THE late New York mobster who pulled off one of the most daring heists in history was Henry Hill.
After a life of crime, drama and then snitching the gangster turncoat died in 2012 but will always be immortalised by Ray Liotta’s portrayal of his exploits in the iconic 1990 Goodfellas film.
Who was Henry Hill?
Born on 11 June, 1943 in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn, Hill was the fifth of seven children of half-Irish and half-Sicilian parentage.
At the age of only 11, Hill began to be seduced by the danger of the Lucchese crime family – the most powerful of the five families who dominated New York’s organised crime activities.
“I actually wanted to be a priest…But that didn’t work out,” Hill told The Chicago Tribune in 1986.
At 14, he dropped out of school as the temptation towards power and money dragged him further into the city’s underworlds adding felonies like arson, credit card fraud and assault to his resume.
Hill rose through the ranks of the Lucchese family, embarking on a colourful and crime-filled life that landed him with a six years prison sentence and a front row seat to the Lufthansa heist in 1978.
What crimes did Henry Hill commit?
Hill had his name attached to a myriad of crimes, including narcotics trafficking, truck hijacking, loan sharking, extortion, arson, fraud and assault.
In the late 70s, the gangster was also involved in a point-shaving scandal at Boston College, where he bribed basketball players to fix games.
And yet, his breakthrough into true infamy came from his starring role in the Lufthansa heist in 1978, which was chronicled in Martin Scorsese’s classic Goodfella’s film, starring Ray Liotta as Hill as well as Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci.
It was the largest robbery ever committed on American soil and with the help of his Lucchese family compatriots, he made off with $5.875million (around $20million today) in cash and jewels from the vault at JFK Airport.
Eventually, Hill’s luck ran out and his extensive narcotics operation he was running brought his downfall in 1980.
Facing serious jailtime and paranoia that his crime associates would kill him, Hill sold out his fellow mobsters to the police.
His testimony in multiple trials sent dozens to prison including many of those responsible for the Lufthansa heist.
The same year, he was taken into the witness protection programme with his wife Karen and his two children, Gail and Michael.
He continued his criminal activities inside of the programme and was repeatedly busted by local law enforcement.
The FBI to be forced to move the family around to different locations, where Hill assumed multiple different fake identities and roles, including an insurance investigator, author and working for the government.
However after constantly revealing his true identity and unending bad behaviour- he was kicked out of the programme.
His former crime confederates never took their revenge – most were dead or in prison – and he spent his last years living peacefully in Topanda, California.
Hill wrote several of his own books about his life of crime, including The Wiseguy Cookbook (2002).
What happened to Henry Hill?
The mobster turned federal informer died at the age of 69 on June 12, 2012.
His died in hospital after a string of health problems, including heart disease, reported to have been brought on by years of smoking and alcohol and heroism addictions.
His death came 34 years after his last big job – the daring 1978 heist.