Real-life Goodfellas gangster Henry Hill was a bigamist who took second wife in witness protection

Real-life Goodfellas gangster Henry Hill was a bigamist who took second wife in witness protection 2
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The real-life mafia turncoat who was immortalized by late actor Ray Liotta in his breakout role in Goodfellas was a bigamist who repeatedly cheated on his wife while in witness protection, before leaving her and their children to wed a Mormon hairdresser he had known for just seven weeks. 

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Late gangster Henry Hill – who was portrayed by Liotta in Martin Scorcese’s hit 1990 movie – was taken into the FBI’s witness protection program with his wife Karen and their two children, Gail and Michael, in 1980 after helping to jail members of his infamous mafia gang. 

Goodfellas, which is seen by many as the movie that shot Liotta to stardom, ends with Hill being taken into witness protection, a seemingly perfect Hollywood ending. But in reality, Hill’s involvement in the criminal underworld did not end when the credits began rolling, cementing Liotta’s name in the history books – nor did his repeated infidelity. 

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Throughout his time spent working for the infamous Lucchese crime family, Hill, who wed his first wife Karen in 1965, was known to have had multiple mistresses. In fact, it was reported that he even tried to convince the FBI to allow him to take two of his lovers into witness protection with his wife and children, according to writers Matthew Pearl and Greg Nichols of Truly*Adventurous.

It is thought that during the first year Hill and his family spent in witness protection, he continued to enjoy several illicit affairs, all the while continuing his criminal dealings – which forced the FBI to repeatedly move them around to different locations. 

Every time Hill was busted by local authorities, he and his family had to relocate so as to keep them off the mafia radar, and within the first year of their time in the program, the Hills had moved from Omaha, Nebraska, to Independence, Kentucky, then to the sleepy town of Redmond, Washington. 

In an attempt to keep their true identities hidden from everyone around them, the family changed their names – with Hill becoming Martin Lewis, a name that he borrowed from two of his favorite actors, Hollywood heartthrob Dean Martin and comedian Jerry Lewis. 

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It was under this new assumed identity that the mafia boss met Mormon beautician and single mother-of-one Sherry Anders, who spoke out about their ‘magic’ love affair in a 2019 interview with Pearl and Nichols, revealing how the love rat lothario won her over with his dynamic personality after they met for the first time in a local Mexican restaurant. 

Real-life mafia turncoat Henry Hill (seen in his 1980 mugshot) - who was immortalized by late actor Ray Liotta in his breakout Goodfellas role - became a bigamist after going into witness protection, wedding a second wife while still married to his first

Real-life mafia turncoat Henry Hill (seen in his 1980 mugshot) – who was immortalized by late actor Ray Liotta in his breakout Goodfellas role – became a bigamist after going into witness protection, wedding a second wife while still married to his first 

Hill wed first wife Karen in 1965 (pictured), however he was known to have had multiple mistresses even before he was arrested in 1980. When the family was taken into FBI witness protection, he met and wed Mormon single mom Sherry Anders

Hill wed first wife Karen in 1965, however he was known to have had multiple mistresses even before he was arrested in 1980. When the family was taken into FBI witness protection, he met and wed Mormon single mom Sherry Anders (pictured)

Hill wed first wife Karen in 1965 (left), however he was known to have had multiple mistresses even before he was arrested in 1980. When the family was taken into FBI witness protection, he met and wed Mormon single mom Sherry Anders (right) 

Hill was taken into witness protection with long-suffering wife Karen and their two children, Gina and Gregg (pictured), and all four of them were forced to change their names

Hill was taken into witness protection with long-suffering wife Karen and their two children, Gina and Gregg (pictured), and all four of them were forced to change their names

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The mob informant's marriage to Karen was also featured in Goodfellas, with actress Lorraine Bracco taking on the role alongside Liotta, who passed away at the age of 67 on May 26

The mob informant’s marriage to Karen was also featured in Goodfellas, with actress Lorraine Bracco taking on the role alongside Liotta, who passed away at the age of 67 on May 26

She recounted how, just seven weeks after they met for the first time, Hill suggested that they ‘get married today’. Anders said her initial reaction was to say no – insisting that she had to work that day – however her beau of less than two months quickly convinced her otherwise, and they packed up her car and, along with her then-13-year-old son Kris, drove to Virginia City, Nevada, where they tied the knot. 

All the while, Anders was blissfully unaware that her new husband was leading a double life and had another wife and two children of his own at home.  

