Upcoming Book Reveals Mysteries of 1978 Lufthansa Airlines Robbery

How Did $6 Million in Cash and Jewelry Vanish? Former Bonanno Wiseguy Knows…

On Dec. 11, 1978, a crew led by mob associate Jimmy Burke pulled off a daring heist at JFK Airport that netted $5 million in cash and $1 million in precious stones.

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The case, which was immortalized in Martin Scorcese’s movie “Goodfellas,” has puzzled authorities for 36 years. Only one robber was ever convicted for the crime and the whereabouts of the loot has remained a secret…until now.

In a new book due in April, ex-Bonanno capo Dominick Cicale reveals never-before-told details of the heist and the missing money. At the time, it was the largest cash robbery in U.S. history. The take would be worth about $21 million in today’s dollars.

Burke (nicknamed Jimmy the Gent) is suspected of murdering most of his accomplices soon after the robbery in order to keep their shares and to ensure that they could never betray him. However, Cicale says that Burke was obligated to pay significant portions to the heads of the Bonanno, Gambino and Lucchese families. Since Burke wasn’t a “made” [inducted member] of the Mafia, he had to pay tribute to the various mob bosses who had formed an alliance to run criminal enterprises at JFK, including truck hijackings, cargo theft, bookmaking, drug trafficking, and labor racketeering.

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James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke (center) in the custody of FBI agents. Burke died of cancer in 1996 while in prison.

But what happened to the remainder of the Lufthansa loot? Cicale will share the inside story in the upcoming book, “Untold Secrets of the Lufthansa Airlines Heist: A Wiseguy Tells All.”  The book, penned by journalist Robert Sberna with Cicale,  will be available in digital download and paperback format.  The book will include excerpts of a firsthand interview with infamous Lucchese associate Henry Hill. A confidant of Burke’s, Hill was the central character in Nicholas Pileggi’s bestselling book, “Wiseguy.” 

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Henry Hill, a federal informant and key source for books and movies about the Lufthansa heist. Hill, like Burke, was not a made member of the mob.

Cicale, who turned government informant in 2006, was released from prison in 2013. He had served eight years of a 10-year sentence for various mob-related crimes, including murder.

Cicale had originally faced two life terms for a pair of killings he committed with Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, former acting boss of the Bonanno family. But Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis reduced Cicale’s sentence, citing his “extraordinary assistance” in helping the government fight organized crime. Cicale testified against numerous ranking mobsters, including Basciano, Patrick “Patty from the Bronx” DeFilippo, and John Gotti Jr. 

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Cicale (right) with Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, his one-time friend and the former acting boss of the Bonanno crime family. Basciano is now serving a life sentence in Colorado’s Supermax prison.

Ex-Bonanno Wiseguy Questions Judge’s Sentence of Stephen Basciano

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Stephen Basciano at his sentencing in Manhattan Federal Court

Mobster turned informant Dominick Cicale has weighed in on the recent sentencing of Stephen Basciano, a drug-dealing son of Vincent “Vinnie Gorgeous” Basciano, ex-acting boss of the Bonanno family.

Cicale says that Manhattan Federal Court Judge Richard Sullivan should have considered a stiffer sentence for Basciano.

“Stephen is a career criminal who has sold drugs and committed various crimes since 2002,” says Cicale. “Of the three Basciano sons, Stephen is the most dangerous due to his impulsiveness. Basically he acts without thinking.”

Cicale adds, “Stephen has been recorded on tape bragging about owning a gun with a silencer. That is true. Stephen does own a 9 millimeter handgun with a fitted silencer that I had given him before my arrest in 2005. That deadly weapon was mine.”

On August 29, Sullivan gave the 30-year-old Basciano a 42-month sentence in federal lockup, a relatively light penalty according to sentencing guidelines. Basciano had been convicted for his role in distributing thousands of pounds of marijuana in New York from 2009 to 2013. Stephen’s partners in the drug ring were his brothers, Joseph, 28, and Vincent Jr., 32.  In July, Judge Sullivan sentenced Joseph to six months in prison. Vincent Jr. is expected to be sentenced in October.

