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In Goodfellas, Jimmy Conway masterminds the Lufthansa heist which yields $6M in cash (as per the narrator at 1:38:05).

Jimmy "kicked some money upstairs to Paulie" (at 1:48:21). Then, he gave apparently several dozens of thousands to Johnny Roastbeef (who bought a Caddy) and to Frankie Carbone (who bought a $20K mink fur coat), both of whom he later "whacked" for being so flashy with the money.

Henry Hill, one of his best friends and partners in crime who gave him the tip about the Lufthansa opportunity (which he got tipped off about by Morris Kessler), only gets "some Christmas money" looking like only a few thousand dollars:

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The rest of the $6M apparently remained in Jimmy's vaults: "I knew Jimmy. He had the cash. It was his." (at 1:48:16)

Still, they both continue to risk the jail by dealing drugs.

That just doesn't make any sense:

  1. Why would Jimmy give only a few grand to Henry out of the $6M? Why would Henry not be pissed off by it?
  2. Why would Jimmy continue to deal drugs if he could just call it quits and retire?
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    Because it's not $6M of pure profit. There are often other costs that aren't immediately obvious to those outside of the criminal enterprise; youtube.com/watch?v=34bWdiCsJ_0
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 20:33
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    The point of the video is that there are hidden costs, such as paying off informants, logistics people and suchlike.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 21:39
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    That seems a sensible way to deal with informants.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 22:14
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    The heist actually happened IRL; however, I don't know how much of Henry Hill's account is true as the guy proved to be completely full of crap. They're all criminals and Jimmy could basically do what he wanted to...like eliminate anyone that he had to share the cut with. Also, didn't they all anger Jimmy by flashing around their newly acquired goods/cash? Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 1:45
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    @Greendrake The real Henry Hill has proven to be an unreliable source, so maybe that has something to do with it. I don't know. It's been a while since I've seen the movie Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 12:25

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That just doesn't make any sense:

  1. Why would Jimmy give only a few grand to Henry out of the $6M? Why would Henry not be pissed off by it?

In the context of the story told in the film, Jimmy did not want the conspirators to go out and spend the money they had stolen in a noticeable way because eventually that would lead to suspicion and investigation by the police. The way (film) Henry describes this notion, it seems that Henry is on board with it. It also seems like Henry sees it as Jimmy's heist and therefore Jimmy's rules. And he might realize that asking for more money right away might anger Jimmy.

  1. Why would Jimmy continue to deal drugs if he could just call it quits and retire?

I wasn't able to easily find information about the real life James Burke dealing drugs after the heist, but I can think of some reasons why it makes sense to keep up the exact same life he had before the heist:

  1. Just as spending a lot of money that appeared from nowhere arouse suspicion, so might suddenly ceasing all other money-making activities. It's reasonable to assume that police knew Jimmy dealt drugs and did not have evidence to arrest and convict him, wanted to gather more intelligence before using him to get evidence on someone else, or were bribed to let him conduct business. In the latter case, if he stopped paying the bribes, the bribed police would be both suspicious and without a part of their usual income, so bringing in the Luftansa mastermind would be a great way to make an example of Jimmy and also maybe get a promotion.
  2. Athletes don't retire at the end of their first multi-million dollar contract. Musicians don't retire after their first multiplatinum album and world tour. CEOs don't retire right after their company goes public with a $100 million valuation and their stock options vest. Legitimate or not, dealing drugs was Jimmy's career (in the film at least). It could be part of his self-image, his main source of social contact, something that he enjoys, etc.

What did Jimmy do with the Lufthansa $6M cash?

Neither history nor the movie have an answer. The stolen cash and jewels have never been recovered. It makes sense that the movie does not spend screen time speculating or inventing a final destination for the money, since it would not serve the theme or larger plot very well. In real life, James Burke may have slowly distributed and spent all of the money, or hidden it very well and never had a chance to recover it (he died in prison), or he may have had it eaten away by "costs" such as bribes, extortion, etc. The crime family he was associated with prohibited drug dealing, so perhaps he had to pay off mafia bosses to continue to deal drugs (which doesn't make a lot of sense but real life people don't always make sense).

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  • Mind you that Jimmy & Henry were dealing drugs in violation of Paulie's order not to. In the film, Henry mentioned that Paulie would whack them if he found out. I therefore see it highly unlikely that anyone not directly involved in the dealing (e.g. police) would be aware. So, Jimmy was risking not only jail but being whacked by continuing drug dealing despite that he could just retire.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 0:21

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