Feds Crack Notorious 1978 Lufthansa Heist at JFK Airport Spurred by Jewish Bookie

5 Arrests in $6M Robbery — Biggest in History

Case Closed? Robert De Niro starred in ‘Goodfellas’, which was based on the story of the notorious Lufthansa heist.
Case Closed? Robert De Niro starred in ‘Goodfellas’, which was based on the story of the notorious Lufthansa heist.

By Reuters

Published January 23, 2014.
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Five people said to be part of a New York crime family were arrested on Thursday, including a 78-year-old man accused of participating in a notorious 1978 airport heist that inspired the movie “Goodfellas.”

More than three decades after $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry was stolen from a Lufthansa airlines cargo building at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the FBI arrested Vincent Asaro, an alleged leader of the Bonanno organized crime family, on robbery charges.

Four other men, who prosecutors said were members of the New York-based gang, were arrested for other crimes.

The infamous crime was spurred by a tip by a Jewish bookmaker. And a key break in the case came when the feds recently found the remains of another Jewish reputed gangster buried at a mobster’s property. He died when he was strangled by a dog chain after fellow mob associates suspected he was a stool pigeon.

“Vincent Asaro devoted his adult life to the Bonanno crime family, with a criminal career that spanned decades,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in a statement. “Neither age nor time dimmed Asaro’s ruthless ways, as he continued to order violence to carry out mob business in recent months.”

At the time of the JFK caper, the currency was being shipped to a U.S. bank from West Germany and the theft was the biggest cash heist ever in the United States. The stolen $5 million in cash would be worth $17.9 million in 2013 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“These ‘goodfellas’ thought they had a license to steal, a license to kill, and a license to do whatever they wanted,” said George Venizelos, FBI assistant director-in-charge, in the New York field office.

“It may be decades later, but the FBI’s determination to investigate and bring wiseguys to justice will never waver,” he said.

‘DEAD, DISAPPEARED OR MURDERED’

Robert De Niro played James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, in “Goodfellas,” the popular 1990 Martin Scorcese movie adapted from the non-fiction book “Wiseguy.” Burke was affiliated with the rival Lucchese crime family and the suspected mastermind of the brazen crime that stumped investigators for decades.


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