“This went on for years,” Judge Sullivan said of Basciano’s criminal activities. “This wasn’t just one shot.”

Basciano had pleaded for mercy from Sullivan in a handwritten letter earlier in August, assuring him that he’d learned from his mistakes. Saying that he loved his father, but didn’t want to follow in his footsteps, Stephen said he was devastated when his dad was arrested eight years ago.

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Vincent “Vinnie Gorgeous” Basciano Sr., the former acting boss of the Bonanno crime family

But Cicale told cosanostranews that he’s skeptical. “I do not believe that Stephen Basciano merited a downward departure [in sentencing] from Judge Sullivan. The letter that he wrote to the court is total bullshit. The sole truth in that letter is the part about Stephen idolizing his father.

“And the biggest lie in Stephen’s letter to Judge Sullivan is: ‘My Mommy has not spoken to me.’

Saying that he knows Stephen’s mother “extremely well,” Cicale says, “There is no way she would disown her son. Judge Sullivan should request Stephen’s phone records and visitation records from the federal Bureau of Prisons to confirm whether he is in contact with his mother.”

Once a trusted confidant of Vincent Basciano Sr., Cicale was a key government witness against him at his 2012 trial. Basciano is now serving two life sentences at the federal Supermax prison in Colorado.

Interestingly, Cicale had previously written to Judge Sullivan asking for leniency in his sentencing of Joseph Basciano. Cicale, who knew Joseph as a youngster, was concerned that he would be influenced by fellow prisoners who would try to take advantage of his father’s mob legacy.

“Everyone in jail will be watching, guiding and grooming him out of respect for Vincent Sr.’s stature and status,” wrote Cicale. “This good young man will walk out of federal prison feeling that he is the next John Gotti.”

The letter that Cicale sent to Sullivan somehow made its way into the pages of the July 9, 2014 New York Post. nypost.com/2014/07/09/ex-bonanno-capo-asks-judge-to-show-leniency-for-mobsters-son.

Cicale served eight years in prison before his release in 2013. He had faced two life sentences for his role in two murders, but federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis cut him a break as a reward for the “extraordinary assistance” he provided to the feds.

Was Ex-Mobster Sandbagged by Federal Judge’s Staff?

Mob Turncoat Dominick Cicale Questions Release of His Letter to Newspaper

A former Bonanno crime family captain says he’s surprised and perturbed that a personal letter he sent to the office of a federal judge has ended up in the New York Post.

Dominick Cicale, who was a key government witness against his Bonanno colleagues in 2012, mailed a letter on July 3, 2014 to Manhattan Judge Richard Sullivan asking for leniency in the sentencing of Joseph Basciano. Sullivan had recently sentenced the 28-year-old Basciano to six months in prison for running a marijuana distribution network with his brothers Steven and Vincent.

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Vincent Basciano Sr. (left) and Dominick Cicale

The three men are all sons of Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano Sr., the former acting boss of the Bonanno crime family. Basciano is currently serving two life sentences in the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo., where he is locked down 23 hours a day. In irony of Shakespearean proportions, Basciano’s conviction is due, in large part, to the testimony of Cicale, his former protege.

Although Sullivan seemed charitable in his sentencing of Joseph Basciano, Cicale told the judge in his letter that even a short prison stint could doom Basciano—the youngest of Vinny Gorgeous’s boys—to a career in organized crime. Cicale, who knew Joseph as a youngster, is concerned that he will be influenced by fellow prisoners who will try to take advantage of his father’s mob legacy.

“Everyone in [jail] will be watching, guiding and grooming him out of respect for Vincent Sr.’s stature and status,” wrote Cicale. “This good young man will walk out of federal prison feeling that he is the next John Gotti.”

The letter that Cicale sent to Sullivan somehow made its way into the pages of the July 9, 2014 New York Post. nypost.com/2014/07/09/ex-bonanno-capo-asks-judge-to-show-leniency-for-mobsters-son.

TheCrimeBeat.com reached out to Cicale, who was released from prison in 2013 and chose not to enter the federal witness protection program. He was tight-lipped about the seemingly cozy arrangement between Judge’s Sullivan’s office and the New York Post.

