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lufthansa heist

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The Lufthansa Heist is said to be the the biggest heist in u.s. history.This was also preformed my the one and only James Burke.Now he didn`t just say hey guys lets think of a plan and go rob Kennedy airport. It started with a man that went by Werner. He was the supervisor od Lufthansa Airlines(JFK Airport).He was also the main man besides Burke behind the heist.
   Now the reason Werner wanted to rob his own airport was because he had a bad problem with gambling. He was supposed to have been in 20,000 dollars in dept to one of the bookies named Krugman when he only made 17,000 a year and was desperate to pay off the debt.
  Now Werner had heard from many people that a shipment from Franklin International Bank of ove 2.0 million dollars was going to be shipped into lufthansa in untraceable cash Werner final found the perfect opportunity to rob Lufthansa.Now when James recieved a call from Werner when and where he set up a five step plan to rob Lufthansa!
Phase One: A van and two automobiles would be used. One of the cars would follow the van to the airport and be used as a “crash car” in case the police began a pursuit after the robbery. The second car would wait in a garage in Brooklyn where the money would be transferred from the van. The van and crash car would arrive at the cargo terminal at 3:00 a.m. While the crash car, to be driven by Frank Burke, waited in the parking lot, three men would exit the van and enter the front door of the cargo terminal. The two men remaining in the van would drive to the rear of the building, cut the lock on the security fence and replace it with a fake one. The robbers would all be dressed in nondescript dark clothing and be wearing black ski masks.

Phase Two: The men who entered the building would be responsible for rounding up the 10 employees who Warner said would be working that shift. Since it was their lunch hour, several would already be in the lunchroom. They were all to be accounted for, handcuffed and forced to lie face down on the floor.

Phase Three: With instructions provided by Werner, the senior supervisor would be identified and forced to deactivate the alarm system and lead the robbers into the security vault.

Phase Four: The supervisor would then be forced to open the cargo bay door to allow the van inside. The van would be loaded and the supervisor would be taken back to the lunchroom and handcuffed with the others. The captives were to be told that they were to lie still for at least ten minutes. This was because Werner claimed the Port Authority Police could seal the airport within 90 seconds.

Phase Five: When the van pulled out of the cargo terminal it would be followed by the crash car to the Brooklyn garage where the money would be switched to the third vehicle. There Edwards would put a set of stolen plates on the van and drive it to an auto junk yard in New Jersey where it would be compacted and destroyed.

Depending on their role in the robbery the participants were to receive $10,000 to $50,000. However, those amounts were based on the estimated haul, which was only $2.0 million. Werner was to receive a flat 10% of the take.

After the call about the money final preparations were made that weekend, and the robbers took off for the cargo terminal, arriving just before 3:00 a.m. on Monday, December 11.

Instead of five men in the van, as originally planned, there were six. This last participant was believed to be Paola LiCastri, at least by Volkman and Cummings. On this brutally cold morning the van pulled in front of the Lufthansa Cargo terminal and four men alighted and moved inside the building.

As Werner had told them, the guard was on break and the men headed up a flight of stairs. Meanwhile, the van pulled down a driveway beside the building where it encountered a padlocked gate. One of the robbers exited the van with a pair of bolt cutters and sliced through the lock. Once the van moved inside, the chain was replaced and another lock put on, which was then left open. Soon a late model Buick positioned itself in the terminal parking lot with its lights off.

Inside the terminal John Murray, a senior cargo agent who was attempting to take a nap at his desk, was the first employee to be captured. Murray was pulled out of his seat and his suit jacket ripped off. He was ushered into the lunchroom where five other Lufthansa employees were ordered to lie flat on the floor with their eyes closed. Murray was asked who was in the warehouse. He said that Rudi Eirich, the night shift cargo traffic manager, and Kerry Whalen, a transfer man, were there. Murray was hustled back to his office to call Eirich to come upstairs under the guise of taking a phone call from Frankfurt. 

Cargo jet loaded
Cargo jet loaded (AP)

While the drama was playing out inside the terminal, the robbers in the van were getting nervous. The plan was behind schedule. As they sat sweating, they pulled their masks off. Just then the two men were startled by the appearance of a Lufthansa van driven by Kerry Whalen, the transfer man, who was returning after making a delivery. Whalen assumed the other van was making a drop-off and thought nothing of it as he walked past. Whalen suddenly found himself facing a masked gunman and being told to get into the van. Instead, Whalen turned to run only to be tackled and pistol-whipped about the head. The bleeding transfer man was dragged back to the van and ordered to lie quiet.

