Vincent Asaro, 78, a reputed top member of the Bonanno organized crime family, was arrested by the FBI last Thursday in a pre-dawn raid at his Howard Beach home and charged with taking part in the 1978 heist of $6 million in cash and jewels at JFK Airport. He was also charged with murder for allegedly killing a man whom he believed to be an informant.
“[Asaro] devoted his adult life to the Bonanno crime family, with a criminal career that spanned decades,” said Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement. “Neither age nor time dimmed Asaro’s ruthless ways, as he continued to order violence to carry out mob business in recent months.”
Asaro is also accused of the murder of Paul Katz, whom prosecutors say he strangled with a dog chain. Katz was killed in 1969 — eight years before the 1978 heist — allegedly because Asaro feared Katz was cooperating with police.
The 1978 robbery, called the Lufthansa heist, was dramatized in the 1990 Martin Scorsese film “Goodfellas,” with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. The robbery was named after the German airline from which nearly $6 million in cash and jewels were stolen from their cargo terminal at JFK.
Four other reputed mobsters were nabbed on various racketeering, arson and extortion charges.
Sources say the indictments are connected to an FBI search last summer at a house on 102nd Road in Ozone Park owned by the daughter of former mobster Jimmy Burke, the alleged mastermind of the Lufthansa heist, who went to prison in 1985 and died of lung cancer while serving a life sentence in an Upstate prison in 1996.
Published reports quoted law enforcement sources as saying a body was found at the site and has been identified as being Katz and was the catalyst that led to last week’s arrest.