Henry Hill was a late New York gangster who carried off one of history’s most audacious heists.
After a life of crime, drama, and snitching, the gangster turncoat died in 2012, but his adventures will live on through Ray Liotta’s portrayal of them in the legendary 1990 film Goodfellas.
Who was Henry Hill?
Hill was the fifth of seven children born on June 11, 1943 in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn. He was half-Irish and half-Sicilian.
Hill was attracted by the dangers of the Lucchese criminal family, the most powerful of the five families that dominated New York’s organized crime operations, when he was just 11 years old.
“I actually wanted to be a priest…But that didn’t work out,” Hill told The Chicago Tribune in 1986.
At 14, he dropped out of school as the temptation towards power and money dragged him further into the city’s underworlds adding felonies like arson, credit card fraud and assault to his resume.
What crimes did Henry Hill commit?
Hill’s identity was linked to a slew of offenses, including drug trafficking, truck hijacking, loan sharking, extortion, arson, fraud, and violence.
The criminal was also implicated in a point-shaving incident at Boston College in the late 1970s, where he bribed basketball players to rig games.
Nonetheless, his breakthrough into actual fame came with his prominent part in the Lufthansa robbery in 1978, which was documented in Martin Scorsese’s iconic Goodfellas film, starring Ray Liotta as Hill as well as Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci.
It was the greatest theft ever perpetrated on American soil, and he made off with $5.875 million (approximately $20 million today) in cash and jewelry from the vault at JFK Airport with the aid of his Lucchese family buddies.
Hill’s luck eventually ran out, and his enormous drugs business brought him down in 1980.
Hill gave on his fellow mobsters to the police because he was facing substantial jail time and was afraid his criminal partners would murder him.
Hundreds of people were imprisoned as a result of his evidence in several cases, including many of those responsible for the Lufthansa theft.
He was placed in witness protection with his wife Karen and their two children, Gail and Michael, the same year.
Inside the program, he maintained his illicit activities and was regularly apprehended by local police authorities.
The FBI was compelled to relocate the family to several locales, where Hill took a variety of false names and occupations, including insurance investigator, novelist, and government employee.
However, he was booted out of the program after repeatedly disclosing his actual identity and engaging in ceaseless bad behavior.
His old criminal associates never exacted their vengeance – most were dead or in prison – and he spent his final years calmly in Topanda, California.
Hill published many novels on his criminal life, including The Wiseguy Cookbook (2002).
What happened to Henry Hill?
On June 12, 2012, the gangster turned government informant died at the age of 69.
His death occurred in a hospital following a series of health issues, including heart disease, which were attributed to years of smoking, alcohol, and drug addictions.
His death occurred 34 years after his last major job, a spectacular theft in 1978.