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Aging Mobster Acquitted in 'Goodfellas' Trial

Vincent Asaro, center, leaves federal court Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015.

A New York jury has cleared an old-school mobster of charges he helped carry out a record-setting heist nearly 40 years ago that inspired the movie Goodfellas.

It was a Hollywood ending for Vincent Asaro, 80, who could have spent the rest of his life in prison if convicted of racketeering charges, which included allegations of murder, solicitation of murder, extortion and robbery.

Asaro jumped up, pumped his fist and clapped after the verdict. When he walked out of the courthouse, he threw his hands up in the air and yelled: "Free!''

In the biggest heist ever on U.S. soil, armed mobsters stole $5 million in cash and nearly $1 million in jewels from a Lufthansa Airlines vault at New York's John F. Kennedy airport on December 11, 1978.

The value of the booty today is estimated at around $20 million. Asaro was the first, and probably last, alleged member of the Mafia to be prosecuted over the heist.

The caper was memorialized in Martin Scorsese's Academy Award-winning 1990 film, in which Robert DeNiro played a character based on fellow mobster Jimmy Burke, long believed to be the mastermind of the robbery.