On December 11, 1978, the largest cash robbery in the United States (at that time) occurred at John F Kennedy Airport. The heist, made famous in the movie Goodfellas was planned and carried out by members of the Lucchese Crime Family. Like most big thefts of this kind, it was an inside job.
The crime was initiated by Louis Werner, an employee at the airport who owed a huge gambling debt to Lucchese associate Martin Krugman. The information made its way to James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke. Burke did not actually do the robbery, he put a crew together consisting of Tommy DeSimone, Angelo Sepe, Louis Cafora, Joe Manri, Paolo LiCastri, Robert McMahon, Frank Burke, and Parnell “Stacks” Edwards.
At about 3:00 am the crew entered the cargo area of JFK Airport by cutting a padlock on a service gate. They slowly gained access to the vault area, grabbing and securing guards and employees as they went. They held one worker at gunpoint and forced him to open the safe. The robbers where pleasantly surprised at what they found, $5 million in 72 15-pound cartons of untraceable money. It was a much bigger haul then they anticipated. They made a clean getaway by threating their hostages and instructing them not to call the police right away.
The investigation got off to a good start when the van that the perps used was recovered after being illegally parked. Stacks Edwards was supposed to bring the van to a John Gotti controlled scrapyard for destruction, but never bothered. Fingerprints were lifted from the inside of the van that identified several members of the crew. Burke knew that the fingerprints were not enough to make a case and that a statement from one of the conspirators would be needed. This started him off on a remarkable killing spree. Stacks Edwards was found and killed 3 days after the job. Within 6 months Martin Krugman, Tommy DeSimone, Louis Cafora, Joe Manri, Paolo LiCastri, and Robert McMahon were either killed or never seen again. The FBI tried to get incriminating statements by bugging cars, tapping payphones that the perps commonly used, and constantly surveilling them. All for naught. The FBI did know that is was an inside job because of the knowledge the crew had of the security systems at JFK. They turned their attention to that area of investigation and were able to help secure a conviction against Louis Werner. He was sentenced to 5 years for his part in the infamous robbery.
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