goodfellas lufthansa arrestWarner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

The case of a notorious 1978 heist at New York's John F. Kennedy airport that inspired a plotline in Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas" got a huge break on Thursday when the FBI apprehended one of its suspected participants.

The FBI arrested alleged mobster Vincent Asaro, now 78, for his purported role in the theft of $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry from a Lufthansa cargo building at JFK more than 35 years ago. At the time, it was the biggest cash heist ever in the United States; today, that haul would be worth approximately $20 million.

Long unsolved, ABC News reports that the Lufthansa heist "led to a massive, years-long investigative effort that ultimately proved fruitless as wiseguys and their associates believed involved in the robbery disappeared or died at the hands of nervous crime bosses."

One such crime boss, James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, was believed to be the mastermind of the Lufthansa heist, and was the inspiration for Robert De Niro's character, Jimmy Conway, in 1990's "Goodfellas." ABC reports that the FBI suspects Burke "was responsible for killing off almost anyone who could directly connect him to the notorious caper."

Asaro, along with his son, Jerome, and three other defendants, was indicted on murder, robbery, extortion, arson, and bookmaking, among other charges. The group was targeted during a months-long investigation by the FBI into new evidence that suggested the body of a man who was believed to have participated in the heist was buried on the Long Island -- on Burke's former property.

Burke died in prison in 1996 while serving time for murdering a drug dealer.

[via Los Angeles Times, ABC News]
5 Arrested In 1978 'Goodfellas' Heist

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