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Reputed mobster pleads not guilty in 1978 heist

NEW YORK — More than 30 years after hooded gunmen pulled a $6 million airport heist dramatized in the hit Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas, an elderly reputed mobster was arrested at his New York City home Thursday and charged in the robbery and a 1969 murder.

Vincent Asaro, 78, was named along with his son, Jerome, and three other defendants in a wide-ranging indictment alleging murder, robbery, extortion, arson and other crimes from the late 1960s through last year. The Asaros, both identified as captains in the Bonanno organized crime family, pleaded not guilty through their attorneys and were ordered held without bail at a brief appearance in federal court.

The indictment accused Vincent Asaro of helping to direct the Dec. 11, 1978, Lufthansa airline heist at Kennedy airport — one of the largest cash thefts in American history.

The gunmen looted a vault in the airline's cargo terminal and stole about $5 million in untraceable U.S. currency that was being returned to the United States from Germany, along with about $1 million in jewelry. The cash was never found.

The robbery was also infamous for how it frustrated investigators; the only person ever convicted in the heist was a Lufthansa cargo agent, described as the "inside man" in the plot.

Other suspects were found slain, or disappeared; the man thought to be the mastermind of the robbery, James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, died in 1996 in prison, where he was serving a life sentence for an unrelated murder.

Information from New York Times was used in this report.

FBI agents flank Vincent Asaro as he is escorted from FBI offices in lower Manhattan on Thursday in New York. Asaro was indicted in the $6 million Lufthansa heist in 1978.

Associated Press

FBI agents flank Vincent Asaro as he is escorted from FBI offices in lower Manhattan on Thursday in New York. Asaro was indicted in the $6 million Lufthansa heist in 1978.

Reputed mobster pleads not guilty in 1978 heist 01/23/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 23, 2014 11:21pm]

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