The Chicago Syndicate: John Ragano
Showing posts with label John Ragano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Ragano. Show all posts

Monday, October 19, 2015

Vincent Asaro's Goodfellas Airport Cash and Jewelry Heist Trial to Begin Today

For nearly four decades, it remained one of America's most infamous unsolved crimes: on Dec. 11, 1978, a crew of masked men stole $6 million in cash and jewelry from a Lufthansa Airlines cargo building at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

The brazen heist, which helped inspire the gangster movie "Goodfellas," left authorities largely frustrated until last year, when federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged Vincent Asaro, a member of the Bonanno organized crime family, with participating in the theft.

His criminal trial is set to begin today in Brooklyn federal court before an anonymous jury.

Most of the other suspected participants in the robbery disappeared, were killed or died, making it difficult for authorities to piece the case together.

"Once you kill one guy, you gotta kill them all, because otherwise they'll get scared," said Howard Abadinsky, an organized crime expert and a professor at St John's University in New York. "He’s one of the few guys that's still alive."

Asaro, now 80, is accused of a litany of crimes stretching from 1968 to 2013, including murder, racketeering, arson and robbery. He was arrested alongside four other alleged members of the Bonanno family, who were charged with crimes unrelated to the Lufthansa heist.

Those defendants, Asaro's son Jerome, Jack Bonventre, Thomas DiFiore and John Ragano, all pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 21 to 90 months.

Asaro's defense lawyer, Gerald McMahon, did not respond to a request for comment but has said Asaro denies all the allegations.

The only man ever convicted for the Lufthansa heist was Louis Werner, a cargo agent and the inside man. Werner passed along the idea for the robbery in order to settle gambling debts.

The robbery's proceeds, most of which were never recovered, would be worth nearly $22 million today.

James Burke, an associate of the rival Lucchese crime family known as "Jimmy the Gent," was long considered the mastermind of the robbery; he died in prison in 1996 while serving time for murder. Burke inspired the character played by Robert De Niro in "Goodfellas."

"To pull it off at an airport – you hate to say criminals should get credit, but you have to credit them for pulling it off," Abadinsky said.

The investigation got a break in 2013, when federal agents dug up human remains from the basement of a home tied to Burke based on information from a cooperating witness. The remains were identified as Paul Katz, a former Burke associate.

Asaro and Burke strangled Katz with a dog chain in 1969 after becoming suspicious he was an informant, prosecutors said.

The evidence against Asaro includes recordings made by several cooperators, including high-ranking members of the Bonanno family, who hope to receive witness protection, according to court papers.

One expected witness at trial is Joseph Massino, a former boss of the Bonanno family who has previously testified for the government.

As recently as 2011, court filings say, Asaro was recorded complaining that he hadn’t gotten his share thanks to Burke. "We never got our right money, what we were supposed to get," he said, according to prosecutors.

The jury won't hear about the string of murders allegedly carried out in the robbery's wake to eliminate potential informants. Earlier this month, the judge overseeing the trial ruled that evidence of the killings would be too prejudicial to Asaro, who is not accused of carrying them out.

Asaro is charged with several other crimes, including setting a building on fire in Queens, robbing Federal Express of $1 million in gold salts, soliciting the murder of his cousin in the 1980s and loan sharking as recently as 2013.

Thanks to Joseph Ax.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Details on Bonanno Family Captain Vincent Asaro Indictment for Participating in the 1978 Lufthansa #Goodfellas Heist Plus Murder

Earlier today, an indictment was unsealed charging five members of the Bonanno organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the Bonanno family) variously with racketeering conspiracy, including predicate acts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation to murder, robbery and extortion, and other crimes. Bonanno family administration members and captains Vincent Asaro and Thomas Di Fiore; Bonanno family captain Jerome Asaro; Bonanno family acting captain Jack Bonventre; and Bonanno family soldier John Ragano were arrested earlier today and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marilyn D. Go at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.

The charges and arrests were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.

