To the feds, Vincent Asaro is one of the masterminds the 1978 Lufthansa robbery immortalized in the mob movie “Goodfellas.”
To the nervous witness squirming on the stand Friday, Asaro was “my cousin Vinny.”
“Do you want to be here?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Argentieri asked 57-year-old John Zaffarano.
"No I don't,” said Zaffarano, visibly nervous and glancing at Asaro in Brooklyn federal court.
Zaffarano was supposed to testify at the 80-year-old Bonanno goon’s racketeering trial on Thursday, but claimed he was too sick to fly up from Florida.
Sitting on the stand, the chubby witness looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there, and at times claimed to have trouble remembering what he told the grand jury earlier.
His pop, Mickey Zaffarano, was a Bonanno family capo and sleaze merchant whose Pussycat Theater in Times Square showed some of the biggest porn movies of the 1970s, like “Deep Throat.”
Vincent Asaro, 80, is accused of orchestrating the spectacular 1978 heist at Kennedy Airport that netted the robbers $6 million in cash and jewelry.
Last week, another cousin — star government witness Gaspare Valenti — testified Asaro gave Zaffarano’s dad a $100,000 cut from the spectacular 1978 heist at Kennedy Airport that netted the robbers $6 million in cash and jewelry.
Valenti also said Asaro lent the elder Zaffarano $100,000 at one point, a loan that was repaid.
Zaffarano told the court that after his dad was felled by a heart attack in 1980, Asaro lied at the funeral and told him his pop still owed $250,000.
“Yeah I believed it, I guess,” he said.
Argentieri reminded Zaffarano that he had testified to a grand jury that he believed Asaro was lying and that he ended up paying him more than $250,000.
“I had a substance abuse problem back then and I was on a white cloud so I really don't remember,” the worried witness sputtered.
John Zaffarano’s father Mickey owned the Pussycat Theater in Times Square, which showed some of the biggest porn movies on the 1970s like “Deep Throat.” When John sold the building, Asaro asked for a cut from the sale, Zaffarano said.
Then Argentieri asked Zaffarano what happened in 1986 after he sold the building on 59th St., where his pop’s porn emporium was located for $18.5 million .
Zaffarano said Asaro demanded a cut of that action and wound up getting between $300,000 and $400,000. He said his cousin also presided over a sitdown at a Little Italy restaurant with legendary Genovese gangster Matthew “Matty the Horse” Ianniello, who wanted $1 million in compensation because his shuttered peep shows were in the sold building.
“He suggested I pay (Ianniello) because he's not the kind of person to fool around with," Zaffarano testified, saying he wound up coughing up $750,000 to the fearsome gangster.
"I gave money to my whole family," he said. "Vinny helped me negotiate that thing."
Zaffarano admitted he moved to Florida to get away from Asaro. He said he was running a waterfront bar called Rumbottoms and owned a replica Viking ship in the 1990s when Asaro and Valenti came calling.
Valenti, who testified earlier against Asaro and secretly taped their conversation for the feds, called it a shakedown.
Zaffarano said “cousin Vinny” made a “business proposition” and reluctantly admitted he “probably asked for money.”
Joe Pesci as Vinny in “My Cousin Vinny.” Zaffarano frequently referred to the defendant as “cousin Vinny” during his testimony.
Reminded that he told the grand jury he gave Asaro $250,000, Zaffarano stammered, “I’m having a little trouble with my memory.”
On cross-examination, Zaffarano said he had not seen Asaro in 20 years before Friday and insisted he never gave him any cash out of fear.
"I always loaned money with the intention that I wasn't going to get it back and if I did, hooray,” he said.
Zaffarano was followed on the stand by another alleged Asaro shakedown victim who testified what happened to him after he missed his weekly “protection money” payments.
Guy Gralto told the court he was shot and robbed after Asaro drove his car through the fence of Gralto's auto parts store on 101st Ave. in Queens.
Asaro, who seethed as Zaffarano and Gralto testified, finally blew his stack another mob turncoat, Anthony Ruggiano Jr., took the stand.
Ruggiano testified that his late Gambino soldier father, "Fat Andy," helped Asaro and Lufthansa heist co-architect James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke fence jewelry stolen in the robbery. He also told the court Asaro started placing $100 bets at Aqueduct Racetrack after the robbery.
“This guy is lying through his teeth,” Asaro snarled.
Asaro is also accused of helping Burke strangle a suspected snitch with a dog chain.