Mobster arrested over 'Goodfellas' JFK heist
NEW YORKJan 23, 2014 A New York mobster was arrested Thursday over
the spectacular 1978 cash and jewelry heist from JFK airport
immortalized in Martin Scorsese's movie "Goodfellas," and pleaded not
More relatives of those arrested in the multi-million dollar
Lufthansa Heist at Kennedy International Airport in 1978 leave a
Brooklyn court house after their family members were denied
Vincent Asaro, 78, reputedly a senior member of the notorious Bonanno
crime family, was among five suspects detained by FBI agents in separate
early morning raids in New York.
"These 'goodfellas' thought they had a license to steal, a license to
kill, and a license to do whatever they wanted," said FBI Assistant
Director in Charge George Venizelos.
Relatives of those arrested in the multi-million dollar
Heist at Kennedy International Airport in 1978 leave a Brooklyn
court house after their family members were denied bail on
January 23, 2014 . AFP
During a nine-minute appearance in US federal court, Asaro pleaded
not guilty to extortion, murder and violence charges that US prosecutors
say spanned a 45-year career in crime.
He was also charged with the 1969 murder of Paul Katz, a presumed
informant who was strangled with a dog chain and whose body parts were
discovered in a New York basement in June.
Asaro, who had triple bypass surgery in March, faces life in prison
if convicted. He stood slightly stooped, his hair swept back and
casually dressed in a sweater as he entered his not-guilty plea before
the packed courtroom in Brooklyn.
US Magistrate Judge Marilyn Go ordered him detained until further
notice. Asaro's lawyer vowed to apply for bail.
In the biggest heist on US soil, armed mobsters stole $5 million in
cash and nearly $1 million in jewels from a Lufthansa Airlines vault at
New York's JFK on December 11, 1978. The value of the booty today is
estimated at around $20 million.
The theft became legendary after its alleged mastermind James Burke
-- also known as Jimmy the Gent -- killed off members of the crew to
avoid being shopped to the police.
US officials say Asaro, Burke and their co-conspirators each expected
to receive approximately $750,000 in cash and large quantities of gold
jewelry after the robbery.
Scorsese immortalized the criminal feat in his Oscar-winning 1990
movie "Goodfellas," long considered one of the best crime films of all
Burke, who died of cancer in prison in 1996, was the inspiration for
Robert De Niro's character Jimmy Conway in the film.
Asaro appeared alongside his burly son Jerome, 55, who sported a blue
hoodie and shaved head, John Ragano, 52, and Jack Bonventre, 45.
The other three men face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted.
They have not been named in connection with the 1978 JFK heist.
A fifth defendant, 70-year-old Thomas Di Fiore, who was previously
the highest-ranking member of the Bonanno family to be out of jail, is
due to appear in court Friday.
The charges against the older Asaro date from January 1968 to June
He is accused of strangling Katz with Burke because they suspected he
was cooperating with investigators. They buried his body in the basement
of a vacant home.
In the mid-1980s, Asaro allegedly ordered Jerome and another
individual to dig up Katz's body and move it to avoid detection by
Almost 35 years later, the FBI searched the Queens residence still
owned by the Burke family and recovered some of Katz's remains in the
A detailed 63-page detention memo lists the charges as racketeering,
acts of murder, robbery, extortion, arson, illegal gambling,
loansharking and assault.
Prosecutors claim to have witness testimony, physical evidence, DNA,
photographic evidence spanning several decades and documentary evidence
in the case.
They accuse the two Asaros of participating in additional armed
robberies, including around $1 million in gold salts.
"Far from a code of honor, theirs was a code of violence and brute
force. Those suspected of cooperating with law enforcement paid with
their lives," said US Attorney Loretta Lynch.
"Neither age nor time dimmed Asaro's ruthless ways, as he continued
to order violence to carry out mob business in recent months."