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Court Papers: ‘Wiseguy’ Hasn’t Wised Up

September 23, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ Government informant Henry Hill, the subject of the bestseller ″Wiseguy,″ apparently did not wise up and got in trouble with the law while under government protection, court records disclosed Monday.

Hill, an admitted career criminal, has testified for the prosecution at several federal and state trials, including the Boston College basketball point-shaving scandal, since joining the Witness Protection Program in 1980.

But he also has been convicted six times in the last two years for offenses ranging from drunk driving to assault, according to the Justice Department.

Hill was expected to be the key government witness at the upcoming trial of a Teamsters union official and reputed leaders of the Lucchese organized crime family accused of extorting $1 million in labor protection money from freight firms at Kennedy International Airport.

In answer to a routine defense request about the government’s evidence and witnesses, federal prosecutors presented a Sept. 15 letter listing Hill’s convictions ″within the last two years.″

The letter said Hill was given probation and ordered to perform community service after being convicted of felony second-degree burglary, fined for misdemeanor driving without a license, sentenced to short jail terms on three convictions of driving while intoxicated, and fined for misdemeanor assault.

In addition, Hill, 42, was found to have violated probation for his burglary conviction and was sentenced to 60 days in prison, according to the letter, submitted by Norman A. Bloch, a special attorney with the Justice Department’s Brooklyn-based Organized Crime Strike Force.

Neither Bloch nor Douglas Behm, the lead prosecutor in the airport case, would give in details about the convictions. Jury selection for the trial is under way.

Joel Winograd, one of the defense attorneys, said he was outraged the government was using Hill as a witness.

″I would like to determine whether the judges who sentenced Hill for all these (other) crimes knew of his background and long criminal history and if the government sent letters to the judges asking for leniency so they could use him as a witness,″ said Winograd, attorney for Paul Vario, the lead defendant and a reputed boss in the Lucchese crime family.

According to Hill’s 1986 biography, ″Wiseguy,″ by Nicholas Pileggi, Hill was a protege of the 71-year-old Vario, but Hill’s testimony led to Vario’s conviction of charges of arranging a phony job to get Hill out of prison early. Vario was sentenced to four years in prison in 1984.

Subtitled ″Life in a Mafia Family,″ the book revealed the hidden workings of organized crime through the experiences of Hill, an admitted underworld associate or ″wiseguy.″

In the book, Hill admitted to a string of criminal activities including gambling, narcotics trafficking, hijacking and cigarette smuggling.

Hill testified in 1984 in the Brooklyn murder trial of James ″Jimmy the Gent″ Burke, the reputed mastermind of the 1978 $5.8 million Lufthansa robbery at Kennedy. Burke was convicted of the 1979 slaying of a restaurant owner over a bad cocaine deal and sentenced to life in prison.

Hill also testified at the 1981 trial of former Boston College basketball player Rick Kuhn, who was convicted with three gamblers of a point-shaving scheme.

Hill also supplied the government with information about William Arico, an alleged hitman charged with former Vatican financial adviser Michele Sindona in the 1979 murder of an Italian lawyer.

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