Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lufthansa Heist Revisited

Burke Goes Away

Steve Carbone found Henry Hill to be one of the most aggravating witnesses he had ever dealt with. Early on, they moved Hill to an FBI safe house in the Pocono Mountains to debrief him. Volkman and Cummings describe the problem:

The problem fundamentally, was that Hill had existed too long in a world where truth was relative and could be used or abused as events dictated. Worse, Carbone decided, Hill had the mentality of an 8 year-old; he was seemingly incapable of keeping the most basic details straight. Often he would contradict himself in the space of minutes, and then profess not to understand when an FBI agent pointed out the discrepancy.

One of the things Carbone was curious about was why Hill wasn't in on the robbery. According to Hill, Burke had wanted him to participate, but due to "bad blood" between Henry and Angelo Sepe, Jimmy decided against it. This bad blood arose when Hill and Sepe were in prison together in Atlanta. Hill had been pushed around by another inmate. When he didn't retaliate, Sepe called him a "fag" and never wanted to be around him again.

Hill was soon enrolled in the Witness Protection Program and began testifying at trials and before grand juries. Mostly low-level cases. As Carbone continued to debrief Hill, the frustration grew. Hill repeatedly insisted that the FBI didn't know anything about organized crime he was going to enlighten them.

"I think I'm going to strangle him," Carbone told McDonald one day while intimating that getting anything out of Hill to use against Burke was growing dimmer as each day passed.

Then it happened. A particular detail that Hill had forgotten which had been rolled up in the recesses of his mind came flowing out. Hill had been asked to help the prosecutor's office convince a woman, who had been involved in his drug operation, to cooperate. During the questioning, the woman claimed she couldn't remember where she was on a certain date. Hill reminded her, "Aw, you know where we was, we was in Boston, fixing basketball games."

McDonald took the information like a perfectly lobbed alley-oop pass and slam-dunked it. Burke and four other participants in the game-fixing scheme, including former Boston College star player Rick Kuhn, were indicted on July 29, 1981. The trial began in November and on the 23rd all five defendants were found guilty of racketeering and sports bribery. In January 1982, 52-year-old Burke was handed a 20-year sentence and placed in the federal facility in Milan, Michigan.

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