Vincent Asaro a former capo in the Bonanno crime family is heading to trial on racketeering conspiracy charges which include his role in the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist. Asaro is also being charged with the mob murder of Paul Katz back in 1969. Prosecutors in an attempt to “complete the story” of the heist and its aftermath wanted to detail the gruesome murders ordered by Jimmy Burke in the wake of the robbery in an effort to halt a federal probe. Brooklyn Judge Allyne Ross shot down that request, saying that since Asaro is not accused of taking part in any of those killings would prejudice Asaro’s right for a fair trial. Prosecutors hoped to use the killings to help corroborate testimony from a key witness and help to establish a close criminal relationship between co-conspirators in the heist.
Prosecutors argued that the murders provided context in the testimony of key witness Gaspare Valenti the cousin of Asaro. His testimony into the death of mobster Tommy DeSimone would complete the story of the relationship between Asaro,Burke,Valenti, and DeSimone. According to Valenti, he turned rat because he feared that he may also be killed. In a statement the judge said that at some point the collapse of relationships between the co-conspirators after the robbery cease to be an epilogue into the event and begins to tell a story of a new set of crimes prejudicing the defendant. Along with DeSimone prosecutors planned to use details of the murders of alleged co-conspirators Marty Krugman, the wig store owner who supplied plans for the heist, insider man Joe “Buddha” Manri, and Robery “Frenchy” McMahon.
Another break for Asaro came when the judge ruled that a missing person report filed with police by Katz wife after his disappearance could be used by the defense. Ms. Katz claims in the report that her husband left home that night to meet with Lucchese crime family associate Joseph Allegro whom he had been arrested with in a previous robbery. Defense attorney’s will surely use this evidence to argue that it was Allegro who was likely responsible for Katz murder and not Asaro. Prosecutors argued against the use of the report because the information regarding Katz intentions to meet with Allegro was unreliable because the source of the information nor the time it was actually supplied to police was established. But the judge ruled that at the time Ms. Katz had no motive to make a false statement about the disappearance of her husband or his intentions.
There is still plenty of evidence linking Asaro to Katz’s murder, including the testimony of Valenti, who told prosecutors he helped bury Katz after he was killed by Asaro and Burke in 1969. He also claims he and Vincent’s son Jerome Asaro dug up the remains in the mid 1980’s and reburied them in the location in which the FBI discovered them in 2013. But prosecutors didn’t leave empty handed as they did win one key ruling allowing the testimony of mafia rat Anthony Ruggiero Jr. He will testify that his late Gambino family soldier father helped Asaro and Burke fence jewelry stolen in the heist. Trial testimony is set to begin on October 19.