THE HEIST: How a Not Too Bright Gang of Crooks Managed to Steal $8,000.000 and Lived to Regret It by Ernest & John Cummings Volkman

THE HEIST: How a Not Too Bright Gang of Crooks Managed to Steal $8,000.000 and Lived to Regret It

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A riveting tale of the 1978 Lufthansa Air Cargo heist at Kennedy Airport, in which $8,000,000 in cash and jewels were stolen in a daring overnight raid. Volkman (A Legacy of Hate and Warriors of the Night) and Cummings, a Newsday reporter,: have written an entertaining account of how Jimmy ""the Gent"" Burke and his gang of so-so gangsters and criminals (called the ""Roberts Lounge Gang"" after the working-class bar in which they launched the scheme) managed to find a hole in an otherwise tight security net at Lufthansa's ""high value"" cargo room. Kennedy Airport had always been a major haunt of organized crime and precious cargo hijackings were so common that shippers assumed a certain percentage as theft loss. Burke, who had been granted special status by Mafia don Paul Vario to operate in his own right (provided Vario always got his cut), gathered together a dozen or so confederates who, using inside information from a Lufthansa employee, were able to pinpoint an hour on a Sunday graveyard shift when the goodies would be ripe for the plucking. That they did, and set off a long investigation by the FBI and Queens detectives. Everyone knew who did it, but getting the proof was another story, especially as Burke had an inconvenient habit of having his gang robbed out one by one as the heat got too close. Finally, Burke was imprisoned on a totally different charge of fixing Boston College basketball games, then again for life on a murder charge on the testimony of one of his gang, Henry Hill (the subject of Nicholas Pileggi's Wiseguy). Volkman and Cummings handle it all in a breathtaking manner (of which the movies often are made). Their explanation of Burke? ""He actually thought of himself as some sort of gentleman highwayman. He was straight out of Regency England, when the profession had only a limited social stigma."" Fine criminal reportage (and, by the way, the money was never found).

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1986
Publisher: Franklin Watts