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'Remains' found at ex-mobster home

An FBI excavation has turned up possible human remains at a New York home once occupied by a famed gangster who inspired Robert De Niro's character in the movie Goodfellas, authorities said.

Federal agents armed with pneumatic drills and shovels started digging on Monday as part of an undisclosed investigation. An FBI spokesman confirmed that agents found organic material they want to test, but declined to comment further.

Gangster James Burke, known as Jimmy the Gent, lived at the Queens home as an associate in the Lucchese crime family. According to mob lore, he orchestrated a near six million dollar robbery, one of the largest cash heists in US history, at John F Kennedy International Airport in 1978.

This week, neighbours watched as a canopy was erected over the drive and another over the back yard. Three FBI Evidence Response Team trucks were parked in front, with about a dozen agents coming and going, some shovelling dirt into buckets.

The Burke family still owns the home, now rented to an elderly couple.

While living there, Burke also owned Robert's Lounge, a saloon that a fellow Lucchese associate, the late Henry Hill, described as Burke's private cemetery. In June 1980, a human leg bone and a portion of a human shoulder bone were excavated from the saloon's basement.

Burke was never prosecuted for the airport heist or for the bloodletting that followed. Several of the participants were killed.

He died behind bars in 1996, aged 64, while serving time in a separate case.

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