Lufthansa Overshadows Other Crimes Indictment Alleges

The Bonanno capo of JFK airport during heist:
Vincent Asaro in an undated mugshot.
“We never got our right money, what we were supposed to get, we got fucked all around. Got fucked around. That ­fucking Jimmy [Burke] kept everything.”
--Vincent Asaro, as recorded by cooperator

Yesterday's Bonanno bust was not solely related to the infamous Lufthansa heist at John F. Kennedy Airport in 1978.

However, the legendary "unsolved" caper that informed a pivotal moment in the Martin Scorsese film "Goodfellas" has been the media's primary focus, to the extent that the fact that the crime family's acting boss, Thomas “Tommy D” DiFiore, was also caught in the net has been largely overlooked.

Only mobster Vincent Asaro, 72, who has fallen in and out of favor with the Bonanno hierarchy over the years, primarily due to greed, is linked to Lufthansa.

Heretofore, only a Lufthansa cargo agent, described as the “inside man” in the robbery, has been prosecuted. Louis Werner, $20,000 in the hole due to gambling debts, used his knowledge of the incoming cash and jewelry to formulate an idea for a robbery that he then passed off to his bookmaker, Marty Krugman, who then told Luchese associate Henry Hill. The rest, as they say, is history.

DiFiore had been the highest-ranking Bonanno on the street.
The family will need to choose a new street boss.

Werner was indicted in March 1979, within four months of the robbery. He was lucky. Most of the men who directly committed the job are dead or are presumed dead.

Vincent Asaro has the distinction of being the first made member of organized crime to ever be charged in the heist, which netter about $6 million ($21.4 million, when adjusted for inflation.)
Asaro is known to have been the Bonanno capo in charge of the airport at the time of the robbery. Court papers say he took part in “several planning meetings” with Burke.

According to the cooperating witness, Asaro and Burke also had ties in that they were business partners in Robert's Lounge, according to court papers. The late former Lucchese associate Henry Hill described it as Burke's private cemetery.

"Jimmy buried over a dozen bodies ... under the bocce courts," Hill wrote in "A Goodfella's Guide to New York."

Prosecutors believe that Asaro was paid off following the Lufthansa heist with some stolen jewelry; Asaro then reportedly "kicked up" a share to a superior in the Bonanno crime family.

Asaro allegedly admitted his involvement in the Lufthansa to ex-Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, who later became America’s highest-ranking Mafia turncoat and is a witness against Asaro, sources said.

Former FBI agent Steve Carbone told the New York Times that he had always suspected Asaro was “in the mix as a player,” but that he did not believe “Asaro was physically involved in the heist.”

Asaro as recently as 2011 was recorded by another informant complaining about the amount he was given from the historic heist.

“We never got our right money, what we were supposed to get, we got fucked all around. Got fucked around. That ­fucking Jimmy [Burke] kept everything,” Asaro griped in 2011, according to a recording made by a mob informant.

The cooperator is identified in court papers as Asaro’s cousin; the cousin was also present during the Lufthansa planning sessions with Burke, Asaro and others, court documents stated.

Some of the crimes alleged in the indictment predate the airport heist. A homicide was allegedly committed in 1969 by Vincent Asaro who later told an informant that he and Burke had killed Paul Katz in 1969 with a dog chain. Asaro had suspected that Katz was an informant after a warehouse that Katz owned that was often used by mobsters to store stolen goods was raided by the police.

Then in the mid-1980s, Asaro ordered his son and another man to dig up the corpse and rebury it somewhere else after Burke revealed that an NYPD detective was looking into Katz’s disappearance, according to the papers.
What, me worry? Late Luchese associate Henry Hill survived Lufthansa by
keeping his mouth shut. Others weren't so lucky.

But the job was botched, and last June, while conducting an excavation in search of the body in the basement of the house, now owned by Burke's daughter, FBI agents found and recovered “multiple human bones, including an entire right hand and wrist, hair, teeth, possible soft-tissue fragments and clothing.” DNA showed that the remains belonged to Katz, court papers said.

On the day the feds started digging, Asaro’s turncoat cousin gave him a heads-up. Asaro then headed to a Bonanno associate’s business, got into another car and was driven to the dig site.

Asaro twice drove by the scene so he could see what was happening. (This is reminiscent of a scene in the final season of "The Sopranos," when Tony Soprano and long-time family capo Paulie "Walnuts" Gaultieri drive down a street to catch a glimpse of a similar excavation to uncover a body.)

Asaro was later that day seen chatting with Bonanno soldier and co-defendant John Ragano. Asaro apparently was very upset, court papers noted, adding that “agents observed him drive into a metal pillar.” (That also could have been a scene from "The Sopranos.")

Asaro's other alleged crimes include ordering the early-1980s firebombing of a mobbed-up bar on Rockaway Boulevard in Ozone Park. Called Afters, feds said the watering hole  “was named for after Lufthansa. ”

Martin Krugman, left, was killed, his body never found. He
was the bookie who first passed word to Henry Hill about the
potential for a heist at JFK airport.
The indictment also claims that Asaro muscled a path for himself into the pornography business, and that he also  robbed $1.25 million worth of gold salts from FedEx (gold salts are apparently used as an ingredient in medicinal treatments).

Only the Asaros have murder-related charges; both face potential life sentences.

The others primarily face charges for the typical gangster crimes of racketeering, extortion, arson, robbery and gambling.

The five defendants were arraigned in Federal District Court in Brooklyn and ordered to be held without bail.
“Vincent Asaro said categorically, ‘We’re going to trial,’ ” according to his lawyer.

Prosecutors say that Asaro is currently a captain in the Bonanno crime family, but that his standing has varied over the years. He was once demoted for taking too much money from his crew.

Comments

  1. great article, thanks for that!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd be curious to see what kind of evidence the Gov. has. I suspect it is circumstantial, flimsy, and rat infested testimony. Mcmahon is the best in the business at crucifying rats on the stand and creating reasonable doubt. Romanello and Farese walked free and clear recently. They have their work cut out for them for sure. The only chance they have is if the conspiracy charges stick...that's 20+ years. He's one of the old school Zips and the family has been decimated by all these F'n young turks.

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