- Vincent Asaro gets eight years for tracking down and burning motorist’s car
- Asaro was cleared of 1978 Lufthansa robbery immortalised in 1990 film
New York may have recorded a dramatic fall in crime this year, including the lowest annual murder total since the 1950s, but a sentencing hearing in Brooklyn on Thursday revealed the persistence of some of the city’s most famous criminal traditions.
Prosecutors allege that Vincent Asaro, 82, was inducted into the Bonanno crime syndicate more than 40 years ago and has held the position of captain and been a member of the family’s ruling panel.
He was charged – and acquitted two years ago – over the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist, which was immortalised in the Martin Scorsese gangster classic Goodfellas. He was also acquitted of the murder by strangulation of a suspected informant in 1969.
On Thursday, however, Asaro was sentenced to eight years in prison for his part in a road rage incident in the mob stronghold of Howard Beach, Queens.
Bridget Rohde, acting US attorney for the eastern district of New York, said the heavy sentence held Asaro “accountable not only for using his power as a member of organized crime to address a perceived slight by another motorist, but for a lifetime of violent criminal activity”.
Asaro pleaded guilty to the offence, which involved using a connection in the Gambino family with access to law enforcement databases to track down a motorist who cut him up at a traffic stop in 2012.
According to the court, Asaro then contacted two other associates, one of them John J Gotti, a relative of the late “Dapper Don” John Gotti, and ordered them to douse the motorist’s car with gasoline and set it alight.
That incident was observed, however, by a New York police officer sitting in an unmarked car.
“The anger that propelled Asaro to action is reminiscent of so many scripted Hollywood dramas,” said Rohde, “but unlike the fame and fortune of the big screen, Asaro’s story ends on a different note.”
After passing sentence, Judge Allyne Ross ordered Asaro to pay $21,276 in restitution for the damages to the car.
“If he had not aged out of a life of crime at the age of 77, I have little hope that he will do so,” Ross said in announcing the decision.
In an unexpected moment of contrition, Asaro apologized and described the plot as a “stupid thing I did”.