Indictment in notorious 1978 JFK Lufthansa heist

Associated Press
Indictment in notorious 1978 JFK Lufthansa heist
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A Brink's truck is seen parked outside the Lufthansa cargo Terminal, near the pickup and delivery platform, at JFK Airport 12 Dec 1978. On Dec. 8, a Brink's truck was to have picked up a large sum of cash at the building, but the driver left the money behind when he was informed that a Lufthansa foreman he was supposed to meet was busy, police said. On Dec. 11, a band of masked raiders stormed into the cargo terminal and bagged a reported $3.5 million. The U.S. currency, all used bills for which authorities have no serial numbers, was being shipped to the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York from Commerz Bank in Frankfurt, West Germany. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

NEW YORK (AP) — More than 30 years after the crime, a mobster was indicted Thursday in the $6 million Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport that was dramatized in the Martin Scorsese movie "Goodfellas."

Federal prosecutors issued a wide-ranging indictment against five defendants, alleging murder, robbery, extortion, arson and bookmaking. One of them, Vincent Asaro, of Howard Beach in Queens, was accused of participating in the Dec. 11, 1978, heist — one of the largest cash thefts in American history.

Hooded gunmen invaded the airline's cargo terminal and stole about $5 million in untraceable U.S. currency being returned to the United States from Germany. The cash was never found. Authorities say jewelry worth about $1 million also was taken.

Asaro is an alleged captain in the Bonanno crime family. Information on his attorney was not immediately available. All five defendants were in custody and awaiting court appearances.

In June, FBI investigators descended on a Queens neighborhood where it's believed the robbery was planned.

FBI agents with jackhammers and shovels dug beneath a house once occupied by the gangster who inspired Robert De Niro's character in "Goodfellas."

James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, a late Lucchese crime family associate, is said to have buried victims in familiar places — including under a nearby saloon he ran.

It was in that neighborhood that Burke allegedly masterminded the Lufthansa robbery.

The reputed mobster owned Robert's Lounge, the saloon that a fellow Lucchese associate, the late Henry Hill, described as Burke's private cemetery. "Jimmy buried over a dozen bodies ... under the bocce courts," Hill wrote in his book, "A Goodfella's Guide to New York."

In June 1980, a human leg bone and a portion of a human shoulder bone were excavated from the saloon's basement.

The lounge was purportedly a mob hangout where the airport robbery is said to have been planned by a mobster so accomplished that crime writer Nicholas Pileggi dubbed him a "criminal savant."

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