The Chicago Syndicate: Vincent Asaro
Showing posts with label Vincent Asaro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vincent Asaro. Show all posts

Friday, November 13, 2015

Vincent Asaro #NotGuilty in ‘Goodfellas’ Lufthansa heist

Vincent Asaro, the reputed mobster charged in connection with the notorious 1978 Lufthansa robbery, walked out of federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday a free man after a jury cleared him of racketeering and other charges.

The verdicts, delivered after little more than two days of deliberations, left many in the courtroom stunned, most visibly prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office, which had spent years building a case against Mr. Asaro, 80, with testimony from high-ranking Mafia figures and recordings by an informer for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But the case relied heavily on the cooperation of some of those Mafia figures, some of them admitted killers, and the jury rejected the government’s accusation that Mr. Asaro helped carry out a criminal enterprise engaged in murder and robbery, most infamously the Lufthansa robbery, which figured prominently in the plot of the 1990 Martin Scorsese film “Goodfellas.”

When the juror chosen to deliver the verdict said “Not guilty” on the first count — the racketeering charge, by far the most complicated and serious of the charges — there was a startled silence in the courtroom.

After the “not guilty” verdict on the second and third counts, for extortion, Mr. Asaro pumped his right fist in the air three times. Once the jury left, he clapped sharply, then hugged his lawyers. “Your Honor, thank you very much,” he said to the judge, Allyne R. Ross.

As he walked out of the courthouse on Cadman Plaza, Mr. Asaro, who had been jailed since January 2014, raised his hands in the air and shouted, “Free!”

Flanked by his lawyers, Elizabeth Macedonio and Diane Ferrone, he fielded a flurry of questions from reporters, who asked what he was going to do (“play some paddleball”), where he was heading (“to have a good meal and see my family”) and what he was going to eat (“anything but a bologna sandwich”). Indeed, he appeared delighted by the commotion his acquittal had created. “John Gotti didn’t get this much attention,” he said of the Gambino boss, who was notoriously hard to convict.

The jury, in Federal District Court, had begun deliberations late on Monday and continued through the week, with a break on Wednesday for Veterans Day. The jurors, whom the judge granted anonymity, did not appear to depart through any public areas or exits in the court.

To secure a conviction on the racketeering count — for which Mr. Asaro might have faced up to life in prison — prosecutors would have had to prove two or more of the 14 racketeering acts they alleged.

During a three-week trial, prosecutors argued that Mr. Asaro, whose father and grandfather were members of the Mafia, had committed murder and robbery and performed shakedowns and other crimes on behalf of his Mafia family, the Bonannos.

The most famous one was the robbery at the Lufthansa terminal at Kennedy International Airport. It was then said to be the largest cash robbery in United States history. Mr. Asaro helped plan it, prosecutors said, and his accomplices stole $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels from a cargo vault.

Although investigators had long suspected the Mafia’s involvement, they had not brought charges against any reputed Mafia member until the case against Mr. Asaro, leaving the matter officially unsolved for decades.

Prosecutors brought a queue of informers who testified about Mr. Asaro’s role in the Mafia and in various crimes. Evidence also included surveillance photos from the 1970s on, and the testimony of several F.B.I. agents who detailed the man’s comings and goings for several decades. But the key to the prosecution’s case was an informer named Gaspare Valenti, Mr. Asaro’s cousin. Tired of Mr. Asaro’s berating him, and broke, Mr. Valenti testified he approached the F.B.I. in 2008 and began telling them about Mr. Asaro’s crimes. That had helped prosecutors link the Lufthansa crime, and many others, to Mr. Asaro. Mr. Valenti also recorded Mr. Asaro from 2010 to 2013.

In her closing argument, Ms. Macedonio attacked Mr. Valenti’s credibility. “Gaspare Valenti was an experienced liar,” she said. “Once you eliminate Gaspare as a reliable person,” she said, “then you won’t be able to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with regards to the crimes alleged against Vincent Asaro.”

Ms. Macedonio also argued that some other prosecution evidence — surveillance photos in which Mr. Asaro was not committing crimes, phone books from other Mafia members that listed him in them — proved nothing.

The crimes prosecutors accused Mr. Asaro of committing as part of the criminal enterprise included murder. They said he killed a man in 1969, Paul Katz, who owned a Queens warehouse where Mr. Asaro and James Burke, a Mafia associate known as Jimmy the Gent, would unload their goods. After Mr. Asaro and Mr. Burke were arrested at the warehouse, Mr. Valenti testified, they began to suspect Mr. Katz of working with the police.

One morning in 1969, Mr. Burke and Mr. Asaro arranged to meet Mr. Valenti at a house his father was building in Queens. Mr. Valenti said they brought materials for cracking into concrete, and brought Mr. Katz’s body. Mr. Valenti said Mr. Asaro revealed that they had strangled Mr. Katz with a dog chain and that they then buried him underneath the basement concrete.

In the 1980s, Mr. Valenti said, he and Mr. Asaro’s son, Jerome, moved the body after Mr. Burke, who was in prison at the time, “caught a delusion” and worried that the body would be found.

In 2013, federal agents cracked open the Queens basement and found traces of clothing and bones from Mr. Katz, according to trial testimony. Mr. Katz’s son testified at the trial, describing how his father said just before his disappearance that he was going to move the family to the country. His father was, in fact, cooperating with the police, according to trial testimony and records.

Mr. Valenti described the Lufthansa robbery in his testimony, giving what seemed to be a remarkable firsthand view of how one of the Mafia’s most noted robberies unfolded.

Mr. Burke had organized the robbery, he said, with Mr. Asaro helping. In the dark early-morning hours, a group of Mafia members and associates drove up to the Lufthansa terminal at Kennedy Airport. Several went around the front to subdue the employees, while Mr. Valenti and another man forced a guard to open the overhead door to the terminal. They went upstairs, where they burst into the vault. They thought there would be only a couple million dollars in cash; instead, there was $5 million, along with emeralds, diamonds and gold chains.

The robbery was front page news, and barely a decade later found its way onto the big screen, in “Goodfellas.”

As Mr. Asaro packed into the passenger seat of a white Mercedes outside the courthouse, he offered some words of caution: “Don’t believe everything you see in the movies,” he said.

Still, Mr. Asaro could not help taking a last jab at the prosecution. “Don’t let them see the body in the trunk.”

Thanks to Stephanie Clifford.

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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