Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lufthansa Heist Revisited

Rats Begin to Surface

After spending less than one year of a 15-year sentence behind bars, Louis Werner decided that prison life was not to his liking. He hired an attorney to file papers disclosing his cooperation with the government. Werner was not the only one turning rat. Henry Hill had been busted on a narcotics violation and was facing a sentence of 25 years to life. In fear of being murdered by Burke, Hill also flipped.

In Werner's case, the only person from the Burke gang he had met, Manri, was dead. Although the information he provided to the authorities was limited, his lawyer maintained that by announcing his cooperation in June 1980, he had placed his life in jeopardy.

Hill's situation was different. While not a member of the robbery crew, he was one of the few Robert's Lounge regulars who was still alive. In addition, he had been close to Burke for years.

Hill's early participation as a government witness proved to be frustrating to the authorities. His first bit of information, that two murder victims were buried in the basement of the South Side Inn located in South Ozone Park, Queens, proved to be fruitless. Burke struck back at the newspapers, which continued to keep the finger pointed in Jimmy's direction as being the mastermind of the robbery, after this latest incident. He and his attorney, Michael Coiro, at one time John Gotti's lawyer, rented a bulldozer and had it brought to the South Side Inn site. They made an offer to law enforcement authorities and reporters that they would dig in whatever area they designated.

Hill could provide little information on the Lufthansa robbery. He was not a participant and his information was second-hand at best from people who could no longer corroborate it. In addition, he proved to be a difficult witness to debrief, as his stories seemed to be "all over the map."

Months after Hill became a government witness, and entered the Witness Protection Program; Burke was arrested and charged with parole violations. This time the violations were possession of a firearm and association with a person with a criminal record. Burke was taken into custody on April 1, 1980.

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