When fact becomes fiction only to then become fact again, several decades later, those innocent bystanders otherwise known as fans are treated to multiple retellings of the exact same event. Thankfully, in the case of the infamous Lufthansa heist, the event only grows more and more fascinating with each new detail. The takeover, a focal point of the Martin Scorsese classic Goodfellas (Duh.), took place at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1978, netting several real-life Goodfellas a quick but tedious $6 million. With mafia leader Vincent Asaro of New York's Bonanno crime family currently on trial for taking a cut of haul, the heist was explicitly recounted in court with a fascinating attention to detail.

When announcing the Asaro’s indictment in 2014, prosecutors revealed they had finally been successful at landing charges against the group after "developing several cooperating witnesses within the ranks of organized crime," according to the New York Times. One such "cooperating witness" was so-called mob turncoat Gaspare Valenti, an individual apparently tasked with retelling the entire heist story to the chagrin of some and the fascination of others.

"Lufthansa," Valenti told the court room, according to the New York Daily News. "We robbed the Lufthansa air freight company." He also revealed that the deceased chief of the Gambino family, John Gotti, also got a slice of the money, though he maintained that Gotti was not directly involved with the heist in any way. "To keep peace among the families, we didn't want retribution or anyone to rob us," Valenti said while a reportedly "angry-looking" Asaro looked on from the defense table.

The most compelling parts of Valenti's story revolves around the crew's sudden discovery that they had, in fact, just stolen way more than the initially projected $2 million. From the Times:

Minutes later, after the employees at the Lufthansa terminal had been rounded up at gunpoint, the six robbers forced one of them to open the vault. Tommy DeSimone walked in first, followed by Gaspare Valenti, who testified on Tuesday in Federal District Court, riveting the courtroom with his breathtakingly detailed account of the infamous robbery.

Mr. DeSimone picked up a box from a shelf, threw it on the floor and stepped on it. Yellow plastic foam stuffing erupted from the box. He stuck his hand in and pulled out two packs of money containing $125,000 in hundred-dollar bills.

“This is it! This is it!” Mr. DeSimone said, according to Mr. Valenti. “Take all these 50 boxes!”

The crew formed a human chain and began handing the boxes down, loading them into the van along with “burlap sacks of gold chains, crates of watches, a big three-by-three metal box with little drawers on it and each drawer had diamonds in it and emeralds and all different stones,” Mr. Valenti said.

They made off with $6.25 million in cash, as well as the jewelry and German bank notes. The Lufthansa heist, one of the biggest cash robberies in United States history, went unsolved for decades.


Do not take our passionate interest in the real-life Goodfellas heist as a good sign that you should go ahead with some kind of ridiculous Goodfellas reboot, because that would be entirely misguided.