The Blog

The Heist of a Lifetime

2:40 PM, Jan 24, 2014 • By VICTORINO MATUS
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The one robbery where there should have been enough for everyone. Six million dollars in cash and jewels. And yet, within days of the robbery the dream score turned into a nightmare. What should have been the crew's happiest moment turned out to be the beginning of the end. —Nicholas Pileggi on the Lufthansa Heist, Wiseguy

Yesterday the end finally came for Vincent Asaro, a 78-year-old captain in the Bonanno crime family. But Asaro should count himself lucky: Although he was handcuffed and charged in connection to the 1978 Lufthansa heist, at least he wasn't strangled, stabbed, shot, or dismembered, as happened to many of the other participants.

As was made clear in both Wiseguy and Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, the mobster Jimmy "The Gent" Burke (Conway in the movie) decided to kill off his co-conspirators rather than divvy up the loot, which would have come to $750,000 per person. Among those spared, however, was Henry Hill, who provided Burke with a drug-source of income and longtime friend Vincent Asaro, who ran Robert's nightclub and was a Bonanno (Burke and Hill were in the Luchese crime family).

In Wiseguy, Henry Hill explains, "By early December everything was ready and we were just waiting for the word ... that the money had arrived.... Jimmy also had to give up a share to Vincent Asaro, who was then the Bonanno family's crew chief out at the airport. The Bonannos ran half the airport in those days, and Jimmy had to show respect to them to maintain the peace."

Thirty-five years later, Asaro is finally nabbed. ("It may be decades later, but the FBI's determination to investigate and bring wiseguys to justice will never waver," said an FBI official.) According to the New York Post,

Asaro was among five reputed Bonannos busted Thursday on a sweeping racketeering indictment, including his son Jerome—who allegedly helped move Katz’s body—and Thomas “Tommy D” Di Fiore, identified in court papers as the current “boss” of the now-depleted crime family.

Aside from Lufthansa, Asaro is also facing an unrelated charge of murder.

So did anyone actually enjoy the $5 million in cash and $875,000 in jewels? Marty Krugman (Morrie of Morrie's Wigs in Goodfellas), who came up with the idea in the first place, mysteriously disappeared. Another associate's body was found in a refrigeration truck. Even the girlfriend of Tommy DeSimone (played by Joe Pesci in the movie) was murdered, supposedly in connection to Lufthansa. As Pileggi relates, Theresa Ferrara's torso was found floating in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey. And the man who is suspected of killing off his partners? In 1985, James Burke was sentenced to life in prison (thanks to Hill) and died of cancer while incarcerated in 1996.

So much for the "dream score."

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers