Henry Hill, born to an Irish father and an Italian mother in Brooklyn, was not just any ordinary man. At a tender age of 11, he was enticed by the glamorous life led by the mobsters across his street. These weren’t your average men. They commanded respect, never received parking tickets, and wore silken suits that screamed authority. Hill’s entry into the world of crime began innocently enough when he took a job at a cabstand. But as years progressed, he became deeply embedded into the mob culture, committing crimes ranging from small thefts to massive heists.
What Were Hill’s Most Notorious Crimes?
By the age of 16, Hill had already been arrested for using a stolen credit card. His resilience in the face of law enforcement and refusal to betray his associates earned him respect among the mob leaders. The magnitude of his crimes escalated with the 1967 theft of $420,000 from the Air France cargo terminal, which was, at the time, among the largest cash heists. But this was only a prelude to the colossal 1978 Lufthansa Airlines vault heist, where Hill and his crew walked away with a staggering $5.8 million. This heist, masterminded by Jimmy Burke, was immortalized in the iconic dialogue from “Goodfellas”: “Whenever we needed money, we’d rob the airport. To us, it was better than Citibank.”
Why Did Henry Hill Become an FBI Informant?
As lucrative as the mob life was, it wasn’t without its perils. Following the Lufthansa heist, the crew began turning on each other, leaving a trail of dead bodies. Hill’s paranoia grew, fearing that he might be the next target. His illegal drug operations, conducted behind the back of his boss, Paul Vario, only added to his worries. His arrest in 1980 for narcotics-trafficking was the final straw. More scared of his mob associates than of prison, Hill saw no other way out but to turn informant. Teaming up with the Department of Justice, he became an invaluable asset, leading to multiple convictions.
How Did Hill’s Life Change After “Goodfellas”?
The release of “Goodfellas” in 1990 not only changed the landscape of mob movies but also brought Henry Hill to the forefront of public consciousness. The film, drawing heavily from Hill’s life, painted a vivid picture of the ups and downs of mob life. Post the movie’s release, while Hill had to spend years in hiding fearing retribution, his fear gradually faded as many of his former colleagues met their fate. In later years, Hill came to embrace a more public life, participating in documentaries, and making frequent appearances on radio shows.
What Were Hill’s Struggles in Later Life?
Despite escaping the mob life, Hill’s personal struggles continued, particularly with substance abuse. His addiction issues led to multiple run-ins with the law, including arrests for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. Hill’s own admission in 2009 was a testament to his battle: “I’ve been on every drug humanly possible, and I can’t get a handle on alcohol.” His struggles were compounded by the challenge of adapting to an ordinary life after years in the high-octane world of organized crime, poignantly captured in his own words: “I’m an average nobody.”
Henry Hill’s life, punctuated by crime, glamor, betrayals, and struggles, remains a testament to the allure and dangers of the mob world. His journey from a young errand boy in Brooklyn to an FBI informant serves as a stark reminder of the thin line between right and wrong, and the price one pays for the choices made.