LATEST PAPER
57° Good Morning
57° Good Morning
News

Former Bonanno associate gets probation for role in Lufthansa Heist

Valenti, who was facing as many as 10 years in prison, got a big break for his cooperation in Asaros’ trial.

Gaspare Valenti, left, with cousin Vincent Asaro, in

Gaspare Valenti, left, with cousin Vincent Asaro, in an undated photo, was sentenced to 3 years probation on Monday, March 19, 2018 for his role in 3 federal crimes including the Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport. Photo Credit: USDOJ

Gaspare Valenti, a former associate of the Bonanno crime family who testified against his mobster cousin Vincent Asaro, was sentenced to three years of probation on Monday for his role in three federal crimes, including the infamous 1978 Lufthansa Heist at Kennedy Airport, officials said.

In a separate proceeding Monday, Asaros’ nephew, a Bonanno crime captain, and two other men, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges, officials said.

Valenti, 71, who was facing as much as 10 years in prison, got a big break for his cooperation in Asaros’ trial from Brooklyn federal judge Allyne Ross. The judge cited what she called Valenti’s extraordinary assistance to the government.

Valenti testified at Asaro’s November 2015 trial on charges he took part in the heist and the murder of hijacker Paul Katz, as well as other offenses. But in a decision that stunned federal prosecutors and many court observers, the jury acquitted Asaro, 83, of all charges. He was later convicted on a different federal charge and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Nevertheless, according to court officials, Ross lauded Valenti’s decision to cooperate against Asaro, with whom he was very close. At the trial, Valenti said he and Asaro were part of the team of robbers put together by the legendary mob associate James “Jimmy The Gent” Burke to steal $5.8 million in cash and jewels from the Lufthansa secure cargo facility at Kennedy. The crime was part of the story depicted in the Martin Scorsese film “Goodfellas.”

Valenti is only the second person ever convicted of the Lufthansa robbery. Since all other known participants in the heist are dead, Valenti’s case is likely the final chapter of the story. The only other person convicted was Louis Werner, a Lufthansa employee found guilty in 1979 of giving the Burke crew crucial inside information about the cargo terminal.

According to a law enforcement official, Valenti, whose life on the fringe of the Bonanno crime family was marked by continual financial and personal woes, has apparently turned things around and now works a steady job. His attorney couldn’t be reached for comment.

Not so lucky Monday was Asaro’s nephew, Bonanno crime captain Ronald Giallanzo. In a proceeding before Judge Dora Irizarry, Giallanzo, 47, and two other men pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy charges and agreed to forfeit $2.5 million, said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue.

Giallanzo was indicted in 2017 along with nine others on charges they were part of a Bonanno racketeering conspiracy involving murder conspiracy, attempted murder, robbery, arson and extortion. Federal investigators said in court papers that Giallanzo became a loan shark with as much $3 million on the street.

Evidence of Giallanzo’s wealth was what prosecutors called a “gargantuan home” located at 164-04 86th Street in Howard Beach. As part of his plea deal, Giallanzo admitted making extortionate loans to five victims and agreed to forfeit $1.25 million and sell his mansion. Michael Palmaccio, 46, of Queens and Nicholas Festa, 37, of Oceanside admitted making extortionate loans to victims and each agreed to forfeit $500,000, officials said.

News photos & videos