“As alleged, Vincent Asaro devoted his adult life to the Bonanno crime family, with a criminal career that spanned decades. Far from a code of honor, theirs was a code of violence and brute force. Those suspected of cooperating with law enforcement paid with their lives. Asaro helped pull off the 1978 Lufthansa robbery—still the largest bank robbery in New York history. Neither age nor time dimmed Asaro’s ruthless ways, as he continued to order violence to carry out mob business in recent months. The arrests and charges announced today are a testament to the relentless pursuit of justice by law enforcement,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the FBI for its extraordinary work in bringing these defendants to account for the charged crimes.



“These ‘goodfellas’ thought they had a license to steal, a license to kill, and a license to do whatever they wanted. However, today’s arrests of the five members of the Bonanno crime family brings an end to their violent and ruthless ways. As alleged in the indictment, Vincent Asaro and his co-conspirators were not only involved in typical mob activities of extortion and murder, but Asaro himself was in on one of the most notorious heists—the Lufthansa robbery in 1978. It may be decades later, but the FBI’s determination to investigate and bring wiseguys to justice will never waver,” stated FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos.

As alleged in the indictment and a detention memorandum filed by the government, over the last 45 years, Vincent Asaro and various co-conspirators, including his son Jerome Asaro, engaged in a pattern of violence and threats of violence in order to profit from their illegal activity and evade prosecution. The indictment announced today is the result of a long-term investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that utilized, among other law enforcement techniques, consensual recordings, cooperating witnesses and confidential sources, and electronic and visual surveillance.

1978 Lufthansa Heist

Vincent Asaro is charged for his participation in the 1978 robbery at the Lufthansa Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport of more than $5 million in United States currency and approximately $1 million in jewelry. Asaro, Lucchese crime family associate James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, and their co-conspirators each expected to receive approximately $750,000 in cash and large quantities of gold jewelry from the proceeds of the robbery.

Murder of Paul Katz

Vincent Asaro is charged with the murder of Paul Katz, who disappeared in 1969, and Asaro and his son Jerome are also charged with accessory after the fact for their roles in moving Katz’s body to prevent its discovery by law enforcement. Vincent Asaro and Burke allegedly strangled Katz with a dog chain because they believed he was cooperating with law enforcement. They then buried his body in the basement of a vacant home in Queens, New York, where it remained until the mid-1980s when, alerted to a state law enforcement investigation into Katz’s murder, Vincent Asaro directed Jerome Asaro and another individual to dig up Katz’s body and move it. Almost 35 years later, in June 2013, the FBI executed a search warrant at the Queens residence, which was still owned by the Burke family, and recovered remnants of Katz’s remains buried in the basement. Katz’s identity was confirmed through DNA testing.

Solicitation to Murder

Vincent Asaro and Jerome Asaro are charged with solicitation to murder their cousin, identified in the indictment as John Doe #1, because he was perceived to be a “rat” for testifying against another family member in a federal trial on fraud charges.

Armed Robberies

Vincent Asaro and Jerome Asaro are charged variously with participating in additional armed robberies and armed robbery conspiracies, including the robbery of approximately $1 million in gold salts.

Extortion

All five defendants, including Thomas Di Fiore, the highest ranking member of the Bonanno family at liberty, are charged with using and conspiring to use extortionate means to collect an extension of credit from a Bonanno family associate. During an April 26, 2013 consensual recording of Vincent Asaro and John Ragano, Ragano asked Asaro, “When do we stab this guy...in the neck? That’s what I want to know.” Asaro responded, “Stab him today.” Asaro continued, “I told you to give him a...beating. Give him a...beating, I told you that. Listen, I sent three guys there to give him a beating already, so it won’t be the first time he got a beating from me.”

The case has been assigned to United States Senior District Judge Allyne R. Ross. If convicted, Vincent Asaro faces life imprisonment, and each of his co-defendants faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nicole M. Argentieri and Alicyn Cooley.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Defendants:

Vincent Asaro
Age: 78
Howard Beach, New York

Jerome Asaro
Age: 55
Bethpage, New York

Jack Bonventre
Age: 45
Campbell Hall, New York

Thomas Di Fiore, also known as “Tommy D”
Age: 70
Commack, New York

John Ragano, also known as “Bazoo”
Age: 52
Rockaway, New York

When You Get Serious About Tailgating


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