Lufthansa Heist: Goodfellas Robbery Solved Thanks To Secret Tapes, New Witnesses

Goodfellas featured the 1978 Lufthansa heist as one of its key plot points, but now after close to 35 years officials say they have solved the $6 million robbery for real.

The heist took place in the pre-dawn hours on December 11, 1978, with a team of robbers making off with cash, gold, and jewels from the Lufthansa cargo terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The only person ever caught in the case was an airline cargo agent, while several organized crime associates believed to be in on the heist turned up murdered.

Though the Lufthansa heist had long gone cold — other than being featured in the 1990 movie Goodfellas — this week authorities announced a break in the cast. They arrested 78-year-old Vincent Asaro, saying that the Bonanno crime family captain took part in the biggest heist in New York City history.

To give an idea of the scope of the Goodfellas heist, the burglars netted $6 million from Lufthansa at the time, which could would translate to close to $20 million today.

The FBI had been working to break the 35-year-old Lufthansa case, and was able to bring in a cousin of Asaro who prosecutors said was part of the heist. Investigators also pieced together four cooperating witnesses, DNA evidence, and secretly made recordings to arrest five alleged Bonanno crime family members.

“These Goodfellas thought they had a license to steal, a license to kill and a license to do whatever they wanted,” George Venizelos, head of the FBI’s New York office, said in a statement. “It may be decades later, but the FBI’s determination to investigate and bring wise guys to justice will never waver.”

The so-called Goodfellas in the Lufthansa heist are charged with racketeering, which could mean up to 20 years in prison.