By Saul Roth
In the early hours of December 11, 1978, a daring robbery took place at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. A group of masked men broke into the Lufthansa cargo terminal and stole an estimated $5.8 million in cash and jewels, making it the largest cash theft in American history at the time. The heist, now known as the Lufthansa Heist, has become one of the most notorious crimes in American history, captivating the public imagination and inspiring countless films, books, and documentaries.
The mastermind behind the heist is believed to be James “Jimmy” Burke, a Lucchese crime family associate. Burke had inside information about the Lufthansa cargo terminal from Louis Werner, a Lufthansa cargo agent who was deeply in debt. Werner provided Burke with the layout of the terminal, the security procedures, and the location of the vault.
On the night of the heist, six men entered the cargo terminal through a side door that had been left unlocked by Werner. They were armed with guns and wore ski masks to conceal their identities. The thieves quickly subdued the security guards and took control of the terminal. They then forced the vault operators to open the vault, which contained millions of dollars in cash and jewels.
The thieves loaded the stolen goods into a waiting van and escaped from the terminal without firing a shot. The entire heist took less than an hour.
The Lufthansa Heist was a major coup for Burke and his associates. They had pulled off the perfect crime, stealing millions of dollars without leaving a trace. However, the heist also marked the beginning of the end for Burke. The FBI launched an intensive investigation into the robbery, and Burke soon became a prime suspect.
Burke was eventually convicted of other crimes, including murder and racketeering. He died in prison in 1990 without ever revealing the whereabouts of the stolen Lufthansa loot.
The Lufthansa Heist remains one of the most unsolved mysteries in American criminal history. The stolen money and jewels have never been recovered, and the identities of some of the participants in the heist remain unknown. The case has been the subject of numerous investigations, books, and documentaries, but the mystery of the Lufthansa Heist remains unsolved.
The Lufthansa Heist is a fascinating case study in the world of organized crime. It highlights the sophistication and ruthlessness of criminal organizations, as well as the challenges faced by law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting these crimes. The heist also raises important questions about the nature of crime and the role of organized crime in American society.
The Lufthansa Heist is a reminder that crime is a complex issue with no easy answers. It is a story of greed, betrayal, and violence. It is also a story of the enduring power of mystery. The heist has become a legend in the annals of American crime, and it continues to fascinate and intrigue people around the world.