If you loved the film, The Goodfellas, you will love this story. Remember that score that had Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) screaming with joy in the shower? The Lufthansa heist? Well, the FBI just arrested Vincent Asaro of Queens and four others for the 1978 heist.
Asaro, 78, and other alleged members of the Bonanno organized crime family are accused of murder, racketeering, armed robbery, arson and extortion. The heist grabbed $5 million in cash and nearly $1 million in jewels from an airline cargo. The key architect of the crime was believed to be building in the largest cash robbery in the nation’s history at the time.
Five men have been taken into custody as as part of the investigation into the 1978 Lufthansa heist at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.
It was the biggest heist in U.S. history and a plot item for the 1990 film “Goodfellas.” In the movie, “Jimmy Conway” played by Robert De Niro proceeds to kill virtually everyone associated with the crime to protect himself and his money. Conway was a character based on the real crook, James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, a member of the Lucchese crime family. Burke died of cancer in 1996 but the FBI only got around to searching his house last summer. It appears that Burke kept incriminating evidence that proved the undoing of the elderly mobsters. That is not how Conway explained it:
Jimmy Conway: I’m not mad, I’m proud of you. You took your first pinch like a man and you learn two great things in your life. Look at me, never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.
It is an ironic ending for the mobsters to be fingered by evidence supplied by Jimmy the Gent. The fascinating question remains the evidence and whether Burke kept his hands on incriminating evidence for his own protection.
Henry Hill prepared the mobsters for the worst where even living under protective services pales in comparison of the lifestyle of a wise guy:
Henry Hill: And that’s the hardest part. Today everything is different; there’s no action… have to wait around like everyone else. Can’t even get decent food – right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I’m an average nobody… get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.
It looks like Asaro and his friends may not even get the life of a schnook as opposed to a crook.