BROOKLYN — The paralegals working with federal prosecutors on the "Goodfellas" trial pushed two carts, filled with black binders, to and from court, when one of the star witnesses took the stand recently.
The binders were packed with hundreds of pages of transcripts, containing conversations between admitted Bonanno crime family member, Gaspare Valenti, and his cousin, Vincent Asaro.
Valenti is pinning the 1978 Lufthansa heist — which netted six million dollars in never-recovered cash and jewelry — on his cousin, and says he was there, too! The infamous robbery at JFK airport in Queens was an integral part of the plot in the 1990 Martin Scorsese film, “Goodfellas.”
Valenti testified on the stand that he recorded about 1,000 hours of conversations between himself and Asaro, who is an accused capo in the Bonanno family.
Asaro is now 80 years old. The feds are accusing him of not only the heist but also a murder from 1969.
Valenti testified that Asaro and Jimmy “The Gent” Burke strangled a warehouse owner named Paul Katz with a dog chain in the late 60’s because they suspected Katz was a snitch.
In one of the recordings, Asaro, then in his late 70’s, is heard using common, La Cosa Nostra lingo, boasting, “I’m a f---ing friend 37, f----ing years, a wiseguy. And another 50 years before that.”
Valenti testified the 50-year reference and revealed Asaro knew “the life.” He said Asaro’s father was also a member of organized crime.
When PIX11 News visited the trial, we listened to multiple audio recordings being played as evidence.
One of them that stuck out: Asaro is heard warning his cousin, Gaspare, about meeting a man in Las Vegas.
“When you go see that guy, watch what you say about money to him,” Asaro told Valenti. “He could be wired up.”
Valenti was also wired up, recording the conversation.
Watching Gaspare Valenti intently at the trial was Valenti’s son, Anthony, who the feds say is attached to the Bonanno family.
“Is that something you wanted for your son?” the federal prosecutor asked the elder Valenti.
“No, never,” the father responded from the stand.
At that point, Anthony Valenti looked up toward the ceiling, from the spectator’s section in the court.
Outside, PIX11 tried to talk to Anthony Valenti, asking him if it was tough to watch his father serve as a government witness against his cousin.
The son was reluctant to speak, but when PIX11 asked if it was hurtful to sit there and listen to his dad, he responded “Of course it is, of course it is.”
In another recording, Valenti captures an alleged conversation between an associate named John Rangano and Vincent Asaro.
“When do we stab this guy in the neck,” Rangano is heard asking. The voice identified as Asaro responds, “Stab him today,” and then adds, “I told you to give him a f---ing beating.”
Asaro has been in federal custody since January 2014, and when PIX11 paid a visit to his old stomping grounds near Liberty Avenue and 86th Street in South Ozone Park, we found a large “SPACE FOR RENT” sign hanging on his shuttered social club.
His Astro Fence Company has been closed down.
A man we met outside the car wash on Liberty Avenue, across the street, spoke about the changing times.
“Time changes everything,” said Ed Folk, who has lived in the South Ozone Park area for all of his 39 years. When PIX11 asked, “Even the code of silence,” Folk replied, “I don’t think there is a code anymore.”
Vincent Asaro pleaded not guilty to the alleged crimes in 2014, and his defense attorney, Elizabeth Macedonia, told PIX11 that cousin Gaspare Valenti is creating stories “out of whole cloth.”
“The man plead guilty in 2009, and he’s been out ever since,” Macedonia said. “He’s getting paid $3,000 a month of taxpayers’ money—so yeah, that’s pretty much a sweetheart deal, for a lifetime of crime.”
Valenti said money was the reason he went to the FBI to begin with in 2008. He was a “broke fella” and needed the cash to support himself and his family.