An 80-year-old alleged mobster was acquitted in Brooklyn Federal Court on Thursday, beating charges that he helped orchestrate the notorious Lufthansa Heist of December 11, 1978 at Kennedy Airport, among other mob-related crimes.
— OJimenez (@oajimenz) November 12, 2015
Vincent Asaro has been the only suspect to date to face trial for the heist—the biggest cash robbery in US history at the time, and the inspiration for Martin Scorsese's 1990 film Goodfellas. From the NY Times:
The verdicts, delivered after little more than two days of deliberations, left many in the courtroom stunned, most visibly prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office, which had spent years building a case against Mr. Asaro, 80, with testimony from high-ranking Mafia figures and recordings made by an informer for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
When the juror chosen to deliver the verdict said “Not guilty” on the first count — the racketeering charge, by far the most complicated and serious of the charges — there was a startled silence in the courtroom.
After the “not guilty” verdict on the second and third counts, for extortion, Mr. Asaro pumped his right fist in the air three times. Once the jury left, he clapped sharply, then hugged his lawyers. “Your Honor, thank you very much,” he said.
As he walked out of the courthouse on Cadman Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn, Mr. Asaro raised his hands in the air and shouted, “Free!”
On the night of the Lufthansa heist, James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke of the Lucchese crime family spearheaded the lift of $6 million in cash and jewelry from the airline's cargo hold, allegedly with Asaro's help. According to prosecutors, Asaro had an "unbreakable bond" with Burke.
Asaro's lawyers argued that the prosecution had relied too heavily on an informant who had incentive to rat on Asaro, in order to avoid his own prison sentences.
Asaro's cousin, Gaspare Valenti, came forward to the FBI in 2008, and helped investigators link the Lufthansa heist to Asaro. As a result, prosecutors also charged Asaro in the 1969 killing one Paul Katz, the owner of the Queens warehouse where Burke planned to unload the stolen goods. Valenti testified that he helped Asaro bury Katz under the basement concrete in a Queens apartment, after Asaro strangled the man to death with a dog chain.
After the heist, Asaro managed to survive the systematic killing of many of his cohorts—Goodfellas takes us through that pretty thoroughly—but allegedly squandered his $500,000 take gambling at race tracks, according to the AP.