The Madeleine Brand Show for June 13, 2012

Famous mobster Henry Hill, immortalized in 'Goodfellas,' dies

Nati Harnik/AP

Henry Hill sits in the dining room of the Firefly restaurant in North Platte, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2005. The exploits of Hill, who sought refuge in the witness protection program after agreeing to testify against his former mob bosses from New York, were the basis for the book "Wiseguy" by Nicholas Pileggi, which was later turned into the 1990 film "Goodfellas" by Martin Scorsese.

One of the country's best-known mobsters is dead.

Henry Hill, whose life story was immortalized in the Martin Scorsese film "Goodfellas," died yesterday after a long battle with an illness.

Hill was raised in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood. As a child, Henry was drawn to the characters who frequented the area, especially a local mob member who ran a cab stand on his street, and he began working for the mob.

Henry was soon hijacking trucks, selling stolen property and engaging in various acts of violence as a sidekick to a notorious local gangster, Jimmy Conway, whom Robert De Niro portrayed in "Goodfellas."

In 1978, they pulled off a spectacular robbery, the Lufthansa Heist, but the pair was soon on the run from police. Jimmy began killing witnesses, and Henry Hill realized he was next. With no options, he became an informant for the FBI.

Hill's testimony resulted in the imprisonment of many people involved with the mafia. In 1980, the FBI placed him in a witness protection program. By all accounts, he continued his criminal ways, and he became increasingly addicted to drugs and alcohol. Despite a million dollar bounty on his head, Hill was able to stay relatively safe through his life.


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