United States

Aging Mobster Denied Bail After Alleged Death Threat Against Federal Prosecutor

An aging mobster who beat a charge that he took part in a legendary heist retold in the hit film "Goodfellas" was denied bail Thursday in another criminal case after the government accused him of wanting to kill a federal prosecutor.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn said in court papers that in a recent conversation with another inmate, Vincent Asaro referred to the unnamed prosecutor by a derogatory term and suggested his organized crime family needed to put out a hit on her.

"We need to do something about (her)," he was quoted as saying. "We need to handle this."

Defense attorney Elizabeth Macedonio denied the allegation at a hearing Thursday and asked U.S. District Judge Allyne Ross to release the 82-year-old Asaro into home detention while he awaits trial on charges he committed a road rage-related arson in 2012.

Macedonio said in a previous letter to the court that Asaro was upset that the same prosecution team that was stung by losing the high-profile robbery case came after him a second time by dredging up a lesser unsolved crime that occurred five years ago.

"The words, if spoken, express nothing more than frustration and torment," she wrote.

The judge sided with prosecutors' argument that Asaro belongs behind bars, agreeing that the evidence shows the longtime member of the Bonanno crime family "remains volatile, dangerous and violent."

The latest case was a reversal of fortune for Asaro, who was found not guilty in 2015 of charges he orchestrated the 1978 Lufthansa robbery with James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, the late Lucchese crime family associate who inspired Robert De Niro's role in "Goodfellas."

The heist was called one of the largest cash thefts in American history, with gunmen looting about $5 million in untraceable U.S. currency that was being returned to the United States from Germany, along with about $1 million in jewelry, from the airline's cargo terminal.

Asaro later survived a bloodbath, which is portrayed in "Goodfellas," with De Niro's character, fearing fellow mobsters would attract law enforcement attention with their purchases of flashy cars and furs, ordered them killed.

The prosecution, relying on the testimony of turncoat mobsters that the defense labeled as opportunistic liars, alleged Asaro collected at least $500,000 from the score but had a gambling problem and squandered it away at the racetrack.

In the pending case, prosecutors allege Asaro ordered the arson to avenge getting cut off by another motorist in the Howard Beach section of Queens. He provided the home address of the driver to a Bonanno associate, who recruited others to douse the motorist's car with gasoline and torch it, court papers said.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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