Alleged mob captain found not guilty in ‘Goodfellas’ heist

Posted at 4:26 PM, Nov 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-12 16:29:17-05

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A federal jury in New York found alleged former Bonanno crime family captain Vincent Asaro not guilty Thursday of one count of racketeering conspiracy and two extortion-related counts.

Asaro, 80, was accused in connection with the famed 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK International Airport that helped inspire part of the plot in the 1990 film "Goodfellas."

After the verdict was announced, he broke out in a big smile, pumped his fists and gave one of his attorneys a huge hug.

The prosecution's case relied on recordings provided by Asaro's cousin, Gaspare Valenti.

The mobsters involved in the Lufthansa heist were themselves surprised by the size of the take: about $5 million in cash and nearly $1 million in jewels from an airline cargo building. It was "the largest bank robbery in New York history," according to a 2014 release from the U.S. Justice Department.

Later in his career, Asaro found his alleged way of life more difficult. In recent recordings, he said he worried about losing his status in the mob and complained of being "broke."

Valenti decided to cooperate with the FBI in 2008. "I have remorse in me and need ways to support my family," he said in a call to the agency.

The trial, which began October 19, has involved more than 70 witnesses, most of them for the prosecution.