Henry Hill, the reputed mobster from New York City whose life became the basis for the film Goodfellas, died on Tuesday in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 69.
Hill's girlfriend, Lisa Caserta, was at the hospital when he died.
He had been sick for a long time, she said, TMZ reported. His heart gave out.
Hill had spent about 30 years hoping his notorious past would not catch up to him.
A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Hill had a flourishing career as an associate for the Lucchese organized crime family. He has been accused of several crimes and served time for extortion, theft, kidnapping, assault and a slew of narcotic offenses. Hill captured the nation's attention when he ratted on members of his own crew. Hill, his wife and his two children had to enter witness protection program, UPI reported.
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Born on June 11, 1943, Hill was the fifth of seven children. When he was young he was cute, he was a lot of fun, by the time he was eight or nine years old he was like a little gangster already, said his sister, Lucille Chrisafulle, the Daily Mail reported.
At the age of 11, as detailed in the book based on his life Wiseguy, Hill began working for mob boss Paul Vario. He stayed with Vario's crew over the years and gradually got in deeper with the criminal enterprise of the Lucchesse family. In the late 1950s, he got his chance to act as a real gangster by setting several taxis on fire that were competing with Vario's business.
Hill's first arrest came at the age of 16, after he was caught using a stolen credit card; however, he did not implicate anyone in the family.
He joined the Army from 1960 to 1963 and maintained close ties to his old crew. In 1967, notorious gangster Thomas DeSimone, recruited him to steal $420,000 from a safe belonging to Air France. The plan went off without a hitch.
The government said a couple of hundred million dollars went through my hands. But I just blew it on slow horses, women, drugs and rock 'n' roll, he told a London newspaper on the 20th anniversary of the release of Goodfellas, according to the Daily News. We partied five, six nights a week and I was making $15,000 to $40,000 a week. That was just my end. But I was a degenerate gambler. I could lose $40,000 in a week.
In the late 1970s, Hill became involved in selling narcotics. By then, the FBI and local police were onto him. He was arrested on April 27, 1980. Officers played several wire taps that recorded conversations of other mob members discussing killing Hill, the Daily Mail reported.
Fearing for his life and the life of his family, Hill chose to testify against his former associates. He was given a plea deal and his family was forced into the U.S. Marshals' witness protection program. Their names were changed and the family was sent to undisclosed locations in Omaha, Nebraska; Independence, Kentucky; Redmond, Washington; and Seattle, Washington, the Daily Mail reported.
His testimony helped put more than 50 felons behind bars, but drugs and alcohol consumed most of his life.
For 10 years, I lived a miserable life, but now there isn't anyone alive that I was involved with ... The people that tried to kill me and my family, that's the only people I knew about and most of them wound up with bullets in their head, Hill explained a decade ago to UPI. I work hard. I'm not on Easy Street by no means, but I'm okay. I live a good life. I try to keep my life simple.
While in hiding, Hill also said that he sometimes had regrets about being a rat; however, spirituality helped him over his emotional obstacles.
It took a long time for me to forgive myself, Hill told UPI, in a 2002 telephone interview. I just try to be one grain of sand better today than I was yesterday. I found my spirituality. I help the kids, young people in trouble.
In 1990, Martin Scorsese adapted Hill's life into Goodfellas. Actor Ray Liotta played Hill, chronicling all the ups and downs of life as a gangster.
While in witness protection, Hill's life was still consumed with crime. He was dealing drugs and was eventually forced to leave the program in 1990, various media reports said.
In 2006, Liotta encouraged Hill to clean his life up and enter rehabilitation to combat his drug problem.
After hearing of his friend's passing, Liotta took to Twitter to memorialize his friend.
RIP Henry Hill. I owe you so much.