Birthday: July 9, 1914
Died At Age: 73
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Paul Frank ‘Paulie’ Vario
Born Country: United States
Born in: New York City, New York
Famous as: Gangster
Height: 1.83 m
siblings: Leonard Vario, Salvatore Vario, Thomas Vario, Vito Vario
children: Leonard Vario, Peter Vario
Died on: May 3, 1988
place of death: Federal Correctional Institution, Fort Worth
Paul Frank ‘Paulie’ Vario was an American mobster who was in command of the notorious ‘Vario Crew’ for the Lucchese crime family for almost three decades. Vario was involved in the robbery at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1978, infamously known as The Lufthansa Heist. He and his crew used to rob cargos at JFK International Airport regularly without getting much trouble from the law enforcement as he used his influence on the labor unions. Vario used to operate many small and large businesses, including a chop shop. He used his legal business dealings to cover his illegal activities. Vario and his crew were involved in bookmaking and illegal casinos. They also controlled the local mobs or gangs in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Paul Vario owned many shops, bars, restaurants, and cabs as well. One of Vario’s many associates, Henry Hill Jr., testified in court and revealed a lot of information about him and the Lucchese crime family. Renowned filmmaker Martin Charles Scorsese made a film titled ‘Goodfellas’ based on Hill’s confession. The film narrates the story of the Lucchese crime family and their associates.
Childhood & Early Life
Paul Vario was born on July 9,1914, in New York City, New York, and grew up with four brothers, Vito, Salvatore, Leonard, and Thomas.
At a very early age, Vario got involved in various petty crimes. He was sent to juvenile detention for seven months after he was charged with truancy.
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A Life of Crime
Paul Vario formed the “Vario Crew” along with his three associates, Thomas DeSimone, Jimmy Burke, and Henry Hill. The Vario Crew primarily operated near the JFK International Airport, their favorite hunting ground.
Vario and his crew used to rob the cargo at the airport. Vario’s stronghold over the labor unions meant the authority failed over and over again to stop them.
Paul Vario had the entire gambling business of the East New York section of Brooklyn in his control. He ran casinos, illegal gambling businesses, as well as bookmaking in the city and controlled many of the gangs. Each and every small gang had to pay Vario and his crew a ‘protection’ money to keep their business going in the locality.
Vario established a junkyard business which used to deal with a chop shop operated near his office. Although it was a legitimate business on paper, Vario used it to run his illegal businesses as well.
He grabbed the attention of the federal law enforcement that put him under surveillance in the early 1970s. His trailer, which he used as his office for the junkyard business, was tapped by the FBI. The pieces of evidence gathered against him were enough to lock him up in jail for a few years.
On November 1, 1972, Vario was informed that police officers were coming to arrest him. Following a very dramatic car chase around Brooklyn, Paul Vario was finally arrested on charges of insurance fraud and tampering with a witness. He was jailed for a few months in early 1973.
Vario was charged with tax evasion in April 1973 and was sentenced to six years in federal prison. However, he was released in 1975.
Vario and drug trafficker Joseph "Joe Beck" DiPalmero worked together and ordered a cocaine shipment worth $1.5 million. At that time, he was under surveillance by the FBI and was nabbed after DEA tipped them off about the shipment.
Involvement in the Lufthansa Heist
Paul Vario was not directly involved in the infamous Lufthansa Heist, in which the mastermind Jimmy Burke successfully planned the robbery of more than $5 million in cash and jewelry from the John F. Kennedy International Airport. However, upon being approached by the heist crew, Vario sent his own crew to help them carry out the plan.
Family & Personal Life
Paul Vario was notorious for being ill-tempered. He was of a gigantic stature.
Vario had three sons, Peter, Paul Jr., and Leonard, with his first wife Vita. He was later married to a woman named Phyllis. He was also involved with a number of other women.
He was good friends with Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke. When Hill became an FBI informant, he testified against Vario and the Lucchese crime family. The majority of Vario’s underground businesses and major crimes came to light once Hill testified against him.
Vario died on May 3, 1988, of respiratory arrest while serving his sentence at Fort Worth Federal Prison in Fort Worth, Texas.