GMA: Ex-Mobster Says Mob Culture Sells

Henry Hill says it's 21 years this month since he became a "goodfella" instead of a "badfella," but the mob turncoat says he's still watching his back.

Hill, the infamous mob informant whose life inspired Martin Scorcese's film Goodfellas, talked to Good Morning America about life on the lam, his stint in the Witness Relocation Program, and his latest endeavor, the Web site www.goodfellahenry.com. The site includes a mob survival guide of tongue-in-cheek tips such as "Best Ways to Hide A Corpse" and a chance to e-mail Hill.

On ABCNEWS' Good Morning America Hill referred to himself as a "cyberfella."

"About eight months ago I got a computer and I started to fool around", said Hill. "I was computer dumb and there was a lot of Web sites out there about me and a lot of them were inaccurate."

Despite a new window on the world, via the Web site, the 57-year-old Hill is still trying to keep a low profile.

‘An Intoxicating Lifestyle’

Hill got involved with organized crime at age 11 while growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., observing the glamorous life of the adult gangsters in his neighborhood. Soon he was part of it.

"It's an intoxicating lifestyle that sucks you in. Then you get too scared, and too in love with the money, to leave," Hill says. "All people do is fear you, and that's intoxicating. It's a strange lifestyle."

But he understands the fascination with the strange lifestyle. Yeah — Hill has to confess that he watches The Sopranos too.

Hill says the hit HBO series churns up a lot of old memories and scares him a little because it is so realistic. James Gandolfini, who plays Tony Soprano, reminds him a lot of his ex-partner James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, except Burke was Irish, Hill says.

"He's so right on, he's scary," Hill said.

But he has seen the mob persona change over the years. In the 1970s, wise guys just wanted to hang out with celebrities. Now they want to be celebrities.

"They're the cowboys of the new millennium," Hill says.

Hill’s Rise and Fall

The pinnacle of Hill's life in crime was the 1978 Lufthansa airport heist, which netted $5.8 million. The next year, Hill was involved in the Boston College basketball point-shaving scandal.

But soon he had enough, and in 1980, he agreed to testify against former mob buddies. Then the FBI put him in the witness protection program, and Hill ducked into hiding for seven years.

But after some minor scuffles with the law, the former mobster was kicked out of the Witness Relocation Program in 1987, and turned over to the FBI, who have kept a loose hiding and safety setup with Hill ever since.

Since he testified against part of the mob crew that was involved in the Lufthansa heist, he is still in danger, Hill said. But he is careful and remains linked to the FBI. Plus, he boasts that he can still extract himself from a tough spot in two minutes.

His desire to promote his Web site and other efforts, such as an Italian cookbook called Cookin' on the Run has prompted him to get a little more out in the open, Hill says.

Most of the people he was involved with in his mob days are dead. His testimony put his Lufthansa cohorts, Paul Vario and Jimmy "the Gent" Burke, behind bars and both died in prison. Still, up-and-coming mobsters would like to get a shot at killing a mob informant like himself, Hill said.

Whisked Into Witness Protection

He never killed anybody, but he was present at some murders, Hill said. Although he regrets doing "a lot of terrible things", he is trying to make amends now by working as a drug and alcohol counselor for young people.

If he had stayed in the mob, he might not have lived very long.

"The life expectancy for a mobster isn't forever, so you live every day to the fullest," Hill says. "Your best friend could kill you.... And you accept that eventually you'll do time in prison."

The turning point that made him decide to leave the mob was the Lufthansa robbery, for which he received only about $50,000 or $60,000. He was the only connection to the heist's masterminds, Vario and Burke, and the mob said they would kill him if he squealed. Yet, the federal government was offering to keep him alive.

After he turned informant, mobsters placed a million-dollar price on his head.

Federal marshals whisked him into the Witness Relocation Program, and assisted him in getting off drugs and alcohol. They gave him a new identity, but he was constantly moving from one location to another.

He kept in touch with people from his past, but avoided those he knew could get him into trouble. His humor is one of the things that has kept him going, Hill says.

Visitors to his Web site are greeted with the words, "You want to enter my site. Then leave your piece at the door."

Those who click that they don't want to do so are sent to an anger management Web site.