In 1978 a group of bold robbers pulled one of the biggest thefts in US history in what is known as the Lufhansa heist. On Thursday one of the suspects was arrested at his New York residence and charged in the robbery and a 1969 murder.
Vincent Asaro, 78, was named along with his son, Jerome, and three other defendants in wide-ranging indictment alleging murder, robbery, extortion, arson, and other crimes from the late 1960s through last year, CBS reports.
The Asaros — who belong to the Bonanno crime family — pleaded not guilty to the charges and were denied bail after a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn.
Gerald McMahon, Vincent’s lawyer told reporters outside the courthouse his client was framed by former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino – the highest-ranking member of New York City’s five organized crime families to break the vow of silence.
McMahon said there would be no plea and his client will walk out of jail “a free man.”
The infamous Lufthansa heist, which netted $5.8 million (about $20 million today), was allegedly planned by Jimmy Burke, member of the rival Lucchesse crime family, who died in prison in 1969 while serving time for a murder conviction.
After years of investigations and dead ends, police got lucky in June of 2013 when they searched Burke’s former home and found evidence in connection with the unsolved case, said FBI Spokeswoman Kelly Langmesser.
According to reports, the evidence found is human bones, however, the identity of the remains has not been released.
The indictment accuses Asaro of helping to direct the 1978 Lufthansa Airlines heist at Kennedy airport, one of the largest cash thefts in US history.
Additionally, Vincent Asaro is charged with the 1969 murder of Paul Katz — who prosecutors say once owned a warehouse in which the gangsters stored stolen goods.
According to CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton a surprise pre-dawn raid in which FBI agents converged on four homes in Long Island and Queens resulted in the arrest of the five men connected to the Lufthansa heist.
The men were allowed to get some clothes on before being taken away for processing.
5 men taken into custody as suspects in 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK airport, FBI spokeswoman says – @Reuters
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) January 23, 2014
If you think the Lufthansa heist case could be taken out of a gangster movie, it was the other way around, as it is the inspiration for the 1990 Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta.