(LOS ANGELES) — Henry Hill, the famed mobster turned FBI informant whose life story was documented in the book Wiseguy — upon which Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster epic Goodfellas was based — has died at the age of 69.
Hill died at a Los Angeles hospital of an undisclosed illness on Tuesday, Nate Caserta, the son of Hill’s fiancé Lisa Schinelli Caserta, confirmed.
“[His] heart just stopped. He had been sick for a long time,” Nate Caserta told ABC News.
“I will never be the same. I lost someone I cared about a lot. Someone who loved my family and helped me a lot with life,” Nate Caserta wrote in a post on Facebook. “You truly lived a life no one could live. You touched so many peoples lifes. Your spirit lives forever with me.”
Nate Caserta told ABC News that his family was talking about Hill’s smoking problem while his health deteriorated.
Hill was famously associated with New York’s Lucchese crime family throughout the 1960s and into the 1980s. He began his life of crime at the age of 11 while growing up on the working class East New York section of Brooklyn by running errands for Paul Vario, a captain in the Lucchese family.
“It’s an intoxicating lifestyle that sucks you in. Then you get too scared, and too in love with the money, to leave,” Hill told ABC’s Good Morning America in 2004. “All people do is fear you — and that’s intoxicating. It’s a strange lifestyle.”
Hill completed his first major robbery when he and Thomas DeSimone — who was portrayed in an Oscar-winning performance by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas — famously robbed Air France of a shipment of $420,000 in April of 1967.
In the 1970s, Hill spent six years in prison after he was found guilty of extortion. While in prison, with the help of his wife Karen, Hill still managed to operate outside the law by smuggling drugs and food. He was eventually released early in 1978 for being a model prisoner.
Hill became an FBI informant following a 1980 arrest on a narcotics-trafficking charge, and the testimony he delivered led to 50 arrests.
Hill, his wife Karen and their two children entered the witness protection program and changed their names. They were relocated to several locations in Omaha, Neb., Independence, Ky., and Redmond, Wash.
Hill and his wife were expelled from the program in the early 1990s following several arrests on narcotics-related charges. The couple soon divorced. Later, he relocated to Malibu and began dating Lisa Caserta, began to sell his own artwork on eBay, and made frequent guest appearances on The Howard Stern Show.
In 2010, Hill was inducted in the Museum of the American Gangster in New York City.
Ray Liota portrayed Hill in Goodfellas, which was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi published the book Wiseguy in 1986.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Amanda Jackson, CNN
Matt McFarland, CNN
Paul R. La Monica, CNN