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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bonanno Crime Family Member Charged In 1978 Lufthansa Heist At JFK Airport


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – More than 30 years after the 1978 Lufthansa heist at John F. Kennedy International Airport, an alleged member of the Bonanno crime family has been charged in the case.

Vincent Asaro, an alleged captain in the Bonanno crime family, was arrested for murder, racketeering, extortion, arson, robbery and other charges, authorities said.

He was one of five alleged members of the crime family who were rounded up Thursday morning in the New York area by FBI agents as part of a wide-ranging indictment that also named his son, Jerome Asaro, and three others.

On Dec. 11, 1978, $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels was stolen from the Lufthansa vaults at JFK. The cash and jewelry were never recovered. It was one of the largest cash thefts in American history.

The indictment charges Vincent Asaro with helping to plan and execute the robbery “together with others.”

Louis Werner, an airport employee and inside informant, was the only one ever prosecuted in connection with the case.

One of those involved was Henry Hill, a mob member who entered the witness protection program and became the inspiration of the 1990 Martin Scorsese film, “Goodfellas.”

Asaro is also accused of strangling Paul Katz, a suspected police informant, in December 1969, the indictment said.

Katz’s remains were found buried in a basement of a house in Queens where the FBI was digging last year that was once owned by James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke.

Burke was a longtime associate of the Lucchese crime family, one of the five La Cosa Nostra families in New York City. He was believed to be the alleged mastermind of the 1978 heist.

Burke died of cancer in a Buffalo hospital in April 1996.

Asaro had allegedly ordered his son Jerome to move Katz’s body from another location to the Burke home, sources told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa.

Sources said Katz’s remains were subsequently identified through DNA, CBS 2′s John Slattery reported.

In addition, both Asaros were charged in a 1984 robbery of $1.25 million worth of gold salts from a Federal Express employee, the indictment said.

Also named and charged with various crimes in the indictment are Jack Bonventre, Thomas DiFiore and John Ragano.

The suspects are all expected to be arraigned in Federal Court in Brooklyn on Thursday.

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