Mobster indicted in 'Goodfellas' airport heist after more than 30 years

US$6 million heist at Kennedy Airport was dramatised in the movie Goodfellas

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 1:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 1:30am


More than 30 years after the crime, a mobster was indicted yesterday in the US$6 million Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport that was dramatised in the Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas.

Federal prosecutors issued a wide-ranging indictment against five defendants, alleging murder, robbery, extortion, arson and bookmaking.

One of them, Vincent Asaro, of Howard Beach in Queens, was accused of participating in the December 11, 1978, heist, one of the largest cash thefts in American history.

Hooded gunmen invaded the airline's cargo terminal and stole about US$5 million in untraceable US currency being returned to the United States from Germany.

The cash was never found. Authorities said jewellery worth about US$1 million also was taken. The value of the booty today is estimated at around US$20 million.

Asaro is an alleged captain in the Bonanno crime family. Information on his attorney was not immediately available.

All five defendants were in custody and awaiting court appearances.

The four others were named as Jerome Asaro, Jack Bonventre, Thomas Di Fiore, also known as Tommy D, and John Ragano.

In June, FBI investigators descended on a neighbourhood in the New York borough of Queens where it was believed the robbery was planned.

FBI agents with jackhammers and shovels dug beneath a house once occupied by the gangster who inspired Robert De Niro's character in Goodfellas, long considered one of the best films of Scorsese and one of the best crime films of all time.

James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, a late Lucchese crime family associate, is said to have buried victims. It was in Queens that Burke allegedly masterminded the Lufthansa robbery.

The JFK heist was made even more notorious after the robbery when Burke killed off members of the crew to avoid being identified.

The reputed mobster owned Robert's Lounge, the saloon that a fellow Lucchese associate, the late Henry Hill, described as Burke's private cemetery.

"Jimmy buried over a dozen bodies ... under the bocce courts," Hill wrote in his book, A Goodfella's Guide to New York.

In June 1980, a human leg bone and a portion of a human shoulder bone were excavated from the saloon's basement.

The lounge was purportedly a mob hangout where the airport robbery is said to have been planned by a mobster so accomplished that crime writer Nicholas Pileggi dubbed him a "criminal savant".

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse