NEW YORK – An FBI excavation has turned up possible human remains at a home once occupied by a famed gangster who inspired Robert De Niro's character in the movie "Goodfellas," authorities said Wednesday.
Federal agents armed with jackhammers and shovels had started digging Monday as part of an undisclosed investigation. An FBI spokesman confirmed Wednesday that agents found organic material that they want to test, but he declined to comment further.
Gangster James Burke, known as Jimmy the Gent, had lived at the Queens home while an associate in the Lucchese crime family. According to mob lore, he orchestrated a nearly $6 million robbery, one of the largest cash heists in American history, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1978.
This week, neighbors watched as a canopy was erected over the driveway and another one over the backyard. Three FBI Evidence Response Team trucks were parked in front, with about a dozen agents coming and going, some shoveling dirt into buckets.
The Burke family still owns the home, now rented to an elderly couple.
While living there, Burke also owned Robert's Lounge, a saloon that a fellow Lucchese associate, the late Henry Hill, described as Burke's private cemetery. In June 1980, a human leg bone and a portion of a human shoulder bone were excavated from the saloon's basement.
Burke was never prosecuted for the airport heist or for the bloodletting that followed: Several of the participants were killed. He died behind bars in 1996, at age 64, while serving time in a separate case.