Opening arguments began Monday in federal court in Brooklyn over an infamous theft case portrayed the movie "Goodfellas". NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
A prosecutor Monday called it the "score of all scores": the 1978 heist of $6 million in jewelry and cash from the Lufthansa cargo facility at JFK Airport, the basis of the movie "Goodfellas."
Vincent Asaro, 80, on Monday became the first alleged mobster to face trial in the heist. He's charged with numerous crimes, including helping to set up the theft and choking to death a suspected snitch.
In opening arguments, the prosecutor said, "For him, the Mafia was literally the family business...The defendant is a gangster, through and through.''
Asaro allegedly plotted the heist with James Burke. A character based on Burke was played by Robert De Niro in "Goodfellas."
The proesecutor said Burke, Asaro and "the robbery team met, they talked, they visited the cargo building to get a lay of the land."
The first witness was mobster-turned-informant Salvatore Vitale, who said he saw a Bonano crime family leader get a case of jewelry from the heist from the defendant.
At times, the witness got into heated arguments with defense lawyers, who accused him of lying for prosecutors to avoid spending his life in prison.
"Opening day was a good day for the defense," said defense attorney Elizabeth Macedonio. "As you said, the first witness was not easy, nor was he truthful."
At times, the testimony sounded like a movie. The court heard about killings and robberies by mobsters with nicknames like Mickey Bats and Louie Ha Ha. But these were real murders committed by the Mafia.
Burke is thought to have been responsible for killing a half-dozen members of the robbery crew so they wouldn’t rat to the police. He died while serving time for an unrelated murder.
Considered one of the biggest robberies in U.S. history, the $6 million in money and jewels has never been recovered.
Several other mobsters turned government informants are expected to testify in the case against Asaro.