Mafia Justice: The True Story of the Lufthansa Heist from Goodfellas Documentary

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The True Story of the Lufthansa Heist from ‘Goodfellas’ and it’s Deadly Aftermath

The 1978 Lufthansa Heist has been immortalized into American culture thanks to mafia movies like ‘Goodfellas’, ‘The Great Heist’, and countless other films. The caper, masterminded by mafia connected gangster Jimmy “the Gent” burke, was the largest armed robbery to have ever occurred with almost six million dollars stolen from the Lufthansa terminal at JFK airport.

In this documentary we examine the events that led up to the robbery, how the heist was carried out, and the bloody aftermath where almost everyone involved met a grisly end. Members of the Lufthansa Heist ranged from inside man Louis Werner who conceived of the crime, mob bookie Martin Krugman who brought the idea of the heist to Jimmy Burke (known as Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas and played by Robert DeNiro), and Burke’s crew which was Angelo Sepe, Tommy DeSimone (Known as Tommy DeViteo in Goodfellas and played by Joe Pesci), Louis Cafora, Joe Buddha Manri, Robert Frenchie McMahon, and Stacks Edwards who was not at the robbery but was tasked with getting rid of the van the crew used.

Almost all of these men would become victims of the Lufthansa Heist murders, most within the year following the Lufthansa Heist at JFK airport. Other murdered victims that are connected to the heist and Jimmy Burke include Joanna Cafora, Robert Eaton, and Theresa Ferrara.

While there were about a dozen people involved in the planning and execution of the heist (more if you consider the mob bosses in the Bonanno, Gambino, and Lucchese families that gave their permission), only one of them would be arrested, put on trial, and convicted: inside man Louis Werner.

The Lufthansa Heist was only made possible thanks to the knowledge and planning of Jimmy the Gent Burke’s inside man. His detailed knowledge of how the Lufthansa Cargo Terminal at JFK airport operated combined with his detailed instructions of how the alarm system in the vault operated was what made it possible for the members of the Lufthansa Heist crew to carry out their daring heist that netted them a score that was the largest in American history up to this point.

As soon as investigators arrived on the scene and learned how the armed robbers knew how the alarm system operated, they knew they had an inside man working with the robbery crew. It didn’t take long for them to focus on Louis Werner and six months after the heist was carried out, he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

The mind of Louis Werner was where the idea for the Lufthansa Heist originated. He was a degenerate gambler and a cargo supervisor who constantly moved cash from the cargo holds in the airplanes (money used for foreign currency exchanging) to the vault in the cargo building. In 1976, some money disappeared under his watch which he used to pay off his gambling debts. He claimed to have nothing to do with the theft and an investigation was inconclusive, which miraculously allowed him to retain his job. He paid of his gambling debts and had the opportunity to live happily ever after, after getting away with the perfect crime.

This didn’t happen. Louis Werner continued gambling and after two years he found himself in deeper debt. More than his entire annual salary. He teamed up with his friend and coworker Peter Grunweld to devise a plan to rob the terminal with an armed crew. But Grunewled chickened out and the bookies were threatening to kill Werner, so he went to Marty Krugman to pitch his idea. Krugman ran the idea up to Jimmy the Gent Burke and the heist was born.

This video uses reenactments and crime scene photos of the Lufthansa heist to tell the story of what really happened that night and in the months afterwards where almost everyone involved would be brutally murdered.

Music is by Kevin Macleod and the stock video clips come from Vectezy.
00:00 Introduction
00:45 One Man’s Dream
06:20 Krugman Makes the Pitch
12:19 The Heist Goes Down
18:32 Two Leads
23:09 Krugman and DeSimone
29:28 The Law Attacks
35:01 Too Many Bodies
39:10 The Trial
44:00 Jimmy the Gent’s Fall
48:28 The Aftermath