Henry Hill, real-life ‘Goodfella,’ dies at 69

Will Perkins
Wide ScreenJune 13, 2012

Sure, he wasn't a director, actor, or producer -- and he wasn't even a very nice guy, for that matter. But Henry Hill's storied and violent life formed the basis for one of the greatest films of the past three decades. Hill, the former New York mobster-turned-informant made famous by Martin Scorsese's 1990 film "Goodfellas," has passed away at the age of 69.

Name a criminal enterprise and Hill was probably involved in it at some point during his time with the Lucchese crime family. Drugs, gambling, extortion, loan sharking, robbery, kidnapping, murder -- it was all part of the job. Hill was very good at what he did, but what he did was not very good. The career criminal was perhaps best known for his participation in the infamous 1978 "Lufthansa heist," in which millions in cash and jewels were stolen from a vault at JFK Airport. It remains one of the largest robberies in U.S. history to this day.

After being arrested on drug trafficking charges in 1980, Hill turned coat, becoming an informant for the FBI and eventually testifying against his former compatriots. His actions led to more than 50 convictions, taking dozens of the New York City area's worst off the streets. Hill and his family were then put into witness protection by the FBI, and he lived throughout the U.S. Midwest for a number of years before eventually being expelled from the program because of his continued criminal activity. Once a hustler always a hustler.

Hill's infamous life story was documented by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi in 1986 in the book "Wiseguy" and was subsequently dramatized by director Scorsese in the Academy Award-nominated film "Goodfellas," starring Ray Liotta as Hill, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci.

Hill died in Los Angeles earlier this week of an undisclosed illness.

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