For decades, prosecutors say, Vincent Asaro managed to keep his role in an infamous mob heist immortalized in the hit movie Goodfellas hidden from the outside world while others of his generation were locked up or died gangland deaths. A frail-looking Asaro finally emerged from the shadows after his arrest last year and will go on trial Monday on charges he pocketed a cut of the $6 million Lufthansa robbery at Kennedy Airport in 1978—one of the largest cash thefts in American history. If convicted, he'd become the latest casualty of an erosion of the Mafia's code of silence that has decimated the aging upper echelon of New York City's underworld.
Asaro, 80, was arrested after his cousin came forward with new information about the heist and agreed to wear a wire to try to coax admissions out of the reputed longtime member of the Bonanno crime family. Prosecutors haven't revealed why their key witnesses turned on Asaro, though it's believed he may have held a grudge after being cheated out of a cut of Asaro's $750,000 take from the heist, one expert says. Asaro was a Bonanno soldier in late 1978 when hooded gunmen looted a vault in the Lufthansa's cargo terminal and stole about $5 million in untraceable US currency, along with about $1 million in jewelry. The theft was orchestrated by James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke—a late Lucchese crime family associate portrayed by Robert De Niro in Goodfellas— with the blessing of Asaro, whose crime family considered the airport its turf, according to court papers.