35 Years Later, FBI Busts 5 in Goodfellas Heist

5 alleged mobsters taken into custody

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 23, 2014 8:56 AM CST

(Newser) – More than 35 years later, the FBI is finally charging mobsters in connection with the notorious Lufthansa heist at New York's JFK Airport in 1978, a crime made even more infamous by the film Goodfellas. Five alleged mobsters said to be associated with New York's Bonanno crime family were arrested today, Reuters reports. The FBI had been planning the pre-dawn raids for months, following a search last June of James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke's home. Burke, the inspiration for Robert De Niro's Goodfellas character, died in prison in 1996 while serving time for a murder.

The men arrested reportedly include Vincent Asaro, 78, said to be a ranking Bonanno member, and underboss Thomas "Tommy D" DiFiore. The FBI believes Burke was the mastermind of the heist, which was at the time the single largest one carried out in the US, ABC News reports. More than $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels were stolen, the equivalent of more than $20 million today. Up 'til now, no mobster had faced charges in the heist. An airport worker who helped the robbers was the only person to have been convicted.

Jimmy the Gent Burke is led handcuffed by police in New York, in this April 1979 file photo.
Jimmy "the Gent" Burke is led handcuffed by police in New York, in this April 1979 file photo.   (AP Photo/File)
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