“I don’t have much to say about it,” said Cicale. He noted, however, that his letter was intended as a confidential and sincere gesture on behalf of Joseph Basciano. “I’m not blaming the New York Post for publishing the letter. They are just doing their job. But I’m curious about how they got the letter? Is there a leak in the judge’s office or was the letter provided to the newspaper?”

Of course, TheCrimeBeat.com has acquired a copy of the original letter. Click here to read Cicale’s appeal to Judge Sullivan.

Ex-Bonanno Capo Dominick Cicale Asks Leniency for Mobster’s Son

New York Post Reports That Cicale Wrote To Federal Judge 

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Dominick Cicale (right) with Vincent “Vinnie Gorgeous.” Basciano’s three sons were busted for drug dealing.

In an unusual move, mob informant Dominick Cicale, 46, has appealed to Manhattan federal Judge Richard Sullivan for leniency in the sentencing of Joseph Basciano, the son of Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano Sr.

Sullivan recently sentenced the younger Basciano to six months in prison for operating a marijuana distribution ring with his brothers Steven and Vincent Jr.  Despite the apparent leniency shown by Sullivan towards the 28-year-old Joseph, Cicale told the jurist that even a short time in jail could take him down the path to becoming a career mobster.

According to the New York Post article, nypost.com/2014/07/09/ex-bonanno-capo-asks-judge-to-show-leniency-for-mobsters-son, Cicale wrote: “Everyone [in jail] will be watching, guiding and grooming him out of respect for Vincent Sr.’s stature and status. This good young man will walk out of federal prison feeling that he is the next John Gotti.”

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Joseph Basciano leaving federal court

In 2012, Cicale had faced two life terms for the same murders that Vincent Sr. had been charged with. Cicale elected to turn government witness, providing crucial testimony that put away Basciano and other high-ranking Bonanno crime family members. Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis commended Cicale for his cooperation, saying he provided  “extraordinary assistance” to the federal government.

Cicale was released in 2013 after spending nearly eight years behind bars. He has recently been in the news for his comments about the 1978 Lufthansa Airlines heist (the basis for the movie “Goodfellas”).  The CrimeBeat.com has reached out to Cicale regarding his letter to Judge Sullivan. It is not known how Cicale’s letter reached the New York Post.

 

 

Dr. Georges Bensimhon Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison for Attack on Son-In-Law

Allentown Doctor Used Metal Bar in Sept. 2013 Attack in Cleveland Heights

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Dr. Georges Bensimhon

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Dr. Georges Bensimhon, 67, an anesthesiologist from Allentown, will serve three years in prison for a bloody attack on his former son-in-law, Dr. Seth Alan Hoffer.

The doctor on doctor assault occurred in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 4 in suburban Cleveland Heights. Bensimhon, dressed in a mask and black ninja-style outfit, ambushed Hoffer as he stepped from the back door of his house on Dellwood Road.

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Dr. Seth Alan Hoffer

Hoffer, a neurosurgeon at University Hospitals, was planning to drive to the airport to catch a flight to Florida, where he intended to pick up his young daughter. Hoffer was bringing his daughter to Ohio for Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year.

As Hoffer, 40, emerged from his house at 5:30 a.m., Bensimhon leapt from nearby bushes and smashed him in the head with a 12-inch clawed pry bar. Hoffer, although dazed and bloodied, was able to gain control of the much smaller Bensimhon and sat on him. Hoffer was unaware that his attacker was his father-in-law until he heard Bensimhon say, “Alan, get off me. I can’t breathe.”

Both Hoffer and Bensimhon were taken to area hospitals for treatment, with Hoffer found to have bite marks on his neck and shoulder. Bensimhon suffered a broken arm during the botched attack.

At his sentencing in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Bensimhon offered little motive for the attack. But police reports show that his daughter, Danielle Bensimhon, was engaged in a contentious divorce with Hoffer. The couple was battling over custody of their one-year-old daughter.

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Danielle Bensimhon

According to police and Dellwood Road neighbors, Dr. Bensimhon had reportedly threatened Hoffer several times in the past. Danielle had moved to south Florida two years ago with the couple’s daughter. She works as a realtor and is a cantor at Temple Beth David in Palm Beach Gardens. Hoffer has a 7-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. His first wife died when the girl was 14 months old. The daughter was in the house when the attack occurred.

During their investigation, Cleveland Heights police searched the bushes behind Hoffer’s house and found a backpack belonging to Bensimhon. Inside the backpack were syringes loaded with several types of sedatives, including ketamine, a powerful hallucinogen that is closely related to PCP. Prosecutors–calling  the stash a “deadly drug cocktail”–said the drugs, if administered, could have proven fatal to Hoffer.

Police found Bensimhon’s car about a half-mile away in the parking lot of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library. He had driven 400 miles to Cleveland Heights on the night before the attack.

At his sentencing, Bensimhon apologized to Hoffer and asked the court for leniency. “I am not a killer,” he said. “I am a healer.”

“Georges Bensimhon is a good man,” added his defense attorney, Larry Zukerman. “He’s a war hero who was decorated by (Israeli Prime Minister) Golda Meir.”

Bensimhon told the court that he did not want to hurt Hoffer, but only wanted to frighten him and make him miss his flight to Florida. Bensimhon claimed that he didn’t want Danielle to spend Rosh Hashanah without her daughter. Police evidence showed that a tire on Hoffer’s car had been slashed, apparently by Bensimhon.

Bensimhon was originally indicted on charges of attempted aggravated murder, but in April he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of felonious assault.

In addition to his prison sentence, Bensimhon was ordered to pay $2,510 in restitution to Hoffer. He will also serve three years probation after he is released from prison.

Former Wiseguy Dominick Cicale — “A New Man With A New Brand”

Released from federal prison last year after an eight-year stretch, Dominick Cicale—an ex-Bonanno capo turned government informant—says he’s back in business.

In a rare interview, Cicale tells the TheCrimeBeat.com that he’s exploring several opportunities in the entertainment and marketing fields. The 46-year-old says he’s reinvented himself and he’s eager to deliver the message that mob life is a dead end. His delivery platform? Twitter, for starters. @dominickcicale

Cicale has a track record of business success. In 1999, he finished an 11-year prison sentence in Florida. Broke but ambitious, he returned to his native Bronx. Through an uncle, he was introduced to Bonanno capo Vincent Basciano, who took a liking to the personable Cicale and found a spot for him in the crime family.

It seems that Basciano, who was memorably nicknamed Vinny Gorgeous, had an eye for talent. Four years later, Cicale had leveraged his potent combination of entrepreneurial spirit and street muscle into a net worth of $10 million, primarily through his operation of legitimate businesses, including a construction company, real estate agency, title agency and mortgage firm.

And, of course, as Cicale earned, he kicked a share of the profits up to Basciano and his higher-ups, including Bonanno boss Joe Massino. Cicale had discovered he had a natural instinct for business. He also found that mafia loyalty was seemingly non-existent.

In the mid-2000s, federal prosecutors brought charges against Massino. After he was convicted of ordering seven murders, Massino flipped. The highest ranked mob member to turn informant, Massino helped bring down many Bonanno leaders, including Cicale and Basciano.

Cicale, bitterly realizing that his family ties had been an illusion, also turned government witness and testified at three trials against Basciano. His testimony helped put Vinny Gorgeous away for life.

In return for cooperating with federal prosecutors, Cicale was granted a seemingly lenient sentence for his involvement in various mob-related crimes, including two murders. Now living near New York City, Cicale has declined to enter the Federal Witness Protection Program. “I choose not to run. It’s not in my nature,” he says.

Explaining his business philosophy, Cicale says the keys to success are confidence, composure, and generosity.

“Running a business is no different than hustling on the street,” he says. “You can’t be as aggressive in the business world, of course. But there are steps and procedures in business, just as there are steps to be successful in the mob. In business, you can’t make people fear you. It’s better to be a gentleman, stay calm, and earn respect. When people get aggressive with me, I try to keep cool. And I was never greedy—I always shared the wealth.”

According to Cicale, his low-key, pragmatic approach was instrumental in building his business empire. Cicale says his success brought him in close contact with senators, mayors and other highly placed individuals, but also fueled the jealousy and resentment of his mob colleagues.

