Henry Hill, a prominent figure in the American mafia, led a life filled with drama, danger, and eventual redemption. Born in the 1950s in New York City to parents of both Irish and Sicilian heritage, Hill quickly became associated with one of the original five Mafia families in New York, the Luchese Family. His close ties with the powerful Luchese faction continued until 1980.
Early Life and Mafia Association
Henry Hill’s journey into the world of organized crime began early in life. Growing up in New York, he joined the Luchese Family, one of the five original Mafia clans in the city. This association would shape his future in profound ways.
The Turning Point
By 1980, Hill faced a critical decision point in his life. Arrested on drug-trafficking charges, he not only confronted the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence but also the very real threat of retribution from his former mafia associates. It was during this perilous time that Hill made the pivotal choice to become a government witness, testifying in numerous trials that led to the imprisonment of many mafia members.
Henry Hill in Pop Culture
Henry Hill’s life and his decision to become an informant intrigued Hollywood and the wider public. Most notably, Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film “Goodfellas” captivated audiences, with Ray Liotta portraying Henry Hill. The film was based on Nicholas Pileggi’s biography, “Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family,” published in 1985.
Henry Hill’s Literary Works
Henry Hill shared his own version of his life’s story through various books. One noteworthy example is “The Wiseguy Cookbook,” co-authored with Priscilla Davis in 2002. It’s more than just a cookbook; it intertwines recipes with memories and anecdotes from Hill’s tumultuous life.
Expulsion from Witness Protection
The Witness Protection Program prioritizes anonymity, which proved challenging for someone as talkative as Hill. In 1987, his repeated indiscretions, including drug possession, led to his expulsion from the program. His loquacious nature clashed with the program’s principle of maintaining a low profile.
The Infamous Lufthansa Heist
Among Hill’s numerous criminal activities during his time with the Luchese family, one event stands out – the Lufthansa Heist of 1978. Alongside his associates, Hill successfully looted Kennedy International Airport’s Lufthansa cargo terminal, making off with an astounding $5 million in cash and nearly $1 million worth of jewels. This audacious theft quickly became one of America’s greatest cash thefts ever attempted.
The Circumstances of Henry Hill’s Death
After a life of high stakes and constant movement, Henry Hill passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 69. In his later years, he lived openly in Topanga, California, but his health had been deteriorating due to heart disease and the effects of years of heavy smoking. He ultimately succumbed in a hospital, as shared by his fiancée, Lisa Caserta.
Henry Hill’s life was marked by constant turmoil, dangerous liaisons, daring heists, and dramatic turnarounds. His decision to turn informant and the subsequent events not only influenced many lives but also left a lasting impact on American pop culture. Through books and films, his story remains a testament to the complexities of life in the mafia.
1. Who was Henry Hill?
Henry Hill was a prominent figure in the American mafia and an associate of the Luchese organized-crime family. He gained notoriety for his involvement in organized crime and later for becoming a government witness.
2. What led Henry Hill to turn informer?
Henry Hill’s decision to become an informant was driven by a combination of facing potential incarceration for drug-trafficking charges and a real threat of harm from his former mafia associates.
3. How has Henry Hill been portrayed in pop culture?
Henry Hill’s life and story have been depicted in various forms of media, with Martin Scorsese’s film “Goodfellas” being one of the most famous portrayals.
4. Did Henry Hill write any books?
Yes, Henry Hill authored several books, including “The Wiseguy Cookbook,” in which he shared his experiences and memories from his life in the mafia.
5. What was the Lufthansa Heist, and how was Henry Hill involved?
The Lufthansa Heist was a notorious robbery at Kennedy International Airport’s Lufthansa cargo terminal in 1978. Henry Hill and his associates successfully executed this heist, making off with millions in cash and jewelry.