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‘History’s Greatest Heists With Pierce Brosnan’ Recap: Episode 4 – Lufthansa Heist, A Blood-curdling Transaction

“History’s Greatest Heists With Pierce Brosnan” is back with another new episode, which premiered on February 28 and featured one of the deadliest heists in the history of the USA. The 4th episode is about the Lufthansa Heist, a burglary at John F. Kennedy International Airport that ultimately led to the larceny of approximately $5 million. A terrific heist doesn’t happen overnight; it takes a lot of hard work, patience, time, planning, and expert execution to pull it off perfectly. In the previous episodes, most of the experts spoke in detail, but something is special about this operation. Gary Valenti, one of the heist participants, will be seen explaining each detail, while Rolf Rebmann, another agent who used to work in the warehouse, will also share his experience. The heist not only seized the money but took the lives of many, which is definitely a scary move.

Spoilers Ahead

From Runway To Betray

Lufthansa is a booming airline that usually deals with high-value shipments daily, including cargo transportation and international shipments. Peter Gruenwald, the mastermind of the heist, used to work in the shipping building. He always had this thought when negotiating a robbery, as the airlines are often used to import valuable jewels across the world. He used to check up on the cargo movement and shipping pattern every day. Cargo building 261, with a carpet area of 10080 sq. ft. and consisting of three floors, had different workers for different shifts. The vault room was on the top floor and had a two-door policy; two keys were needed to open it simultaneously, or else the alarm would start ringing. Peter was already aware of each brick in the wall. The fall season, especially December, is a very happening month for Lufthansa, as it is worth a king’s ransom. The night shift break is the time that could be utilized to accomplish his plan. He sketched out how to subdue the seven night shift workers and steal the vault room key from the supervisor—but all he needs is a partner. Louis Werner, who had a gambling problem, was approached by Peter to be a part of his mission. Werner owed people a total of around six thousand dollars, and it seemed like a great opportunity for him to pay all his due bills. But Werner included more people in the plan. Jimmy Burke, the ringleader, also one of the greatest mafias, took all the control in his hand to attack the Lufthansa airline service. He had his own crew, which included Joe Manri and Vincent Vinny, the hothead man in the group. Gaspare Garvey Valenti, the cousin of Vinny, was an extra gunman for the team, while Tommy became his right hand to execute the heist. Thus, the raid is assumed to have been orchestrated and planned by Jimmy’ The Gent’ Burke, a member of the legendary Lucchese Family.

Mobster’s Mission

A bold plan and the right team are all that is needed to pull off a heist; at least, that is what Brosnan says. Werner had provided the thugs with an outline of the property’s layout and the alarm detector system. So that they could be intimately acquainted with the puzzling hallways and multiple security checks in a positive way. Jimmy started figuring out when would be the best moment to get inside the building. But the irony is that Werner double-crossed Peter in deciding anything about the heist. Two days before the heist, Jimmy’s crew members are ready with loaded guns, handcuffs, pistols, etc., but one thing that was extremely important is to find the right vehicle. Followed by a  car, on December 11, a gang of armed robbers showed up in a black van at the shipment building shortly before dawn. On that day, there was a million-dollar freight, which came up as an absolute bonus for the team. Usually, the funds are transferred once every month and saved up overnight in the safety deposit box before being transferred to the respective banks. When the team entered the building, the employees were having a refreshment break. The robbers stormed inside the lunch room and took hostages by rounding them up and taping their lips together. At gunpoint, all the workers were handcuffed and asked to submit their wallets with the key cards. Soon, Tommy realized that there were employees  missing from the list given by Werner beforehand. While a few members were inside, Gary and one of his teammates, without a face mask, were inside the van till they got a place in the parking lot. Two of them captured a senior agent, Rolf Rebmann, and threatened him with a pistol so that he could guide them upstairs. Most of the workers got injured as Tommy was one of a kind, violent, impatient, and aggressive. When they ran out of handcuffs, they used ropes to tie the employees. Now, they forced one of the workers to call up the supervisor, who has the keys to the vault room. The supervisor came upstairs and was taken directly to the vault at gunpoint. He had the chance to trigger the alarm, but how could a person take the risk when he himself was at stake? He could not jeopardize the lives of the employees, so he used two of the keys to unbolt the deposit room, knowing that the robbers were aware of every protocol.

Getting into the room, Jimmy and his team could not believe their own eyes. Within an hour, they disappeared, taking 72 cartons filled with cash and currencies, as well as jewels, diamonds, and rubies worth ninety thousand dollars. They ripped off more than their expectations.

From Mindgame To Massacre

Now, as they piled up all the things perfectly, without any hiccups, they didn’t plan any getaways to stash the items. But Jimmy is the mastermind who can come up with a better plan. All their hard work gets paid off with more than $5.875 million. Inside a garage, Jimmy dishes out everyone’s proportions and fits a man named Stacks Edwards to dispose of the black van. Stacks was so drunk that he illegally parked the van on the road for two days. When the cops came to the scene, they found no clue except for the van that was left on the street. Before any information came out, Jimmy pulled the trigger to kill Stacks. The heist murdered more than 12 people who were potentially linked to the case and had knowledge of the smash and grab. Jimmy Burke is accused of arranging or individually committing the mass killing in order to destroy every piece of evidence left. Peter panicked and had plans to flee, but the cops arrested him because he took the name of the insider, Werner. He also admitted that he was the prime force behind starting the voyage but that he did not indulge in any actions at all. The FBI has been investigating the case ever since it occurred, yet numerous people involved in the Lufthansa heist have kicked the bucket. In 2014, Gary also confronted all the truths about the heist, which was a major shot in the arm. The sudden and horrifying heist left a chain of corpses, both blameless and remorseful. Eventually, the case was solved, throwing many people behind the iron rods. Only a few things were recovered in comparison to the heist’s value; rather, it was a bloodbath across New York City.


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