Vincent Asaro acquitted in Lufthansa heist trial

By Gabriel Rom

A federal jury found alleged former Bonanno crime family capo and Howard Beach resident Vincent Asaro not guilty of one count of racketeering conspiracy and two extortion-related counts Thursday in a riveting trial that involved the Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport.

Brooklyn prosecutors contended Asaro, 80, had a role in planning the early morning robbery at JFK in which as much as $6 million in cash, gold and jewels were stolen—the largest robbery in New York state history. The December 1978 incident became the basis for the movie “Goodfellas.”

Asaro was accused of participating in racketeering, extortion, theft and loan-sharking schemes dating back decades. The Bonanno crime family had deep roots in Queens and Asaro had a club called Afters (supposedly after the Lufthansa robbery) in South Ozone Park.

The trial, which began Oct. 19, involved more than 70 witnesses, most of them for the prosecution, and went to the jury Monday.

Gaspare Valenti, Asaro’s cousin, was the government’s main witness. According to news reports, Asaro’s lawyer Elizabeth Macedonio called the cooperating witnesses “despicable people” and “accomplished liars” who were willing to say anything to save themselves.

Asaro was arrested in 2014, along with four other members of the Bonanno crime family, which was part of a broader organized-crime sweep.

He was facing life in prison if convicted.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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