News

Reputed New York mob boss arrested in ’78 Lufthansa heist

Reputed New York mob boss arrested in ’78 Lufthansa heist

ARRESTED: Thomas 'Tommy D' Di Fiore is escorted by FBI agents from their Manhattan offices in New York Jan. 23. Photo: Reuters//Brendan McDermid

By Chris Francescani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Five reported members of a New York crime family were taken into custody on Thursday and charged with crimes including racketeering, murder and the long-unsolved 1978 Lufthansa heist at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Court papers unsealed in New York charge that the men were members of the Bonanno crime family, which also committed acts of extortion and arson, including the airport heist, a brazen crime made famous by the 1990 film “Goodfellas.”

The arrests of four men and surrender of a fifth follows a discovery by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of human remains at a New York property tied to James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke last summer.

Burke, the suspected mastermind of the heist, died in prison in 1996 while serving time for the murder of a drug dealer. Actor Robert De Niro played a character based on Burke in the film.

Vincent Asaro, identified as one of the leaders of the Bonanno gang, was charged with the theft of $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry from the Lufthansa Terminal at Kennedy on December 11, 1978.

At the time, it was the biggest cash heist ever in the United States. The stolen $5 million would be worth $17.9 million in 2013 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The crime stumped investigators for years, but a break in the case came last summer during a search that turned up human remains buried at the home of a relative of Burke.

The indictment charges Asaro with the murder of Paul Katz in 1969, as well as robbery, conspiracy and other charges tied to the 1978 heist.

ABC News reported Katz was killed, and his remains buried, because Burke believed he was working with law enforcement.

Vincent Asaro and a second man reported to be his son, Jerome Asaro, were also charged with stealing $1.25 million in gold salts from a employee of Federal Express.

The three others, Jack Bonventre, Thomas Di Fiore and John “Bazoo” Ragano are charged with multiple crimes including racketeering and extortion for crimes unrelated to the heist, officials said.

Attorneys for the indicted suspects were not immediately available for comment.

The five men are due to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Scott Malone, Nick Zieminski and Alden Bentley)

Recent Headlines

58 mins ago in Lifestyle, National

Record number of Millennials are living with their parents

Fresh
23-overlay-9

Living at home with parents is now the most common arrangement for people age 18-34.

1 hour ago in National, World

Obama to Asians worried about U.S. election: It’s going to be OK

Fresh
16-overlay-8

U.S. President Barack Obama sought on Wednesday to ease growing Asian worries about the raucous election campaign to succeed him which has been dominated by the incendiary rhetoric of mogul Donald Trump, now the Republican Party's nominee.

2 hours ago in Sports

Super Bowls awarded

Fresh
goodell16145779127383

The NFL has awarded the 2019 through 2021 Super Bowls to three cities that have significant financial investments in new stadiums or recently upgraded an existing one.

2 hours ago in National

U.S. security union wants more screeners to ease airport delays

Fresh
airportREUTERS

The union for transportation security officers urged Congress to pay for 6,000 more full-time workers who conduct screenings to alleviate long lines at U.S. airports, a problem that caused a shakeup in the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's management.

2 hours ago in Sports

Physics, engineering professors back Tom Brady ‘Deflategate’ appeal

tombradyREUTERS

A group of 21 physics and engineering professors on Tuesday urged a U.S. federal appeals court to reconsider its 2-1 decision to reinstate the New England Patriots quarterback's four-game National Football League suspension in the "Deflategate" case.