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Tag: Lufthansa Heist

Octogenarian Mobster In Lufthansa Heist Case Is One Of A Kind

Jerry Capeci is considered an expert on the mob. He is the founder of the website, Gang Land News, a paid subscription site.  This article was republished with permission.
 
By Jerry Capeci
Gang Land News

Bonanno capo Vincent Asaro has a lot of firsts on his Mafia resume. The 80-year-old Queens man is a third generation mobster, having followed his father and grandfather into the mob. He added yet another generation when he sponsored his son to be a “made man.” He is also the only wiseguy ever charged with taking part in one of Gang Land’s most famous crimes, the storied $6 million Lufthansa Airlines heist. A former heroin addict, Asarokicked the habit “cold turkey” in the 1950s. He also kicked some ass. After a group of men abused his old man, he used his fists to pummel them, one at a time, while a cohort held the rest of the crowd at bay with a firearm.

Those are some of the high — or low — lights of Asaro’s career according to a trio of federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, who want to keep him behind bars for how ever many years he has left. That’s where he’s been for the past 16 months as he awaits trial for the daring pre-dawn Kennedy Airport robbery in 1978, as well as for a 1969 murder.

Last week, prosecutors asked Judge Alynne Ross to let them use evidence about Asaro’s “heroin use, illegal gambling and borrowing money” at his upcoming trial. They say that is “necessary to complete the story of the charged crimes” for the jurors who will have to decide whether Asaro is

guilty of murder and a slew of other crimes in what they describe as a 45-year-long racketeering conspiracy.

The prosecutors say they have “many witnesses” prepared to testify how Asaro “evolved from a teenage heroin addict into a mastermind of the Lufthansa Heist.”

The witnesses would describe a “powerful but broke mafia leader,” one who substituted one addiction for another by blowing all the money he made during his life of crime by “gambling, both illegal and legal, to anextreme degree.”

He is not the first mobster to become addicted to heroin, but Asaro, who was on a three-member Bonanno family ruling panel in 2012, is the first known ex-junkie to serve as an Administration member of one of the notorious Five Families.

“The defendant’s story is one of redemption and loss,” prosecutors Nicole Argentieri, Alicyn Cooley and Lindsay Gerdes wrote. “Witnesses are expected to testify regarding the defendant’s drug addiction and how he apparently beat it ‘cold turkey’ so that he could join the Asaros’ ranks of mafia soldiers. In addition, (they) are expected to testify that (Asaro) at one point was demoted from the rank of captain due to, among other things, his repeated appropriation of money from the individuals assigned to him in order to feed his gambling addiction.”

In the 1960s, after he kicked his heroin habit, Asaro “earned respect from the mafia for being an earner,” by taking part in “robberies, the sale of stolen goods and loansharking,” prosecutors wrote. In that decade, his father Jerome schooled him, and introduced him to James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke, the murderous Luchese gangster who is the recognized mastermind of the heist, they wrote.

In a voluminous 72-page filing, the prosecutors write that testimony by six cooperating witnesses will directly link Asaro’s heroin addiction and his obsessive gambling losses to his guilt of many charged crimes in the indictment, particularly the Lufthansa robbery.

“Many cooperating witnesses and civilian witnesses with personal knowledge of the defendant are expected to testify that the defendant struggled with heroin addiction as a teenager and into his twenties,” wrote prosecutors Argentieri, Cooley and Gerdes.

Among those prepared to testify about the Bonanno veteran are Asaro’s cousin Gaspar (Gary) Valenti, 68, who says he took part in the Lufthansa heist with Burke, as well as a second witness, former Gambino associate Anthony Ruggiano Jr., 61, who would detail Asaro’s heroin use — as well as his compulsive gambling, the prosecutors wrote.

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Gang Land Exclusive: Feds Tie Howard Beach Home Invasions To Last Year’s Lufthansa Heist Indictment

Jerry Capeci is regarded as an expert on the mob. His website, Gang Land News, is a paid subscription site.  This article was published with permission.

By Jerry Capeci
Gang Land News

Federal authorities have linked an imprisoned Bonanno soldier to abrazen gang of mob associates who pulled off dozens of home invasion robberies and burglaries in Howard Beach and nearby communities, Gang Lang has learned.

The wiseguy, John (Bazoo) Ragano, was one of five defendants in an indictment that charged an aging capo with the storied $6 million Lufthansa heist depicted in the 1990 mob movie classic, Goodfellas.

Sources say the feds suspect Ragano of fingering the owner of an Ozone Park auto repair shop — Bonanno associate Robert Cotrone — for robbery.

Seven weeks after Ragano’s arrest in the Lufthansa case, a trio of armed thugs invaded Cotrone’s Howard Beach home, stealing thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry.

Ragano had “worked” for Cotrone at Bam’s Auto Body, but in a telling display of mob duplicity, he allegedly gave Cotrone up to the robbery team because he knew the auto repair shop owner was on his own after his longtime mob protector was locked up. The protector, Bonanno capo Vincent Asaro, was detained without bail for the airline robbery. Cotrone has allegedly made years of “protection” payments to Asaro, even once testifying as a defense witness for him.

A law enforcement official familiar with the case put it this way: “Money, of course, was very important” to Ragano. “The guy’s a gangster. Locked up, he needs cash. The other guy (Cotrone) is unprotected; his guy (Asaro) just got put away. There’s no honor with these guys, it’s survival of the fittest.

It’s simple: He needed the money, he knew there’d be no payback. Makes no difference to him that he’s going to steal his dough.”

According to court papers in the Lufthansa prosecution, Ragano, 53, was inducted into the Bonanno crime family about three years ago, and was a ready and willing enforcer for his mob superior, Asaro, based on what Ragano was heard saying during the FBI investigation.

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