“The mob guys spent their days showboating on street corners and scrounging for two nickels to rub together,” he says. “Meanwhile, I was working. There were plenty of doors slammed in my face, but I kept going.”

Cicale says his decision to cooperate with federal prosecutors is a clear indication that he’s changed. “I knew that I had to change with the times,” he says. “The mob life was over. For me, it was time to start doing good.”

Is Cicale going straight? Or is he just going straight to the bank?

Time will tell.

 

EXCLUSIVE — What Happened to the $6 Million from ‘78 Lufthansa JFK Heist?

Ex-Bonanno wiseguy will reveal secret of missing loot in upcoming book

The 2014 arrest of several Bonanno crime family members  in connection with the Lufthansa Airlines robbery has sparked renewed interest in the heist, which was immortalized in the movie “Goodfellas.”Goodfellas

The well-planned caper netted $5 million in cash and $1 million in precious stones from the Lufthansa cargo area at New York’s JFK Airport. At the time, it was the largest cash robbery in U.S. history. In today’s dollars, the take would be worth about $21 million.

The jewels and the money, which consisted of untraceable U.S. currency being returned from Germany, have never been found. Over the past 36 years, police investigators and journalists have puzzled over the mystery of the missing Lufthansa loot.

Now, in a new book, “Untold Secrets of the Lufthansa Airlines Heist: A Wiseguy Tells All,” mob insider Dominick Cicale will spill untold details of the robbery including the whereabouts of a large chunk of the money. The book will include excerpts of a firsthand interview with infamous mob associate Henry Hill, a confidant of heist mastermind James Burke. Hill was the central character in Nicholas Pileggi’s bestselling book, “Wiseguy.”

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James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, the ringleader of the Lufthansa heist, is taken into custody by FBI agents. Burke was a longtime associate of the Lucchese crime family.

Cicale confirms the longstanding suspicion that Burke (nicknamed Jimmy the Gent) kept most of the take for himself. Burke murdered most of his accomplices soon after the robbery in order to keep their shares and to ensure that they didn’t betray him.

Burke, however, paid significant amounts to the Bonanno, Gambino, and Lucchese families. Since Burke wasn’t a “made” [inducted member] of the Mafia, he had to pay tribute to the mob bosses, who had formed an alliance to run criminal enterprises at JFK, including truck hijackings, cargo theft, bookmaking, and loansharking.

But what happened to Burke’s money? Known as a spendthrift, he lived a modest life in Ozone Park, Queens in New York. Feds had long suspected that Burke was stashing a large amount of Lufthansa cash, between $800,000 and $1 million.

Cicale, a former Bonanno capo who turned government informant in 2006, will reveal the mystery of the missing money and more in his upcoming book. Authored by journalist Robert Sberna and Cicale, the book is scheduled for release in April.

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Dominick Cicale (on right) with Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, former acting boss of the Bonanno family. Basciano is serving a life sentence in Colorado’s Supermax prison.

Calling the Lufthansa robbery a “nice score,” Cicale says, “It was a nice payday for Jimmy Burke. But not for the guys he killed, of course. Burke had used street guys for the heist. He came to realize that these guys were a risk to cooperate with law enforcement and give up the gang. But, in a way, it was a smart move on his part to use accomplices who weren’t made guys. Burke knew he wouldn’t have been able to get away with killing a made guy.”

Cicale was released from prison last year, after serving eight years of a 10-year sentence for various mob-related crimes, including murder. He had originally faced two life terms for a pair of killings he committed with Vincent Basciano. Cicale and Basciano, the former acting boss of the Bonanno family, had been close associates.

But Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis reduced the sentence, citing Cicale’s “extraordinary assistance” in helping the government fight organized crime. Cicale testified against numerous mobsters, including Basciano, Patrick “Patty from the Bronx” DeFilippo and John Gotti Jr.

When asked where he lives and what he’s doing post-mob, Cicale says he’s in the metropolitan New York City area and keeping a low profile. Seemingly not nervous about mob retribution, he says “I choose not to run. It’s not in my nature. I’m confident that I can handle whatever comes my way.”