• Vincent Asaro, 78-year-old alleged head of Mob family, denies charges
• Asaro was one of five suspected mobsters arrested in New York this week
• Arrests follow FBI discovery of human remains at a New York property
• Home was once owned by James 'Jimmy the Gent' Burke, who was played by Robert De Niro in Goodfellas
• This is the first time any accused member of the mafia has ever faced charges in connection with the crime
• 1978 heist was one of the largest cash thefts in American history
By Daily Mail Reporter
As the FBI charged five alleged members of the New York mafia, including a suspect in the 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK, an attorney joked about the case's Goodfellas connection.
During a brief hearing at a Brooklyn court on Thursday, Vincent Asaro, the alleged leader of the Bonanno organized crime family, pleaded not guilty to robbery charges.
After the hearing, his attorney Gerald McMahon said: 'I got a call from Martin Scorsese. He wants to do a sequel to Goodfellas and it seems that federal prosecutors are providing him with the script.'
Asaro, 78, was charged with the theft of $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry from the Lufthansa Terminal at JFK airport on December 11, 1978.
At the time, it was the biggest cash heist ever in the U.S. The stolen $5 million would be worth $17.9 million in 2013 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Four other men, who prosecutors claimed were members of the New York-based gang, were arrested for other crimes.
'Vincent Asaro devoted his adult life to the Bonanno crime family, with a criminal career that spanned decades,' U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
'Neither age nor time dimmed Asaro's ruthless ways, as he continued to order violence to carry out mob business in recent months.'
The attorney for Asaro, who has been held without bail, said he would fight the charges.
Mr McMahon added that his client had been framed by shady turncoat gangsters, including former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino - the highest-ranking member of the city's five organized crime families to break the mob's vow of silence.
Massino 'is one of the worst witnesses I've ever seen,' Mr McMahon said. He added that Asaro had given him orders that 'there will be no plea and he will walk out the door a free man'.
The gangsters involved in the infamous heist had each been promised a $750,000 payment that most didn't get 'either because they were killed first or it was never given to them,' according to court papers filed in the Brooklyn court on Thursday.
'These "goodfellas" thought they had a license to steal, a license to kill, and a license to do whatever they wanted,' George Venizelos, FBI assistant director-in-charge, said.
Asaro resented the non-payment, according to a 2011 recording made by a cooperating witness.
'We never got our right money, what we were supposed to get, we got f***ed all around,' Asaro allegedly told the witness, according to the papers. 'That f***ng Jimmy [Burke] kept everything.'
Burke, the suspected mastermind of the heist, died in prison in 1996 while serving time for the murder of a drug dealer. Actor Robert De Niro played a character based on Burke in the film.
'A lot of the main characters, like Burke, either died, disappeared or were murdered,' said Anthony DeStefano, a veteran New York crime reporter and author of the 2013 book Vinny Gorgeous: The Ugly Rise and Fall of a New York Mobster.
A break in the case came after an FBI investigation of a New York property tied to Burke last summer turned up human remains.
The Thursday indictment charges Asaro with the murder of Paul Katz in 1969, as well as robbery, conspiracy and other crimes tied to the 1978 heist.
Asaro and Burke allegedly strangled Katz with a dog chain because they thought he was cooperating with investigators, prosecutors said.
His body was first buried in the basement of a vacant house in the New York borough of Queens and later moved to the location where it was found last summer, they said.
The papers also charge the men were involved in a 1981 arson at a building where a businessman had intended to open a nightclub catering to black people in the then mostly white neighborhood in Queens, where the accused gangsters socialized.
The papers also mention a discussion between Asaro and the other indicted men about more recent crimes, including extortion, loan sharking and violence, as recently as 2013.
Asaro was charged with four criminal counts, including robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, in connection with the Lufthansa heist.
He is also charged racketeering and extortion for other alleged criminal activity.
Vincent Asaro and his son, Jerome Asaro, 55, are charged with stealing $1.25 million in gold salts from a Federal Express employee in February 1984. They are also accused of robbery conspiracy in the theft of $1 million from an armored car in the mid-1980s.
Three others defendants, Jack Bonventre, 45; Thomas 'Tommy D' Di Fiore, 70; and John 'Bazoo' Ragano, 52, are charged with multiple crimes, including racketeering and extortion, unrelated to the Lufthansa heist, officials said.
Jerome Asaro and Ragano, wearing baggy sweatsuits and sneakers, pleaded not guilty to all charges in Brooklyn on Thursday. Bonventre did not enter a plea as his lawyer was not yet present. Di Fiore was not present in court.
Much of the money from the 1978 heist has not been recovered, DeStefano, who writes for Newsday, said.
'Some of it went up the chain in tribute to the Luccheses, some of it went to Burke and his businesses and some of it is still unaccounted for,' he claimed.
The exact connection between the search of Burke's home in Queens and the Lufthansa heist has not been made clear by the FBI as of Thursday.
Before today the only person ever convicted in connection with the robbery was airport insider, Louis Werner - who tipped off the men who stole the money.
The theft occurred in the middle of the night on December 11, 1978 and netted the robbers more than $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels.
At the time, it was the largest heist ever in America and led to a decades-long search for the perpetrators.
Six masked gunman took 64 minutes to steal the packets of cash, toss them into a van and escape.
The FBI has always agreed with the plot of the movie Goodfellas about all loose connections to the robbery being killed off by paranoid mob bosses.