Friday 20 July 2018

Mobster acquitted over 'Goodfellas' heist jailed for road rage arson

Vincent Asaro leaves court in the Brooklyn borough of New York after being acquitted of charges he helped plan a legendary 1978 Lufthansa heist retold in the hit film Goodfellas (AP/Mike Balsamo)
Vincent Asaro leaves court in the Brooklyn borough of New York after being acquitted of charges he helped plan a legendary 1978 Lufthansa heist retold in the hit film Goodfellas (AP/Mike Balsamo)

An 82-year-old mobster has been jailed for eight years for road rage arson as a judge cited evidence of his role in the legendary airport robbery recounted in the movie Goodfellas while sentencing him.

Vincent Asaro, balding and bespectacled, reacted to the sentence in court in New York with disgust.

"I don't care what happens to me at this point," he grumbled.

He looked at US district judge Allyne R. Ross and said: "What you sentenced me to is a death sentence anyway."

The sentence was more than double what federal guidelines set out as punishment for the 2012 car torching, which prosecutors said happened when Asaro directed Bonanno crime family associates to track down and set on fire the car of a motorist he believed had cut him up.

Asaro, speaking before the sentencing, said he was "terribly sorry".

"I was on my way home," he said. "It happened. It just got out of hand."

The judge said she had "no illusion" that prison would result in Asaro's rehabilitation or bring an end to his "lifelong career as a member of the Mafia".

She said she was mindful of Asaro's 2015 acquittal over the infamous 1978 heist at the Lufthansa cargo terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, a robbery retold in the 1990 hit film Goodfellas, starring Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci.

The judge said she reviewed evidence from the trial she had presided over and cited proof Asaro had taken part in a 1969 murder, and had admitted his role in the armed robbery and obtained millions in cash and jewellery from the Lufthansa terminal.

"He remains dangerous to the public," she said.

The prison term resulted from a road rage encounter between Asaro and a motorist who became "embroiled in a high-speed chase at the hands of an enraged Asaro", the FBI said.

Asaro contacted an associate with access to a local law enforcement database, identified the number plate information of the car and triggered a plan to burn the car in front of the motorist's home, said the head of New York's FBI office, William F. Sweeney.

"The anger that propelled Asaro to action is reminiscent of so many scripted Hollywood dramas, but unlike the fame and fortune of the big screen, Asaro's story ends on a different note," Sweeney said.

"Today's sentence proves that living life in the fast lane is sure to be short lived."

Acting US attorney Bridget Rohde said Asaro's sentence was "for a lifetime of violent criminal activity".

Before the announcement of the sentence, defence lawyer Elizabeth Macedonio blamed the government for the long prison term, saying prosecutors were "asking you to sentence him for crimes he was acquitted of that occurred 50 or 60 years ago".

Assistant US attorney Nicole Argentieri called Asaro a "one-man crime wave" and said he was a hero in his Queens neighbourhood after he was acquitted at trial.

"It's time to send a message, to break the cycle," she said.

AP

Press Association

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