome Asaro, was also charged as an accessory after the fact to the murder. Alleged Bonanno family members Thomas “Tommy D” Fiore, John “Bazoo” Ragano, and Jack Bonventre were also charged with crimes, though only the elder Asaro was directly implicated in the airline heist.

On Dec 11, 1978, a team led by the Lucchese crime family walked off with $5 million in cash and almost $1 million in jewels (totaling over $21 million adjusted for inflation) from a Lufthansa flight at JFK airport. The robbery took just over an hour, and not a single shot was fired; at the time, it was the largest cash heist in American history.

But the heist, which netted much more than expected, quickly attracted law enforcement attention. A round of mob killings followed to eliminate anyone who might rat out the participants.

The theft was led by Jimmy “The Gent” Burke. In 1986, Lucchese associate-turned-informant Harold Hill published Wiseguy with Nicholas Pleggi, in which he described his relationship with Burke, including the Lufthansa heist. Burke was portrayed by Robert DeNiro in the film as “Jimmy Conway.” The heist plays a major role in the plot.

[via Bloomberg]

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