Gorilla Convict: Lufthansa Heist Story Twist

Seth Ferranti's blog, Gorilla Convict, features an interview with Daniel Simone, author of The Lufthansa Heist: Behind the Six-Million-Dollar Cash Haul That Shook the World.

The interview is comprehensive and intriguing.

Ferranti himself is intriguing...

He earned a master’s degree, got married, launched a writing career and founded a publishing house, all from behind bars. He's accomplished more inside than I ever will outside! But seriously, Seth did over 20 years on a bullshit rap.

As noted on the website Ozy:

"In 1993, Ferranti, a 22-year-old high school dropout, was sentenced to 304 months in prison. The self-proclaimed “rebel without a cause” was a first-time, nonviolent offender whom prosecutors had deemed a drug kingpin. In late July, after serving the required 85 percent of his federal time and getting 10 months chopped off his sentence for completing drug rehab, Ferranti walked out of the Federal Correctional Complex."

The drug that landed him that sentence (where he accomplished more than I have) was LSD, one of the least addictive drugs available. People don't overdose on LSD. We've never been inundated with accounts of  LSD dealers murdering each other over turf. And the once-common urban massacre known as "the drive-by" (as in "drive-by shooting") never occurred owing to LSD, to my knowledge. 

Not to diminish the dangers posed by the drug (actual name: lysergic acid diethylamide).

It is one of the most potent mind-altering substances available. Yet it's probably the only drug with an origin story that could serve as the setup for a Seth Rogen comedy:  It was created by accident in 1938 when one of two Swiss chemists inadvertently ingested it and experienced the drug's hallucinogenic properties.

Onward with the Q&A regarding one of the latest in a flood of books detailing varying aspects of the Lufthansa heist, considered one of the largest heist in American history, though it has since been surpassed.

Simone's book stands out for the distinction of listing as coauthor former Luchese associate-turned informant Henry Hill himself. (Rob Sberna and Dominick Cicale, friends of mine, wrote The Mystery of the Lufthansa Airlines Heist:: A Wiseguy Reveals the Untold Story, which includes excerpts of a Hill interview. I have promoted that book -- and will continue doing so; due to the conflict-of-interest perception, I decided to link to Seth's Q&A to cover the topic).

As for Simone, his next slated nonfiction book -- about the infamous Charles Manson -- sounds even more intriguing. 

The New York Post's Page Six wrote of it: 

Charles Manson — the charismatic cult leader convicted in the deaths of actress Sharon Tate and eight other victims — might not be guilty, according to Long Island journalist Daniel Simone. 
Simone and co-author Heidi Ley are putting the finishing touches on a book that will lay out all the evidence that Manson, 80, was the victim of a ruthlessly ambitious prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, who died in June
“The reader will walk away with doubts,” Simone told me. “Of Manson’s 37 prior arrests, none involved violence. And [almost] every single witness who testified against him was a convicted felon or facing trial.” 
Manson wasn’t even at the scenes of the Tate-LaBianca murders but was convicted because he told his co-conspirators to do it. 
Manson, who gave the authors 12 hours of prison interviews, has authorized the tome. “He not only signed off on it, he placed his thumbprints beneath his signature in case someone questions its authenticity,” Simone said. “He’s quite clever.”

Twenty five years ago, the Martin Scorcese film Goodfellas, was released to rave reviews and furious fanfare. With the wisecracking Joe Pesci as Tommy, the brilliant Robert De Nero as Jimmy the Gent Burke and Ray Liotta as the central character, Henry Hill, the movie chronicles a murderous tale of greed. The story, told from Henry Hill’s point of view after he turned federal informant, left out a few important details. It only hyper glosses over the actual Lufthansa Heist, and left out John Gotti’s role in the affair entirely.

But a new book that Henry Hill worked on shortly before his death in 2012, with author Daniel Simone, has been released to fill in all the missing details. Coinciding with the 25th Anniversary of Goodfellas, The Lufthansa Heist: Behind the Six-Million Dollar Cash Haul That Shook the World is available now and the book describes how a young John Gotti whacked the real life Joe Pesci character Tommy DeSimone.

The book also sheds light on a headline ripped straight out of todays news. Aging Mafioso Capo Vincent Asaro is about to go to trial for charges in connection with the Lufthansa Heist. He is actually the first person ever charged with the heist and the judge has ruled that no references can be made to the movie Goodfellas in the case. The book actually casts doubts on federal prosecutors case against Asaro. The US Attorney’s office seems hell bent on convicting the Bonanno gangster and making him take the fall for the quarter century old crime, but Simone raises serious questions on whether he played a part in the robbery at all. And in classic Henry Hill form the book implicates everyone who was involved in the heist, detailing the part Mafia legend John Gotti played. Maybe Asaro should try to get the book entered into evidence. We sat down with Daniel Simone for a brief history lesson.....

How did you meet Henry Hill?

I met him by sheer coincidence at a fund raiser.

What interested you in writing the Lufthansa Heist?

When the robbery took place in 1978, I lived in the vicinities of Kennedy Airport.  This brazen felony made blazoning headlines, and it entranced the public. Initially, Lufthansa disclosed that the amount of the theft was $2,000,000, then $3,000,000, and every week the total rose and rose. It was fascinating because the NYPD and the Port Authority suspected with reasonable certainty who had done it, but couldn’t muster sufficient evidence for a probable cause to arrest anyone. I also had another motivation inspiring me to write about this ballsy affront on Lufthansa, a remarkable coincidence. At that time, I was into a relationship with a young lady who was a Lufthansa stewardess, and for that reason I felt an intangible attachment to the event. And the media sensationalized it as if it were scripted in Hollywood, which glamorized what would have been just another burglary.

What was it like working on the book with Henry Hill?

It was tough. Henry often strayed from the subject, and wandered from one irrelevant topic to another. He seemed to find more pleasure in sharing his cooking recipes with me. (I, too, try my hand at cooking). Then on many days, Henry’s memory was hazy, and quite frequently he simply didn’t feel like discussing Lufthansa. He’d be anxious to move on with the morning and dive into unrelated activities, painting, signing promotional merchandise–and drinking.

Talk about the upcoming case and what it means?

I’m assuming you’re referring to the Vincent Asaro case. I spent almost two years interviewing Henry–and some of those sessions were videotaped. I had the collaboration of the two FBI agents who spearheaded the investigation (they wrote the forward and the afterward in my book). I also had the invaluable cooperation of Ed McDonald, the former US Attorney who was in charge of the case. (Incidentally, he played himself in Goodfellas). In my Notes and Sources page of the book, I name numerous individuals who were peripherally involved in the robbery; some on the sides of the authorities, and several down in the bowels of the underworld. Additionally, I managed to review a series of FBI inter-office memorandums circulated by those agents who were assisting the lead investigators identifying prospective suspects.  And in the end of this exhausting mission, Vincent Asaro’s name never came up...