Inside the warehouse Rolf Rebmann heard the commotion and went to investigate. Described as a “RV buff,” Rebmann instantly recognized the vehicle parked outside as a Ford Econoline 150 van. He then recognized a gun aimed at him. The man holding it still had his mask off and Rebmann took note of his features – a mustache and expensively styled hair, his shoes were brightly shined. He was ordered to lie down beside Whalen in the van.

Eirich, by now, had received the phone call and headed upstairs. He was soon face-to-face with two gunmen. He was pushed into the lunchroom where he saw six fellow employees lined along the floor guarded by a fat masked man.

“Who’s missing?” he was asked.

“I can’t tell for sure,” Eirich replied.

“Where’s the guard?” one of the robbers demanded.

“I don’t know,” answered Eirich.

“Look, you son of a bitch,” a robber with a sawed-off shotgun announced. “We’ve got your address, and we’ll kill your family if you don’t cooperate.”

Eirich was ordered downstairs to help round up the remaining employees. Eirich and his armed escorts searched for the three remaining employees unaware that two of them were already held captive. It was a harrowing experience for Eirich. The robbers felt he was playing a trick when the men couldn’t be located. Soon security guard Samuel Veltri, newly scheduled at the terminal, was seen in the warehouse reading his instruction list. He was quickly captured.

Still waiting for word from inside, one of the robbers in the van replaced his mask and poked his head inside. Seeing one compatriot surveying the warehouse for the unaccounted for employees, he informed him that they had them in the van. Rebmann and Whalen were ordered inside and the cargo bay door was opened. The van moved inside and backed up to the doors of the vault. Rebmann and the bloodied Whalen were taken upstairs to the lunchroom and handcuffed with the others.

With all of the employees secured, the gunmen turned their attention to Eirich and the vault. The armed robbers threatened Eirich, claiming they knew all about the alarm system and that men were at his house ready to kill his family if he didn’t cooperate. The gunmen knew the security procedures and it was obvious to Eirich that they had inside information. He had no choice but to follow their instructions. In minutes the robbers found what they had come for.

The gang removed 72 fifteen-pound cartons of untraceable money from the vault and placed it in the van. Eirich was taken to the cafeteria. While most of the captives were handcuffed, Eirich had his wrists bound with plastic tape. After removing the car keys from the employee’s pockets, and a wallet from Whalen, the robbers told their captives not to move for ten minutes. It was 4:21 am.

The van pulled to the front of the building and the crash car pulled in behind. Two gunmen climbed in the van as the others got into the Buick. The two vehicles pulled away from the terminal and off the airport grounds without encountering any difficulty.

Back in the lunchroom, John Murray, who had his wrists tied together with rope instead of handcuffs, wriggled free and called the Port Authority Police Department.

When the robbers arrived in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, they found the auto repair shop they were looking for, where Jimmy Burke was awaiting them. The boxes of money were removed from the van and placed in the trunks of the two automobiles. Burke and his son drove off in one car. Four others – Manri, McMahon, DeSimone and Sepe – drove away in the second car. Cafaro met his wife, who was driving his white Cadillac, a few blocks away. LiCastri took the subway home and Edwards was left behind to ensure disposal of the van.       

When the New York Times reported the robbery on December 12, 1978, the initial estimate was $3.0 million in cash, and jewelry worth about $2.0 million.   Two days later, the total was revised to $5.0 million in cash and $850,000 in jewelry.  At $5.8 million, the FBI announced that it was the largest cash robbery in the history of the United States.

A Pile of money
A pile of money (AP)

The robbery pulled in four law enforcement agencies – the FBI, the New York Port Authority Police, the Queens District Attorney’s Detective Squad, and detectives from the New York Police Department’s 113th Precinct, in whose jurisdiction the crime took place. The agencies quickly came to one conclusion – it was an inside job.

Last words

Many people that participated in the robbey do to frivalous spending of the money and ratting out people were killed either shortly or up to years later.The list below is the people whacked in order to keep things quite.


Roberts’ Lounge crew-members who took part in the robbery:"
Parnell Steven “Stacks, Stax” Edwards 12-18-1978 Found murdered
Martin “Marty” Krugman 01-06-1979 Reported missing
Thomas “Two-gun Tommy” DeSimone 01-14-1979 Reported missing
Teresa Ferrara 02-10-1979 Reported missing
Louis Cafora March 1979 Reported Missing
Joseph "Joe Buddha" Manri 05/16/1979 Found Murdered
Robert "Frenchy" McMahon 05/16/1979 Found Murdered
Paolo LiCastri 06/13/1979 Found Murdered
Angelo John Sepe 07/18/1984 Found Murdered
Frank James Burke 05/18/1987 Found Murdered


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