Vincent Asaro, a notorious figure with ties to the infamous Lufthansa heist at JFK Airport, immortalized in the classic film “Goodfellas,” has passed away at the age of 86. This news comes three years after his release from prison on compassionate grounds due to health concerns.
Asaro’s name will forever be associated with the audacious 1978 airport robbery, in which a gang of mobsters made off with nearly $6 million. Remarkably, he managed to evade conviction for his role in the heist until 2015, when an unrelated road rage arson conviction finally caught up with him.
In the year 2020, Asaro’s ailing health, exacerbated by a stroke he suffered behind bars, led to his release amid the looming threat of the COVID-19 virus within prison walls. Sadly, this chapter in his life has now come to a close, with reports confirming his passing.
Born in Ozone Park in 1937, Vincent Asaro followed in the footsteps of his father and uncle, becoming deeply entrenched in the world of organized crime. His ascent through the ranks of the Bonanno crime family culminated in his appointment as a captain by the mid-1970s.
The Lufthansa heist, orchestrated by James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, a Lucchese family associate immortalized by Robert De Niro in “Goodfellas,” saw Asaro play a pivotal role. Alongside fellow gangster Tommy “Tommy Two Guns” DeSimone, portrayed by Joe Pesci in the movie, they hatched their plan at Robert’s Lounge, Burke’s dive bar in Queens, with the expectation of a $2 million haul.
On December 11, 1978, the gang executed their audacious heist at a Lufthansa hangar in Queens, making off with dozens of boxes containing cash and jewelry valued at over $6 million at the time. Gaspare Valenti, Asaro’s own cousin, turned mob informant and testified at the 2015 trial, providing a glimpse into the magnitude of the theft. “We loaded 50 boxes,” Valenti revealed. “There were burlap sacks of gold chains, crates of watches, metal boxes with three drawers in them — and each drawer had diamonds and emeralds in it. And we loaded everything into the van. It was euphoria. We thought there was $2 million in cash and there was $6 million. Without the gold. Without the German money.”
Despite his cousin’s testimony against him, Asaro managed to escape conviction for his alleged involvement in the heist, as well as an unrelated 1969 gangland murder of mob associate Paul Katz. In a surprising twist, Valenti, who faced a potential 20-year prison sentence, received probation for cooperating with federal authorities.
However, Asaro’s respite was short-lived, as he found himself back in legal trouble in 2017. This time, he dispatched a group of henchmen, including the grandson of former Gambino crime boss John “Dapper Don” Gotti, to set fire to the car of a driver who had cut him off at a traffic light on April 1, 2012. In court, Asaro admitted his involvement, stating, “I made arrangements for someone to take care of it, and it was done.” Consequently, he pleaded guilty and received an eight-year prison sentence, which ultimately led to his early release in 2020.
The exact cause of Asaro’s death remains shrouded in mystery, leaving his family and the public with unanswered questions. His funeral is scheduled to be held at St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Queens on Friday.
Vincent Asaro’s life story reads like a cinematic thriller, filled with heists, mob connections, and unexpected twists and turns. While his criminal exploits may have come to an end, his name will forever be etched in the annals of organized crime history.