Bonanno Family Captain Vincent Asaro Indicted for Participating in the 1978 Lufthansa $5 Million Robbery at JFK Airport and the Murder of Paul Katz, Who Disappeared in 1969
Body Parts Buried in Queens, New York Basement Discovered by FBI in June 2013; Five Defendants Arrested and Charged Variously with 45-Year Racketeering Conspiracy, Including Predicate Acts of Murder, Solicitation to Murder, Robbery, Extortion
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 23, 2014|
BROOKLYN, NY—Earlier today, an indictment was unsealed charging five members of the Bonanno organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the Bonanno family) variously with racketeering conspiracy, including predicate acts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation to murder, robbery and extortion, and other crimes. Bonanno family administration members and captains Vincent Asaro and Thomas Di Fiore; Bonanno family captain Jerome Asaro; Bonanno family acting captain Jack Bonventre; and Bonanno family soldier John Ragano were arrested earlier today and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marilyn D. Go at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.
The charges and arrests were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.
“As alleged, Vincent Asaro devoted his adult life to the Bonanno crime family, with a criminal career that spanned decades. Far from a code of honor, theirs was a code of violence and brute force. Those suspected of cooperating with law enforcement paid with their lives. Asaro helped pull off the 1978 Lufthansa robbery—still the largest bank robbery in New York history. Neither age nor time dimmed Asaro’s ruthless ways, as he continued to order violence to carry out mob business in recent months. The arrests and charges announced today are a testament to the relentless pursuit of justice by law enforcement,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the FBI for its extraordinary work in bringing these defendants to account for the charged crimes.
“These ‘goodfellas’ thought they had a license to steal, a license to kill, and a license to do whatever they wanted. However, today’s arrests of the five members of the Bonanno crime family brings an end to their violent and ruthless ways. As alleged in the indictment, Vincent Asaro and his co-conspirators were not only involved in typical mob activities of extortion and murder, but Asaro himself was in on one of the most notorious heists—the Lufthansa robbery in 1978. It may be decades later, but the FBI’s determination to investigate and bring wiseguys to justice will never waver,” stated FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos.
As alleged in the indictment and a detention memorandum filed by the government, over the last 45 years, Vincent Asaro and various co-conspirators, including his son Jerome Asaro, engaged in a pattern of violence and threats of violence in order to profit from their illegal activity and evade prosecution. The indictment announced today is the result of a long-term investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that utilized, among other law enforcement techniques, consensual recordings, cooperating witnesses and confidential sources, and electronic and visual surveillance.
1978 Lufthansa Heist
Vincent Asaro is charged for his participation in the 1978 robbery at the Lufthansa Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport of more than $5 million in United States currency and approximately $1 million in jewelry. Asaro, Lucchese crime family associate James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, and their co-conspirators each expected to receive approximately $750,000 in cash and large quantities of gold jewelry from the proceeds of the robbery.
Murder of Paul Katz
Vincent Asaro is charged with the murder of Paul Katz, who disappeared in 1969, and Asaro and his son Jerome are also charged with accessory after the fact for their roles in moving Katz’s body to prevent its discovery by law enforcement. Vincent Asaro and Burke allegedly strangled Katz with a dog chain because they believed he was cooperating with law enforcement. They then buried his body in the basement of a vacant home in Queens, New York, where it remained until the mid-1980s when, alerted to a state law enforcement investigation into Katz’s murder, Vincent Asaro directed Jerome Asaro and another individual to dig up Katz’s body and move it. Almost 35 years later, in June 2013, the FBI executed a search warrant at the Queens residence, which was still owned by the Burke family, and recovered remnants of Katz’s remains buried in the basement. Katz’s identity was confirmed through DNA testing.
Solicitation to Murder
Vincent Asaro and Jerome Asaro are charged with solicitation to murder their cousin, identified in the indictment as John Doe #1, because he was perceived to be a “rat” for testifying against another family member in a federal trial on fraud charges.
Vincent Asaro and Jerome Asaro are charged variously with participating in additional armed robberies and armed robbery conspiracies, including the robbery of approximately $1 million in gold salts.
All five defendants, including Thomas Di Fiore, the highest ranking member of the Bonanno family at liberty, are charged with using and conspiring to use extortionate means to collect an extension of credit from a Bonanno family associate. During an April 26, 2013 consensual recording of Vincent Asaro and John Ragano, Ragano asked Asaro, “When do we stab this guy...in the neck? That’s what I want to know.” Asaro responded, “Stab him today.” Asaro continued, “I told you to give him a...beating. Give him a...beating, I told you that. Listen, I sent three guys there to give him a beating already, so it won’t be the first time he got a beating from me.”
The case has been assigned to United States Senior District Judge Allyne R. Ross. If convicted, Vincent Asaro faces life imprisonment, and each of his co-defendants faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nicole M. Argentieri and Alicyn Cooley.
The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Howard Beach, New York
Bethpage, New York
Campbell Hall, New York
Thomas Di Fiore, also known as “Tommy D”
Commack, New York
John Ragano, also known as “Bazoo”
Rockaway, New York
Follow the FBI’s New York Office on Twitter. Sign up for our to receive the latest information from the FBI’s New York Office on breaking news, arrests, and fugitives.