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5 mobsters busted in connection to famed Lufthansa heist

Five mobsters, including several organized crime captains, have been arrested in the investigation of the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist, law enforcement sources tell NBC 4 New York.

The busts come in connection to remains found during last summer's search of the Queens home of the late gangster who inspired Robert DeNiro's character in the movie "Goodfellas."

The nearly $6 million Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport was allegedly masterminded by Jimmy Burke, the late Lucchese family crime associate whose Ozone Park home was searched in June, and is considered one of the largest cash thefts in American history.

The FBI began digging at Burke's old home in mid-June as they searched for links to a missing organized crime associate.

Investigators discovered bones buried in the ground that tests showed to be human, but the identity of those remains has not been released.

The five suspects arrested Thursday morning are expected to face charges in connection with the discovery of those remains as well as the airport heist.

Law enforcement sources say those arrested include Bonanno crime family members Vincent Asaro, 78; Jerome Asaro, 55; Thomas "Tommy D" DiFiore, 70; John "Bazoo" Ragano, 52; and Jack Bonventre, whose age wasn't clear.

It wasn't clear where the suspects were arrested, but they all live in New York — one upstate, two on Long Island and two in Queens. The specific nature of their alleged connections to Lufthansa and the bones found at Burke's home wasn't immediately clear, and it wasn't known if they had attorneys. 

Burke specialized in hijacking, but according to law enforcement officials, he also was linked to crimes including loan sharking, extortion, gambling and drug trafficking.

The mobster was arrested in 1982 for a parole violation — associating with a known felon — and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his part in a point-shaving scandal involving the Boston College basketball team. While in prison, Burke was indicted for the murder of a drug dealer whose body was found hogtied in a freezer truck in Brooklyn. He was sentenced to 20 years to life for second-degree murder.

He died behind bars in 1996, at age 64, almost two decades after the airport robbery. The cash from the heist was never found and for lack of evidence, Burke was never prosecuted for the theft or for the bloodletting that followed: several of the alleged participants were murdered.

Burke's wife continued to live in the house for some years after his death.