Vincent Asaro, 78, was arrested with his son and three other reputed members of the Bonanno crime family, CNN reported. Asaro was the only one charged with participating in the Lufthansa heist.
His attorney, Gerald McMahon, came to court in Brooklyn with a bag full of his client's medication. He said he hoped to get his client released on bail.
"Vincent Asaro said that we are going to trial on this case -- there will be no plea," McMahon said. "Short of a dismissal, there will be a trial.
Four of the defendants appeared before a federal magistrate, denied charges against them and were ordered held without bail. A fifth was to be arraigned Friday.
Asaro was also charged with the 1979 killing of Paul Katz, and he and his son with hindering the investigation into Katz's death.
A body identified as Katz was found last June at a home in Queens owned by the daughter of James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, ABC News reported. Burke, believed to be the mastermind of the Lufthansa heist and the model for the character played by Robert De Niro in "Goodfellas," died in prison in 1996 where he was serving a sentence for unrelated crimes.
In addition to Asaro, FBI agents arrested alleged Bonnano underboss Thomas "Tommy D" DiFiore of Commack, N.Y., and three others, ABC said. DiFiore has been charged with conspiracy and the others with a range of crimes.
The Lufthansa robbery, carried out in the middle of the night at John F. Kennedy International Airport, involved $5 million in cash and almost $1 million in jewels. It was the largest ever carried out in the United States up to that time.
Almost nothing was recovered. A number of people believed to have been involved in the heist were killed, hampering the investigation.
Only one person has been convicted, a Lufthansa employee who decided to get in touch with the mob about a possible robbery because he owed money to his bookmaker.