Reputed New York mobster faces trial for 1978 'Goodfellas' heist

80-year-old accused of taking part in crime immortalised in Martin Scorsese’s movie

Reputed NY Mobster Faces Trial for Infamous 1978 'Goodfellas' Heist

A mobster is set to go on trial in New York on charges he had a role in an infamous mob heist immortalised in Martin Scorsese's 1990 movie Goodfellas.

Vincent Asaro, 80, reputedly a member of the Bonanno crime family, was summoned to court on Monday and is accused of murder, violence and extortion that allegedly spanned 45 years from the late 1960s to 2013. He pleads not guilty.

In what was the biggest heist on US soil, armed mobsters stole $5m (£3.2m) cash and nearly $1m worth of jewels from a Lufthansa Airlines vault at JFK airport in New York. The value of the booty today is estimated at around $20m.

US prosecutors say Asaro strangled Paul Katz, a presumed informant, with a dog chain in 1969. His body parts were discovered in a New York basement in 2013.

Prosecutor Lindsay Gerdes narrated the grisly murder to jurors, saying: "The man with 'death before dishonour' tattooed on his forearm sits in this courtroom today. That man is Vincent Asaro."

Asaro's lawyers say there is a lack of evidence against their client and that the government's star witness wore a wire for five years, The Guardian reports. Asaro was arrested by the FBI in January 2014.

Jimmy the Gent

The 1978 heist became legendary after its alleged mastermind, James Burke – also known as Jimmy the Gent – killed off members of the gang to avoid being shopped to the police.

Asaro, Burke and their co-conspirators allegedly expected to receive around $750,000 in cash and large quantities of gold jewellery after the robbery. Scorsese immortalised the criminal feat in his Oscar-winning 1990 film Goodfellas.

Burke, who died of cancer in prison in 1996, was the inspiration for Robert De Niro's character Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas. Asaro was not depicted in the film.

No Godfather or Goodfella Fans for This Trial