By Thom L. Jones
Missing Person #75-3425.
To paraphrase that famous line from The Scarlet Pimpernel, 'they seek him here, they seek him there, trouble is, Jimmy’s buried everywhere.'
There never really was any serious doubt about why he was killed. There is somewhat less doubt about who was behind the killing. The thing that has really perplexed investigators, and not unnaturally his family and friends, is what happened to the body? He was questionably, the most famous trade unionist in American history, certainly one of the most contentious, and thirty-three years after his alleged death, he's still a pain in the proverbial.
His name was James Riddle Hoffa, and his mysterious disappearance in July 1975, triggered off one of the most intensive investigations in the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Their inquiry generated thousands of leads and over 16000 pages of documents. In the last fifteen years, the FBI has added more than 500 new pages to its Hoffa file.
It is generally believed that Hoffa was killed by the mob because he wanted to make a come-back and recapture the presidency of the biggest union in America, a position he had relinquished when he was sent to prison in 1967, after being convicted of fraud and jury tampering. His comeback was something the mob did not want, and organized things accordingly.
Hoffa’s rise to power in The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, was as relentless as a steam roller.
He was born in Brazil, Indiana on St. Valentine’s Day, 1913. In 1924, his widowed mother moved her family, Jimmy, a brother, and two sisters to Detroit. Quitting school at 14, Jimmy started work as a stock boy with Frank and Cedar Dry Goods and General Merchandising. From there, he moved to a job as a loader at the Kroger Food Company, in 1932. In 1936, fired from Kroger because of his rabble-rousing, he became a joint council organizer for Local 299, part of the Detroit Teamsters Joint Council 43. It was the start of a tumultuous career in the union field.
He was often jailed for his union work and harassed by management thugs, as the bosses saw him as a growing threat to their control of labour. He transformed Local 299 into a regional powerhouse, building up its membership to 15000. By 1942, Jimmy Hoffa (photo left) was president of Detroit Joint Council 43, and he was also linked into the Mafia.
According to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), Detroit, after the end of the second world war, was a primary point in the drug importation chain, feeding into the rest of America, and in particular, New York, the biggest market for illicit drugs.
Heroin, was routed from Sicily, via Marseilles, by an organization headed by Frank 'Frankie Four Fingers' Coppola and Salvatore 'Toto' Vitale, who became closely connected to Hoffa. The two men were both powerful figures in the Detroit Mafia, before Frank's deportation back to Italy and Vitale's disappearance in 1956. He may have been murdered and his body buried in a California vineyard. According to Charles Siragusa of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, he was killed by Johnny Priziola and Raffaele Quasarano over a dispute involving payment on a heroin delivery.
Interesting footnote: Vitale was the grandfather of 'Good Looking Sal' Vitale the ex underboss of the Bonanno family and mob informant.
The drugs they organized, were shipped into Detroit under the control of Johnny Priziola, who succeeded Coppola as the Detroit head of the Sicilian Partinico Mafia family in Detroit, and Raffaele Quasarano, aka Jimmy Q, the son-in-law of VitoVitale, of Sicily, another major drug dealer, but one who never made it into America, and stored in fish markets run by Peter Tocco, who was the son-in-law of Priziola, having married his daughter Ninette.
He also happened to be the nephew of Angelo Meli, a Detroit mobster with close ties to the old Purple Gang and the New York Mafia families. The FBN suspected that Meli was another major link in the Detroit-New York drug chain, working closely with Frank “Cheech” Livorsi, Long Island based, whose daughter Dolores was married to Meli’s son, Sam. Another daughter Rosemary was married to Tommmy Dio, brother of Johhny Dio a powerful figure in the Luchese family in New York, some of the biggest drug dealers in America.
Livorsi, a soldier in the crime family of Charlie Luciano, headed up a company in New York, based at 19 Rector Street, in Lower Manhattan, that was involved in a massive black market sugar deal, just after the end of World War Two, that grossed $6 million, an enormous amount of money in those days. One of his in-laws, John Ormento, a capo in the Luchese family, ran trucking companies that were used to ship the drugs from Detroit to New York, and his son, Thomas, was married to Livorsi's daughter Patricia.
