One of the largest heists in American history occurred in December of 1978 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York when an informant, Louis Werner, tipped off Martin Krugman, a bookmaker and member of the Lucchese crime organization to whom Werner owed a large sum, that millions of dollars in cash and jewels were due to arrive on a Lufthansa flight and would be stored over a weekend in a particular vault on the grounds of JFK. Jimmy Burke’s mob, a sub-organization of Lucchese’s, took an estimated $6,000,000 in cash and jewels.
The Lufthansa heist has been the subject of three films, including two made-for-TV movies, The 10 Million Dollar Get-Away and The Big Heist, and one major motion picture, Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas which had an all-star “bad guy” cast of Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta.
Wiseguy, a book written in 1985 by journalist Nicholas Pileggi, was the primary source material for the movie GoodFellas. Wiseguy traces the history of Henry Hill beginning in his youthful days as an errand runner at mobster Paul Viori’s cabstand in Brooklyn through his tumultuous days as a chief operative in Jimmy Burke’s organization.
Born into an Irish working class family, young Henry Hill was tantalized by the glamour of the criminal world which he observed at Viori’s place of business. As a dependable foot soldier, Hill was quickly given adult responsibilities, including parking mob limousines though he could not see over the steering wheel without the aid of a telephone directory for a booster seat. As he grew older, Hill participated in countless criminal enterprises including illegal cigarette sales, loan sharking, arson, and point-shaving schemes involving Boston College basketball center Rick Kuhn and some of his teammates.