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Old School Mobster on trial for Airport Heist that inspired the movie Goodfellas

Posted October 26, 2015 - Articles

Old School Mobster on trial for Airport Heist that inspired the movie Goodfellas

The classic 1990 gangster movie Goodfellas is centered on a mafia associate turned government informant.  Henry Hill’s (played by Ray Liotta) testimony landed over 50 high-level mobsters in jail.  Despite this, no bonda fide mobster was ever tried for the infamous 1978 Lufthansa Airlines heist which inspired the 1990 film and served a main story line.  This heist resulted in a record 6 million dollar score for the mob and has largely gone unsolved.

Recently, Vincent Asaro, an 80 year old longtime member of the famed Bonanno crime family, stood trial for the Lufthansa heist.  The trial is still on-going and is a throwback to the stories of Hollywood blockbusters.  Asaro was arrested last year and is accused of taking a direct cut from the Lufthansa purse.  Asaro has denied all allegations and has pleaded not guilty.  Asaro has kept his involvement in the crime secret for years and allegedly opened up to his cousin Gaspare Valenti in 2013 about his involvement.  These conversations are alleged to be on tape.  Valenti agreed to cooperate with the government after he was convicted of racketeering.   On the recording, Asaro claimed “we never got our right money, what we were supposed to get..Jimmy Burke (Robert De Niro’s character) kept everything.  We got fucked all around..that fucking Jimmy kept everything.”

In 1978, the Bonanno family was one of the famed “five families” of New York.  They controlled the JFK airport where the Lufthansa heist occurred.  Mastermind Jimmy Burke was affiliated with the Lucchese family.  The Bonanno family gave Burke their blessing and the Lufthansa heist was on track.  After the heist, Jimmy Burke went on a killing spree involving those affiliated with the heist because they were all flaunting their new found wealth.  At the time of the heist, Asaro was a low level Bonanno street soldier.  Prosecutors claim that Asaro received his cut from the Lufthansa job and then gave his loot from the heist to the Bonnano family boss Joseph Massino as tribute.

After the heist, Asaro later rose to the rank of mafia capo or captain where he oversaw a crew of men.  Later, he was demoted to the rank of soldier due to a gambling problem but later returned to captain after the decline of the Bonanno family.

After opening statements in the trial, Sal Vitale (former underboss in the Bonanno family) took the stand in the Brooklyn federal court and gave hours of testimony.  His testimony was a road map to the workings and functions of the Mafia.  He gave testimony of how the organization kills and profits.  Scores, according to Vitale, are anything that makes money for the organization and soldiers earn money for the family and do what they are told.  Likewise, captains are in charge of the soldiers and underbosses oversee the captains.  Eventually, Vitale pinned the heist on Asaro and saw Asaro hand a briefcase full of diamonds and gold from the Lufthansa vaults to Joseph Massino head of the Bonanno family.

The trial is still on-going and others are scheduled to testify against Asaro and his involvement in the job of the century.  Keep a close watch on this case, it should be interesting.

-Lee Martin is a nationally recognized DUI and criminal defense attorney.  He provides premier legal services by limiting his caseload exclusively to DUI and criminal matters.  Lee knows how to build a solid defense strategy for your upcoming court date.  Let Lee Martin be your choose as your Nashville area criminal defense lawyer.   If you have pending charges, give him a call at 615-345-1988.

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