Vincent Asaro, an 80-year-old New York mobster and lifelong veteran of the Bonanno crime family, was acquitted today in a Brooklyn courtroom for his alleged role in the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist. The Lufthansa heist, for those of you who don’t know your heist history and apparently don’t read headlines or look at banner pictures above the text, was a) the robbery famously depicted in Goodfellas, and b) one of the biggest heists in U.S. history, with the group of criminals making off with about $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry. In 1978 money. It was a big deal.
Prosecutors had alleged that Asaro’s role was that of a planner, helping Jimmy “The Gent” Burke and Henry Hill — played by Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, respectively — organize the heist. Asaro’s cousin, Gaspare Valenti, testified that Asaro tried to draft him into the heist, and also accused Asaro of committing a murder with Burke in 1969. Despite this, and a recording of Valenti and Asaro discussing the heist, jurors acquitted Asaro on all charges after the racketeering trial.
But more about Goodfellas, please.
In the aftermath, Asaro survived a bloodbath portrayed in Goodfellas, with Robert De Niro’s character going ballistic over fellow mobsters’ purchases of flashy cars and furs and, fearing they would attract law enforcement attention, having them whacked. Prosecutors claimed he collected at least $500,000 from the score but had a gambling problem and squandered it away at the racetrack.
Taking part in a robbery — ALLEGEDLY! — and then gambling away all $500,000 at the racetrack is a very “old school Mafia member” thing to do. I kinda wish Scorsese had put that in the movie now. Just a montage of Asaro watching horse races and then slamming his newspaper on the ground in frustration, all set to a beloved Motown song. You know, the full Scorsese.
(Via NBC News)