The racketeering trial against Bonanno crime family captain Vincent Asaro which includes his alleged role in the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist and murder charges begins today. The 80 year old mobster has a long history in the New York mafia which includes previous convictions on lesser mafia related crimes. Prosecutors claim that Asaro successfully hid his role in the heist which was immortalized in the movie “Goodfellas” for years while others involved either went to prison or passed away. He was arrested last year after his own cousin decided to turn rat and supplied the feds with new information about Asaro’s mob crimes, including his part in the Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport.
It’s unknown exactly why Gaspare Valenti decided to turn rat, but he not only supplied the feds with information, but also agreed to wear a wire to coax more damning information from members of the Bonanno family. One theory is that Valenti has long held a grudge against Asaro after being shorted out of a cut from the $750,000 dollars Asaro was believed to have collected for his role in the robbery. A Bonanno family associate Valenti has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and will take the witness stand against Asaro and testify to his cousin’s role in the robbery and murder of suspected mob rat Paul Katz in 1969.
The robbery was orchestrated by Lucchese crime family associate James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke with the blessing of Asaro who’s Bonanno crime family considered the Kennedy airport as part of their turf. In a recording made by Valenti while wearing a wire Asaro was captured saying “We never got our right money, what we were supposed to get. … Jimmy kept everything.” According to court papers, many of the robbery conspirators failed to receive their share of the loot either because they were killed or was never handed over by Burke. As portrayed in the movie “Goodfellas” after the approx $6 million dollar Lufthansa haul Burke had many of the conspirators killed according to mob snitch Henry Hill.
Prosecutors claim that Asaro did in fact collect his share of the loot, but blew a vast majority of it at the racetrack suffering from a gambling problem. Also set to testify along with Valenti is former Bonanno family boss Joseph Massino the highest ranking mafia member to ever become a government informant. According to Massino he received a case filled with gold and jewelry from the robbery as tribute from Asaro since he was Asaro’s boss in the Bonanno family crew. Asaro would go on to rise in the ranks of the NY mafia to captain of his own crew before being bumped back down to the soldier in the 1990’s due to unpaid mob loans from his gambling addiction.
Asaro at one point found himself as a soldier in a crew led by his own son Jerome “Jerry” Asaro and was captured on tape saying “Jerry’s for Jerry,” “I lost my son. I lost my son when I made him a skipper. I lost my son when I put him there.” Jerome was arrested along with his father last year on racketeering charges, but has already plead guilty to his role in the exhumation of Katz remains in the 80’s and arson. The younger Asaro is now serving a 7.5 year prison sentence for his crimes. By 2013 Vincent was back in the good graces of the Bonanno family and found himself promoted back to capo after a string of arrest of then high profile Bonanno members.
Before his arrest last year it was believed Asaro had at one point become a member of an administration panel which ran the Bonanno crime family. By this time the feds were already closing in on him as information was beginning to come in about the robbery and his other mafia crimes. If convicted the elder mobster could spend the rest of his life behind bars and become another in a long line of mafia casualties as Omerta the mob’s code of silence continues to dissolve.