According to Anders’ then-roommate Samantha Kellum, who was with her when she met Hill for the first time, their chemistry was ‘electric’ and clearly evident to all those around them. 

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WHY DID HENRY HILL GO INTO WITNESS PROTECTION? 

Against his father’s wishes Hill got in with the mafia crowd aged 11 when he started hanging around with the infamous Lucchese family.

Hill’s last major job with his gang was the Lufthansa heist at John F Kennedy airport in New York in December 1978, which netted them a then-record $5.875 million. 

Following his arrest for the robbery on April 27, 1980, detectives played him wire taps of other mob members threatening to kill him but he refused to talk, at least for a while.

Eventually, Hill testified against his former associates to avoid a possible execution by his crew or going to prison for his crimes.

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The testimony led to 50 convictions and meant that Hill, his wife Karen, and their two children had to be put in the US Marshals’ Witness Protection Program in 1980. 

‘The electricity during those months was just absolutely volatile, just screaming,’ Kellum told Pearl and Nichols.

But while their attraction to one another may well have been authentic, it was one of the only aspects of their fiery romance that was. 

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The man who Anders knew as the charming and charismatic Martin was in fact a married mafia informant with a large target on his back, who had a wife and two children living just a few miles from where he and his second spouse met. 

Anders, however, was entirely unaware of her husband’s dark past – and his murky present – and had no idea that his arrival in her hometown came as the result of the multiple crimes he had committed, not only in New York as a gangster, but in the various other locations where he and his family were squirrelled away by law enforcement. 

In April 1981, months before he arrived in Washington and met Anders, Hill had been arrested for getting into a fight with a woman he was thought to have been having an affair with while living in Kentucky. He was arrested again in July of that same year for passing bad checks. 

Prior to that, he had become embroiled in underworld gambling at a race track near his temporary home in Kentucky.

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But when he arrived in Washington, Hill was able to wipe his slate clean – or at the very least overhaul the image he was presenting to the world. 

In fact, in his 2004 book Gangsters and Goodfellas: The Mob, Witness Protection, and Life on the Run, Hill recounted a conversation he had with a friend about his second marriage – in which he insisted that it didn’t count as ‘bigamy’ because he had tied the knot, not as Henry Hill, but as Martin Lewis.

‘No, that’s Henry Hill who’s married,’ he told a confidante when told he had committed a ‘major crime’ by taking a second wife. ‘I’m Marty Lewis, and this is my first wife. So it’s cool.’  

Still, there were those close to Anders who voiced their doubts about her sudden infatuation with Hill, with salon owner Vivian Walsh, who owned the space where Anders rented a chair, warning that there was ‘something kind of creepy about him’. 

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‘He kind of slinked in and didn’t make good eye contact when I was introduced,’ she told Pearl and Nichols. ‘I said, “You know, I hope that’s not a red flag, but there’s something kind of creepy about him.”‘ 

The mobster, who died at the age of 69 in 2012, assumed varying cover stories during his time in witness protection. He told people he worked for the government, an insurance investigator and an author. 

It was during his relationship with Anders that Hill began working on his book Wiseguys – which would inspire the 1990 Martin Scorsese crime classic Goodfellas in which he was played by Liotta alongside Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci. 

Hill teamed up with journalist and writer Nick Pileggi on the tome, which documented the time he had spent working in the mafia underworld in New York City, from the horrific ‘whackings’ he witnessed to his eventual decision to rat on his fellow gangsters in a desperate attempt to save himself. 

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Eventually, Hill (seen while in hiding) and his family were thrown out of the witness protection program because of his ongoing crimes - including his bigamist marriage

Henry Hill went from small-time gangster to big-time celebrity when his life as a mobster-turned-FBI informant became the basis for the Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas

Eventually, Hill (seen left while in hiding and right a few years before his death) and his family were thrown out of the witness protection program because of his ongoing crimes – including his bigamist marriage 

Hill formed a friendship with Liotta during production on Goodfellas and the pair are understood to have maintained a close relationship up until the mob informant's death in 2012. They are seen together in 2004

Hill formed a friendship with Liotta during production on Goodfellas and the pair are understood to have maintained a close relationship up until the mob informant’s death in 2012. They are seen together in 2004

As it turned out, Hill’s new married life in Washington would provide him with enough real-life scandal to fill another book, even as he was penning the first about his life as a member of the mafia.

His romance with Anders imploded just months after it had begun when his first wife Karen, who was living under the alias Kaylen, learned of their affair and confronted her husband’s new spouse.  

