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New Book Reveals Mystery of Lufthansa Airlines Heist

How Did $6 Million in Cash and Jewelry Seemingly Vanish? Ex-Wiseguy Tells All

In a new short-format book, Dominick Cicale, a former high-ranking member of the Bonanno crime family, reveals the bizarre story of what happened to the loot stolen from the Lufthansa Airlines cargo vault at JFK International airport on Dec. 11, 1978. Available as e-book or paperback on Amazon. 

Cover_MystLuftAHeist-webThe robbery has puzzled the FBI for 37 years. At the time, it was the largest cash robbery in U.S. history. The take would be worth about $23 million in today’s dollars. Only one heist participant was ever convicted for the crime and the whereabouts of the loot has remained a secret…until now. 

Cicale not only discloses never-before-told details about the stolen money, but shares candid insights about mob figures John Gotti, Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, Anthony “Bruno” Indelicato, and John Gotti Jr. 

The 13,000-word book includes portions of an unpublished interview with Henry Hill, a confidant of Jimmy Burke, who masterminded the Lufthansa heist. The book is co-authored by journalist Robert Sberna and Cicale. Sberna interviewed Henry Hill in 1989 while Hill was living in California. Hill and the Lufthansa case were immortalized in the Martin Scorsese movie “Goodfellas.”

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 as tribute. The various mob bosses 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.

But what happened to the remainder of the Lufthansa loot? Cicale shares the surprising answer in “The Mystery of the Lufthansa Airlines Heist.”   

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Henry Hill, a government informant, was the central character in the book “Wiseguy” and the movie “Goodfellas.”

Cicale, who turned government cooperator 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 his involvement in a pair of killings ordered by Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, a capo in 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 two life sentences in the federal “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado.