NY mob­ster ac­quit­ted over ‘Good­fel­las’ heist

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

NEW YORK: An 80-year-old re­puted mob­ster ac­cused of a spec­tac­u­lar 1978 New York air­port heist im­mor­tal­ized in Martin Scors­ese’s hit movie “Good­fel­las” was ac­quit­ted Thurs­day in fed­eral court in Brook­lyn. Vin­cent Asaro, al­legedly a mem­ber of the no­to­ri­ous Bo­nanno crime fam­ily, was ac­cused of mur­der, violence and ex­tor­tion that sup­pos­edly spanned 45 years from the late 1960s un­til 2013. He was found not guilty on all counts, said a spokes­woman for the US at­tor­ney’s of­fice in Brook­lyn. Asaro, all smiles as he left the court­room, said he wanted to “have a good meal” with his fam­ily. In the big­gest heist on US soil, armed mob­sters stole $5 mil­lion in cash and nearly $1 mil­lion in jewels from a Lufthansa Air­lines vault at John F Kennedy air­port on Dec 11, 1978. The value of the booty to­day is es­ti­mated at around $20 mil­lion. Asaro was the first, and prob­a­bly last, al­leged mem­ber of the mafia to be pros­e­cuted over the heist. The trial, which be­gan on Oct 19, spot­lighted the se­cre­tive work­ings of the Ital­ian mafia, in­clud­ing re­venge mur­ders, rack­e­teer­ing, rob­bery and il­le­gal gam­bling.

Ju­rors be­gan de­lib­er­a­tions on Mon­day night and took a break for the Veter­ans Day hol­i­day on Wed­nes­day. The ac­quit­tal of Asaro, who had been fac­ing life in prison if con­victed, is a stun­ning blow for fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Brook­lyn.

Scors­ese Treat­ment Ap­par­ently pointed out to au­thor­i­ties by a cousin, Asaro was ar­rested by the FBI in Jan 2014 in a se­ries of raids that also net­ted his mid­dle-aged son Jerome and three other sus­pects. Pros­e­cu­tors also ac­cused him of or­der­ing the mur­der of a cousin in the 1980s who man­aged to es­cape to Florida on a tip-off. Asaro and his son were also charged with par­tic­i­pat­ing in ad­di­tional armed rob­beries, in­clud­ing around $1 mil­lion in gold salts. The Lufthansa heist be­came leg­endary af­ter its al­leged mas­ter­mind James Burke - also known as Jimmy the Gent - killed off mem­bers of the crew to avoid be­ing shopped to the po­lice. The judge in Asaro’s trial barred those mur­ders from be­ing dis­cussed in court.

Scors­ese im­mor­tal­ized the crim­i­nal feat in his Os­car­win­ning 1990 movie “Good­fel­las”, long con­sid­ered one of the best crime films of all time. Burke, who died of can­cer in prison in 1996, was the in­spi­ra­tion for Robert De Niro’s char­ac­ter Jimmy Con­way in the film. Asaro was not de­picted in the movie, which earned six Os­car nom­i­na­tions in­clud­ing for best pic­ture and best di­rec­tor. Joe Pesci took home the film’s only golden stat­uette for best sup­port­ing ac­tor.

Asaro also stood ac­cused, with Burke, of stran­gling Paul Katz with a dog chain in 1969 be­cause they sus­pected he was co­op­er­at­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors, bury­ing his body un­der the ce­ment base­ment floor of an empty home. In the mid-1980s, Asaro al­legedly or­dered his son Jerome and an­other in­di­vid­ual to dig up the body and move it to avoid de­tec­tion. In 2013, the FBI re­cov­ered a right hand and wrist, hair, teeth, cloth­ing and hu­man tis­sue iden­ti­fied by DNA as be­long­ing to Katz from the Burke fam­ily home in Queens. —AFP

—AP

NEW YORK: In this Jan 23, 2014 file photo, FBI agents flank Vin­cent Asaro as they es­cort the re­puted mob­ster from FBI of­fices.

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