Bonanno Roundup Nets Acting Boss, Capo Involved with Lufthansa

Vincent Asaro was arrested this morning; he was allegedly the capo who ran
JFK for the Bonanno family back in 1978.

Bonanno capo Vincent Asaro was arrested for murder, racketeering, extortion, arson, robbery and other charges--some of which are linked to the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

He was one of five alleged members of the crime family rounded up by Federal agents in a series of pre-dawn raids this morning in the New York area.

Also arrested were Bonanno acting boss/underboss Thomas “Tommy D” DiFiore of Commack, the highest-ranking Bonanno family member not behind bars; soldier John “Bazoo” Ragano; soldier and acting captain Jack Bonventre; and Asaro's son, Jerome. See the indictment here, courtesy of CBS News.

Only Vincent Asaro was charged in the Dec. 11, 1978 JFK robbery itself; both Asaros face life in prison for the murder of a suspected police informant. High-profile informant Henry Hill long ago identified Vincent Asaro as the capo who ran the airport for the Bonanno family at the time of the heist.

James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke (July 5, 1931 – April 13, 1996), an Irish-American gangster with ties to the Luchese family through his association with Luchese capo Paul Vario, has historically been credited for masterminding the caper, described as the biggest of its day. The daring robbery on December 11, 1978, netted the outlaws about $5 million in cash and nearly another million in jewels. Burke is also believed to have murdered or orchestrated the murders of nearly all the people involved in heist; within one week of the heist, the killings had begun.
The notorious Jimmy the Gent Burke.

Burke was seeking to protect himself and Luchese capo Vario (and probably other Mafia higher-ups) from prosecution and also enlarge their portion of the enormous treasure, which was never recovered.

Burke's haul is believed to have ranged between $2 million and 4 million. One million to $2 million ended up in Vario’s pocket, while the rest was doled out to the robbers and others in supporting roles. The six actual robbers themselves received the smallest share, anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000.

Burke died of cancer in a Buffalo hospital in April 1996. Retired NYPD detective John Coffey has since speculated that Burke's huge portion of the proceeds had gone to his daughter.
Louis Werner, an airport employee and inside informant, was the only one ever prosecuted in connection with the case.

The late Henry Hill, a former Luchese associate who entered the witness protection program and then the pages of mob history when he became the inspiration behind for the 1990 Martin Scorsese film, Goodfellas, actually names Vincent Asaro as being the Bonanno capo who ran that family's part of the airport. He does so in the book on which the film is based, Wiseguy.
DiFiore was the highest ranking Bonanno
on the street--until this morning.

The focus has generally been on the link between the Luchese and the Gambino families, which historically "controlled" the airport together due to the marriage between Carlo Gambino's son and Thomas Lucchese's daughter.

Hill notes: "The Bonannos ran half of the airport in those days, and Jimmy had to show respect to them to maintain the peace." Hill than specifically identified Vincent Asaro as the capo who oversaw the Bonanno Family's interests at the airport.

Hill doesn't directly implicate anyone in the book; he mentions a lot of names of people who could have been associated with the crime. He claims that because he was involved in his own business -- drug dealing and a college basketball-betting scheme involving Boston College -- he had "lost track" of the "guys in on the [Lufthansa] deal."

He notes: I heard for instance, that... LiCastri wasn't on the job. Frenchy McMahon, another stickup guy... was also hanging around all the time, but I wasn't sure where he was going to fit in. Frenchy was a good guy and he was very tight with Joe Buddha, so wherever you saw Joe Buddha you saw Frenchy. When you've got something like Lufthansa coming up, you don't ask questions and you don't talk about it. You don't want to know. Knowing what's not necessary is only trouble.
Asaro is also accused of strangling Paul Katz, a suspected police informant, in December 1969, the indictment said.

Henry Hill the informer...
Katz’s remains were found buried in a basement of a house in Queens formerly owned by Jimmy the Gent. FBI agents last year said that the excavation might relate to a search for human remains relating to a mob murder from more than 30 years ago, based on information from a snitch.

Asaro had allegedly ordered his son Jerome to move Katz’s body from another location to the Burke home.

In addition, both Asaros were charged in a 1984 robbery of $1.25 million worth of gold salts from a Federal Express employee, the indictment said.

The suspects are all expected to be arraigned in Federal Court in Brooklyn today.


  1. Is Jack Bonventre, named in the indictment, related to Cesare Bonventre?? It's interesting to learn how some of these guys are connected to people and events made headlines decades ago.

  2. The Bonventre name runs through this family all the way back to Castellamare. I don't know how exactly he is related to the rest of the Bonventre's but it's a safe bet he is in some way.

  3. I am working on the followup today -- there was just too much to cover in one story.... I am going through the indictment and doing some background on the others named in the indictment. I do know that Asaro Senior is the only one tied to the JFK robbery; many reports erroneously tied all five Bonannos to it. I do know the "Sicilian wing" of the family was brought back to power when Basciano named Sal The Iron Worker as acting boss in an effort to restore relations with Montreal (we all know how that turned out). I would not be surprised at all if the Bonventres are related.... I am wondering about Basicano's "status"; he has none with the Bonanno family and actually could have been nursing a grudge -- he's on record for saying words to the effect of: "both my father (Massino) and son (Dominick Cicale) turned on me." Gorgeous also hated Mancuso, to the extent that he desperately to have him whacked on the street because Mancuso been trying to take over, as Basciano saw things. Mancuso was not considered boss material by the Bonanno hierarchy in the year prior to and following Massino's arrest before he flipped. I am being a bit cryptic here because I am working only from a theory and I need to do some investigating.... this indictment seems to include a grab bag of seemingly related and unrelated crimes.... going to end this now so I can get back to work!

    1. Was Montagna even part of the "Sicilian wing" as you say? Montagna was in Patty DeFilippo's Bronx crew...the Bonanno Sicilians were a different crew based in a different borough is how I understand it to be.

      Also you say Basciano named Montagna acting boss to restore relations with Montreal? That doesn't make sense. You wondering about Basciano's status.....He will die in jail like a man.

    2. Got the Montagna stuff from book Vinny Gorgeous by Anthony M. DeStefano. Montagna was very Sicilian; in fact it'd the reason why he was deported. He lived in Elmont before moving North. I am not saying what he did in Montreal was for the Bonannos but I do wonder whether the Bonanno's have an interest in "renewing" relations with the immensely powerful Canadian group that was once a crew of the family's.

    3. Also the Feds have four informants, one of which, to my knowledge, has not yet been identified. If he's one of the well-known Bonanno turncoats, then why wouldn't they just name him? So yes, I "wonder" about Basciano.... We know Massino, Vitale, and Asaro's cousin (don't know his name) and there is a fourth unidentified informant...

    4. So what about John Ragano he was only 18 when the airport heist went down and he did not get made until 2013 even though he was put up for it in 2010 so for him to be a top five is a little off

  4. never would have thought tumac acceturo would ever rat either......but he did.


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