Henry Hill

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This entry is about Henry Hill, the former "wiseguy" turned FBI informant, for the artist, see Henry Hill (artist).

Henry Hill (born c. 1942) is a famous former FBI informant whose life was immortalized in the book Wiseguy by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi. The book was later made into the highly successful 1990 movie Goodfellas, in which Hill was played by Ray Liotta. Contrary to popular belief, Hill was never a mafioso himself, but an associate of the mafia. Worldwide mafias have a strict rule of accepting only full blooded nationals of the regions they control; Hill is Italian on his mother's side but Irish on his father's. The same can be said of his friend Jimmy Burke, who was Irish. Of Hill's teenage friends, only Tommy DeSimone could have been "made" i.e. become a full member of the mafia, as he was fully Italian.


Hill grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he admired local mafiosos, including Paul Vario, a member of the Lucchese crime family.

Hill began working for Paul Vario by running errands for the mafioso at his cabstand and pizzeria, and eventually went on to become a trusted friend of Vario's.

Hill, Burke, and DeSimone were entrusted by Vario to steal trucks, plan airport heists (targets included Lufthansa and Air France), and carry out mob killings.

Henry Hill married Karen Hill. He, DeSimone, and Burke used to tell their loved ones that they worked in construction. Karen Hill believed this for a very long time, as did DeSimone's mother.

Hill started seeing other women, and when Karen Hill found out, she was furious and left Hill. In order to restore peace in the Hill family, Vario sent Hill and Burke to Tampa, Florida, to recover money from a gambler who owed Vario, whilst Vario would talk to Karen and convince her to take Hill back. As it turned out, the gambler's sister worked for the FBI, who were then able to arrest Hill, Burke, and the others on the strength of her statement. Found guilty, they were given 10 year sentences, but Hill was able to gain parole after serving only 4 and a half years. DeSimone served jail time in Atlanta, Georgia, as he was supposed to fly to Florida instead of Hill, but Vario decided to send Hill instead at the last moment, therefore, DeSimone had only a small part in the beating of the gambler.

Paul Vario, already released before Hill left jail, set up a dummy job for Hill so that he could be paroled.

The fallout between Hill and Vario

Hill had made contacts with drug dealers while in jail. Vario strongly opposed the trade of drugs in his "crew", fearing the extra police attention that would result if anyone associated with him was found trafficking drugs.

The fact that DeSimone, a man notorious for his short fuse, had murdered a "made" mafioso without Vario's consent, did not help either. Vario began to be blamed by other mafia bosses of the killing, so he began to investigate within his "crew" to find if anyone had been involved.

Hill, meanwhile, had become a drug addict, sometimes using the same product he was supposed to make profits from. He had contacts with dealers in Pennsylvania and some other states. His wife Karen also fell into drug use, and family life for Hill, who took care of a quadriplegic brother as well, was total chaos.

Eventually, Vario discovered that DeSimone had committed the afore-mentioned murder; he was set up by Vario to believe he was to be "made", and on what he thought was his inauguration day, he was killed.

Hill and his family attempted to go on the run, but they were arrested.

Hill as an informant

Hill chose to become an informant, and he, Karen and their son and daughter (potrayed in the film as two daughters, Hill actually had a son) moved to an undisclosed location, they changed their names and were protected by the U.S Marshals witness protection program.

Hill's testimony was important in the convictions of Burke, Vario and the rest of his "crew".

Several years later, Hill and his wife were divorced, Karen receiving custody of their children.

Goodfellas and after

In 1990, Hill became a household name when Martin Scorcese filmed the movie Goodfellas, which also starred Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. After the movie, most of the public knew Hill only as Henry, however.

Hill returned to the spotlight in the early 2000s, when he wrote an autobiography and became a regular guest on television and radio talk shows, including an appearance on The Howard Stern show.