More than 30 years after hooded gunmen pulled a $6m airport heist dramatised in the hit Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas, an elderly reputed mobster was arrested at his New York City home yesterday and charged in the robbery and a 1969 murder.
By Tom Hays
Vincent Asaro, 78, was named along with his son, Jerome, and three other defendants in wide-ranging indictment alleging murder, robbery, extortion, arson and other crimes from the late 1960s through last year. The Asaros, both identified as captains in the Bonanno organised crime family, pleaded not guilty through their attorneys and were ordered held without bail at a brief appearance in federal court in Brooklyn.
The elder Asaro’s attorney, Gerald McMahon, told reporters outside court that his client was framed by shady turncoat gangsters, including former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino — the highest-ranking member of the city’s five organised crime families to break the mob’s vow of silence.
The indictment accused Vincent Asaro of helping to direct the Dec 11, 1978, Lufthansa Airlines heist at Kennedy airport — one of the largest cash thefts in American history.
The gunmen looted a vault in the airline’s cargo terminal and stole about $5m in untraceable US currency that was being returned to the United States from Germany, along with about $1m in jewelry. The cash was never found.
According to court papers, an unidentified mob associate who pleaded guilty and became a co-operating witness told investigators that he participated in the robbery at the direction of Asaro. The theft was hatched by James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, a late Lucchese crime family associate who was close to Asaro, who told the bandits that he had a “score” that would make them rich, the papers say.
Each robber was supposed to be paid $750,000, but the cooperating witness said “most did not receive their share, either because they were killed first or it was never given to them,” according to the court papers.
In addition to the heist, the elder Asaro was charged in the 1969 murder of Paul Katz, whose remains were found last year during an FBI dig at a house once occupied by Burke.
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