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Prosecutor: Lufthansa defendant Vincent Asaro is 'the ultimate tough guy'

FBI agents escort Vincent Asaro, middle front, from

FBI agents escort Vincent Asaro, middle front, from FBI offices in lower Manhattan, Jan. 23, 2014. Asaro has been arrested in connection arrested with the infamous Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport in 1978, according to a federal indictment. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

A prosecutor in the Lufthansa heist trial called octogenarian defendant Vincent Asaro "the ultimate tough guy, a wise guy to be feared" as summations began Friday in federal court in Brooklyn.

"He lived by and personally enforced the Mafia code: 'Death before dishonor,' " prosecutor Alicyn Cooley told jurors, showing a picture of those words tattooed on the muscled forearm of the alleged Bonanno family mobster that was displayed during the three-week-long trial.

Asaro, 80, of Howard Beach, is charged with engaging in a four-decade-long racketeering conspiracy, which included planning the notorious 1978 robbery of the Lufthansa cargo terminal at Kennedy Airport. The heist netted $6 million in cash and jewels and was chronicled in the 1990 mob classic "Goodfellas."

In her daylong closing, Cooley painstakingly walked jurors through pictures and testimony on the Lufthansa robbery and alleged racketeering acts, including the 1969 murder of suspected informer Paul Katz, as well as arson, extortion, loan-sharking, threats and beatings.

Calling it a tale of "the Mafia at its darkest and most sinister," she leaned heavily on testimony and tapes from informant Gaspare Valenti, Asaro's cousin, who said he had participated in the Lufthansa theft. He described Asaro's alleged role in planning the crime and divvying up the loot.

Valenti also testified that he helped bury the body of Katz, who ran a warehouse where Asaro and associates stashed stolen goods. He said Asaro told him that he and criminal partner Jimmy Burke -- played by Robert DeNiro in the movie -- had strangled Katz with a dog chain.

Cooley also reminded jurors of testimony from Katz's son Lawrence, who was 6 when his father disappeared. The son described haunting memories of his parents arguing about his dad talking to police, and his father drawing a picture of a house in the country where he hoped to move.

Asaro's "upside down values robbed Paul Katz and his wife and his loved ones of their peace of mind forever," Cooley said.

The defense summation, a prosecution rebuttal and jury instructions are scheduled for Monday.

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