NEW YORK - After 35 years, the daring Lufthansa heist of $6 million in cash and jewels at JFK International airport had become the stuff of legend, thanks to the Goodfellas movie, while the robbers remained on the loose.
The only person ever convicted in the case was a Lufthansa cargo agent, described as the "inside man" in the daring pre-dawn robbery.
Federal prosecutors say that has changed with the FBI arrest Thursday of a 78-year-old reputed mobster, Vincent Asaro, who was charged with helping plan and take part in the stickup.
Federal prosecutors say in court filings that Asaro's alleged role was corroborated by four cooperating witnesses, including informants from three different crime families..
The break apparently came in 2011 when Asaro was taped allegedly complaining to an FBI informant that he never got his cut from the Lufthansa heist.
The court documents say the witness, identified only as CW-1 (Cooperating Witness) also helped plan the bold robbery with Asaro and the now deceased James "The Gent" Burke, who was played by Robert DeNiro in the Martin Scorsese mob film.
"We never go our right money, what we were supposed to get, we got (expletive) all around," Asaro told the witness, according to the court filing. He said that Burke "kept everything."
The document also describes the heist, saying the robbers cleaned out the vault at the airport cargo building, taking 50 boxes, each containing $125,000, and a silver box containing gold chains, watches and settings as well as German currency.
"Each person involved in the robbery was supposed to receive approximately $750,000, but according to CW-1 most did not live to receive their share (either because they were killed first or it was never given to them)," the court document says.
It notes that proceeds were giving to top bosses in the Bonanno and Luchese crime families.
Asaro was arrested in pre-dawn raids that also included other alleged mobsters on various racketeering, extortion and conspiracy charges, including Asaro's son, Jerome Asaro, 55, Jack Bonventre, 45; Thomas "Tommy D" DiFiore, 70, and John "Bazoo" Ragan, 52.
"These 'goodfellas' thought they had a license to steal, a license to kill and a license to do whatever they wanted," U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch said following the arrests. "However, today's arrests of the five members of the Bonanno crime family bring an end to their violent and ruthless ways."
The Asaros pleaded not guilty through their attorneys and were ordered held without bail at a brief appearance in federal court in Brooklyn.
"Marty (Scorsese) needed a sequel (to Goodfellas) and Loretta said she would help out," McMahon told reporters outside court, referring to the famed film director and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
McMahon accused authorities of using shady turncoat gangsters to frame his client, 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," McMahon said. He added that Asaro had given him "marching orders" that "there will be no plea and he will walk out the door a free man."
A lawyer for Jerome Asaro declined to comment.
Prosecutors describe Asaro as ruthless lifelong mobster and one-time captain in the Bonanno family who was once demoted for "robbing" members of his crew.
In a separate charge, prosecutors alleged that Asaro and Burke killed a suspected informant by strangling him with a dog chain in 1969 and buried him under concrete in a basement of a house in Queens, New York.
The court documents alleged that in the 1980s, Asaro got orders from Burke -- who was serving time in prison for another murder -- to dig up the body and move it. An informant says that Asaro had his son, Jerome, take care of the job. He allegedly hauled off a skull, bones and some clothing then recemented the area.
In 2013, however, Jerome's helper in the escapade had become a cooperating witness, and tipped off the FBI, who started digging up the basement.