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When Anders asked her: ‘Do you know Martin Lewis?’ Kaylen replied: ‘Yeah. He’s my husband.’ 

And when Hill turned up later he found his two wives in the home he shared with Karen. Anders would later throw him out of their home, screaming: ‘Don’t you ever f***ing come back here.’

In Gangsters and Goodfellas, Hill conceded that his ‘attempt at bigamy’ had been ‘a complete failure’, not least because he kept returning to the home that he also shared with first wife Karen and their children. 

‘[Sherry and I] both knew the marriage wasn’t valid when we sobered up,’ he recalled. ‘But I moved in with her for a short period of time; it didn’t last long because I kept going home to Karen and the kids. 

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‘My attempt at bigamy was a complete failure. I don’t think it lasted more than a month, and it brought about an ugly breakup. Sherry threw all my clothes out of her second-story bedroom window right into a pile of snow.’ 

One night the two wives are even said to have walked arm in arm into the club Hill was in. Anders said: ‘Here’s wife Number One and wife Number Two. Isn’t that special?’

At the same time Hill was being followed by a private investigator called Janet. She had been hired a New York law firm representing former mob boss, Jimmy Burke. They wanted dirt on the prosecution’s star witness. 

When Hill and Anders split Janet approached his second wife for help. Anders told Karen, who decided his second marriage needed to be dissolved immediately. But by this point Anders was pregnant and flatly refused. 

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Twice Karen is said to have attacked Anders, who told Pearl and Nichols: ‘I was never so scared in my life.’ 

Finally, through a religious loophole Karen was able to get the marriage annulled. 

But the family were still taken out of the witness protection program ‘based upon continued arrests and breaches of security’. Hill  was sent to prison again and his book Wiseguys was released, while Anders lost their baby.

Hill (pictured at a favored dumping ground in California a few years before his death) began writing his book, Wiseguys, during his romance with Anders. The book served as the inspiration for Goodfellas

Hill (pictured at a favored dumping ground in California a few years before his death) began writing his book, Wiseguys, during his romance with Anders. The book served as the inspiration for Goodfellas 

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Liotta's portrayal of Hill in the Scorcese-directed movie is widely seen by many as the role that shot him to superstardom

Liotta’s portrayal of Hill in the Scorcese-directed movie is widely seen by many as the role that shot him to superstardom 

Hill had already been arrested for getting into a fight with a presumed mistress when they were hidden in Independence, Kentucky.  So brazen was Hill that he even wore a ‘Witness Protection Program’ T-shirt while dating Anders.

In recent times however he ventured out in public more – opening a restaurant called Wiseguys, launching his own brand of spaghetti sauce and appearing on US TV talking about gangster movies. 

Ten years after their wedding Hill called Anders, who has now also changed her name from Sherry to Scarlett. They met up and Hill told her: ‘I’ll love you forever.’ 

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As for Karen she divorced Hill in 1990 and it was finalized in 2002. It is not known where she is now.               

Hill died at a hospital in Los Angeles in June 2012 having suffered a heart attack brought on by years of smoking, a habit he blamed on his nerves. 

But right to the end, he managed to stay one step ahead of the mafia assassins he long feared. Announcing his death, Hill’s girlfriend Lisa Casserta said he ‘struggled with alcoholism’. She said Hill had recently made his peace with his family, but ‘I don’t think he ever got over his demons’.

Hill’s death came 34 years after his last major job with his gang: the Lufthansa heist at John F Kennedy airport in New York in December 1978, which netted them a then-record $5.875 million. 

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Born on June 11, 1943, in the tough Brownsville area of New York, Hill was the fifth of seven children and the first son to his Sicilian mother Carmella and his father, also called Henry.

Against his father’s wishes Hill got in with the mafia crowd aged 11 when he started hanging around with the infamous Lucchese family. Lured by power and money, Hill gradually became more entrenched with the family and while his half-Sicilian genes – his father was Irish – meant he could never be a fully-fledged member of the family, he was able to be an associate.

His first arrest came when he was 16 years old and he carried out the Lufthansa raid after serving a six-year prison sentence in the Seventies.

Following his arrest for the robbery on April 27, 1980, detectives played him wire taps of other mob members threatening to kill him but he refused to talk, at least for a while.

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Eventually, Hill testified against his former associates to avoid a possible execution by his crew or going to prison for his crimes.

In 2006, at the encouragement of Liotta, Hill entered rehabilitation to combat his drug addiction problems. He was arrested on a number of occasions in the years leading up to his death for public drunkenness. 

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