NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — FBI agents on Monday were digging underneath a home in Queens, and the excavation might relate to a search for human remains relating to a mob murder from more than 30 years ago.
As CBS 2’s John Slattery reported, the FBI and NYPD organized crime investigators were searching the Ozone Park home that once belonged to gangster Jimmy “The Gent” Burke.
A police source told CBS 2 the FBI was looking for evidence and possible human remains related to a 30-year-old mob murder, based on information from a snitch.
The sound of a jackhammer could be heard from under a blue tent set up in the home’s driveway, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported. It looked as if a basement was being excavated on the block of brick row houses with garages below.
Agents ducked in with shovels and a pickaxe as authorities tried to unearth what may be buried underground.
The house belonged to Burke, and then his wife – Cathy Burke — after his death in 1996, a police source said. The home still belongs to Burke’s daughter, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.
Longtime residents had little to say about it.
“I don’t know,” said neighbor Frank Labasci. “First time I’ve seen the FBI here in 40 years.”
Neighbors said an elderly couple has lived in the downstairs apartment for years.
“Pretty quiet people, nothing crazy. They’re very quiet,” a woman told Silverman.
Burke was a longtime associate of the Lucchese crime family –- one of the five La Cosa Nostra families in New York City. He was believed to be the mastermind of the Lufthansa heist, in which about $5.8 million in cash and jewels were stolen from the Lufthansa vaults at John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to published reports.
The heist inspired the 1990 movie “Goodfellas,” with Burke being the inspiration for Robert DeNiro’s role in the film.
Neighbor Victor Moreno wondered whether some of the loot from the Lufthansa heist might also have been buried across the street all these years.
“They never found the money, and there’s a lot,” he told Rincon.
Most of the robbers in the heist were subsequently murdered. Burke himself died of lung cancer in prison while serving time on convictions unrelated to the heist.
A former member of the NYPD Organized Crime Task Force, who worked on the Lufthansa case, said what is missing is one body that never turned up, and the money.
“The money was never recovered and the material was never recovered,” said former NYPD Investigator Joe Coffey. “The only big principal that could be buried there that’s definitely missing, is Tommy DeSimone who was a principal in that robbery.”
DeSimone disappeared in January 1979. He was declared legally dead by the FBI in 1990, and his body has never been found.
DeSimone was the basis for Joe Pesci’s character in “Goodfellas.”
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