Henry Hill

Henry Hill was an FBI informant whose life was immortalized by the 1990 movie Goodfellas, where he was played by Ray Liotta. Hill grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he admired local mafiosos, including Paul Vario, a capo in the Luchesse crime family. In 1955, Hill began to warm up to Paul Vario by running some errands for the mafioso at Vario’s meat stores, and eventually went on to be among Vario’s trusted associates. Hill became close friends with Tommy DeSimone, another young up-and-comer in the crime family. Both were mentored by Jimmy “The Gent” Burke, an underworld legend known for being a good earner. The trio of friends were entrusted by Vario to steal trucks, plan heists (including the infamous 1978 Lufthansa Air heist) and killings. Hill was never an actual mafioso himself, but an associate of the Mafia. The Mafia has a strict rule of accepting only full blooded Italians as made guys; Hill is Sicilian by his mother’s side but Irish by his father’s side. Burke was Irish. Only DeSimone was full Sicilian. After beating up a non-paying gambler whose sister happened to work at the F.B.I., Hill was sentenced to 10 years in jail. There he made connections with drug dealers. He was released after serving 4 years. Hill used his prison narcotics contacts to shift large amounts of cocaine from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh, even though Vario forbid anyone in the crew to deal drugs. As his operation grew, so did Hill’s own addiction to the drug. Eventually, Vario found out about Hill’s drug operation and DeSimone’s murder of a made guy. DeSimone was set up by Vario into believing he would be a made guy, and on what he thought would be his inauguration day, he was killed himself. When Hill realized he was next on the hit list, he, his wife Karen, and their two children tried to go on the run. But they were captured. He then entered the Witness Protection Program in 1980. Hill’s testimony was important in the convictions of Burke, Vario and the rest of the organization. Two years later, he was thrown out of the protection program for blowing his cover. Later on, Hill and his wife got divorced. Karen was awarded custody of their two children, Greg and Gina. Crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi contacted Hill about writing a book about his life story. Their collaboration resulted in the book Wiseguy, published in 1986, on which the film Goodfellas is based. Henry Hill now lives on the West Coast.

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