| NEW YORK
NEW YORK An 80-year-old reputed mobster was
found not guilty on Thursday of an alleged role in a brazen 1978
airport heist that helped inspire the Mafia movie "Goodfellas."
Vincent Asaro, whose arrest last year had supposedly closed
one of the country's most infamous unsolved crimes more than
three decades later, was cleared of murder, extortion and other
crimes by a jury in Brooklyn federal court.
The verdict is a rebuke to federal prosecutors in what may
be one of the last major Mafia trials to stem from organized
crime's heyday in New York decades ago.
Prosecutors had said Asaro waited in a decoy car with
another gangster, Jimmy Burke, about a mile from John F. Kennedy
International Airport in New York, as a group of masked men
robbed a Lufthansa Airlines cargo building of $6 million in cash
The caper was memorialized in Martin Scorsese's Academy
Award-winning 1990 film, in which Robert DeNiro played a
character based on Burke, long believed to be the mastermind of
Asaro, whom prosecutors claimed is a third-generation member
of the Bonanno crime family, was also charged with strangling a
suspected informant with a dog chain in 1969, soliciting the
murder of a relative and robbing an armored car, among other
The three-week trial featured numerous former organized
crime figures whose testimony painted a picture of the violent
life of a New York Mafioso.
Among those witnesses was Asaro's cousin, Gaspare Valenti,
who wore a wire for years and whose cooperation with authorities
led to Asaro's arrest in January 2014.
Valenti claimed to be one of the robbers in the Lufthansa
heist, delivering from the witness stand a riveting account of
the infamous crime.
Until Asaro's arrest, the only man ever charged in
connection with the robbery was a Lufthansa employee who
functioned as the inside man.
But defense lawyers argued successfully that Valenti, and
the other cooperators, were professional liars who delivered
false testimony in exchange for payments and promises of
"The government has become the pension plan" for former
mobsters, Asaro's lawyer Elizabeth Macedonio told jurors in her