Lufthansa Heist from 1978, 'Goodfellas' plot basis, suspect Vincent Asaro arrested

January 23, 2014 7:32:54 AM PST
On Thursday morning, the FBI rounded up five mobsters as a result of the search last summer of the Queens home of Jimmy ''The Gent'' Burke, who was portrayed by Robert DeNiro in ''Goodfellas.''

That search, in a Queens neighborhood where it's believed the Lufthansa Heist was planned, turned up DNA matching a man named Paul Katz, who was apparently killed decades ago by Burke because the wiseguys thought he was a rat. The main defendant in the case is Vincent Asaro, allegedly of the Bonanno organized crime family. In addition to the Katz hit, evidence in the search led to Asaro being charged with crimes connected to the infamous Lufthansa Heist, the caper at the center of the ''Goodfellas'' plot.

Investigators believe that Katz was strangled in 1969 with a chain and then buried at a vacant home elsewhere in Queens, sources told ABC News.

The Lufthansa Heist at JFK Airport yielded nearly $6 million in cash and jewelry on Dec. 11, 1978 and was the most lucrative heist in U.S. history at the time. Before Thursday, the only other person who ever had to answer for a role in the notorious robbery was Louis Werner, an airport worker who provided critical inside information to the robbers, ABC News reports.

Hooded gunmen invaded the airline's cargo terminal and stole about $5 million in untraceable U.S. currency being returned to the United States from Germany. The cash was never found.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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