These people really knew how to network. Family wise that is. Their genealogical links are more complicated than a Braille version of Rubik's Cube, but help to illustrate the way the 'old' mob glued themselves together through blood ties, thus minimizing the risk of danger caused by informants.
In 1945, Angelo Meli’s niece married William Buffalino, a cousin of Russel Buffalino, who was then underboss of the Mafia crime family centred in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and headed by Joseph Barbara. He of course, would make world headlines when he hosted the infamous Apalachin mob convention in 1957. Russel Buffalino, often referred to as 'The Quiet Don,' may also have been involved in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. He was certainly on the suspect list of the FBI.
By the end of the second world war, the Mafia drug traffickers of Detroit were expanding into other activities, including juke boxes, cigarette smuggling and gaming machines. Hoffa’s Local 299 financed the re-establishment of a dormant Local, 985, a garage worker’s union, which once up and running, moved into the gaming machine business. Hoffa’s wife was placed on the company payroll, but under her maiden name, Josephine Poszywak.
Through his relationship with the Detroit underworld, Jimmy Hoffa became acquainted with the New York mob, in particular Frank Livorsi and his biological family, which included Thomas and Johnny Diourgardi and their uncle, James “Jimmy Doyle” Plumeri, a tight-knit clan, who were all connected directly into the Mafia crime family run by Gaetano Gagliano and Tommy Luchese.
Livorsi was also close to Frank Coppola, who had a mistress at one time in Detroit called Fay Tavolacci. Frank got the heave from the United States in September 1948, but continued in the drug business in Italy, operating what the Federal Bureau of Narcotics referred to as 'the Mafia second line.'
Hoffa’s earlier links to the underworld in Detroit had come about through his relationship with a woman he had known, called Sylvia Pagano who had a clerical job with a union. They had carried on a relationship prior to Hoffa’s marriage.
Sylvia moved to Kansas City in 1934 and married a man who was called Sam Scaradino, who was a driver/bodyguard for a local mobster. Scaradino subsequently changed his name for some reason, to O’Brien. Sylvia had a child, a boy called Charles, by a previous relationship, who also adopted this new name.
When Scaradino died, Frank Coppola met up with Sylvia and became the boy’s godfather. It was through Sylvia in fact that Hoffa met Coppola, and made his connection into the Detroit underworld. In due course, after Coppola disappeared from Sylvia’s life, Hoffa informally adopted Charles known generally as “Chuckie,” making him a foster son. He and his mother actually moved in with Hoffa and his wife, living in a kind of extended family situation for a number of years. It was not that unusual, as Hoffa's wife Josephine, and Sylvia were old friends, who had walked picket lines together back in the 1930s.
However, adopting Chuckie may have been the worst decision Hoffa ever made in his life.
Sylvia Pagano also introduced Hoffa to Maurice “Moe” Dalitz, a close associate of Detroit’s Purple Gang, and a man who would become a major player in Las Vegas, where the Teamster’s would invest a lot of money in the years to come. Sylvia was also linked into another mobster who would have a big influence on the events as they unfolded down the years. By the early 1960s, although re-married to a man called John Paris, an executive in the laundry industry, Sylvia Pagano Paris was having an affair with Anthony Giacalone, a former numbers runner for Detroit mobster Peter Licavoli, and an enforcer for Joe Zerilli, aka 'Joe Uno', undisputed head of the Detroit mob and William 'Black Bill' Tocco, his brother-in-law and perhaps the de-facto underboss. Sylvia was made to report on Hoffa's activities back to Giacalone, who was not only close to another man who was to play a big part in the Hoffa story, Anthony Provenzano, he was also his brother-in-law.
Yet more Mafia related blood-ties.
In 1952, Dave Beck was appointed head of the Teamsters, and Jimmy Hoffa was given an IBT vie-presidency and a seat on the Teamsters’ general executive board. In due course, Dave Beck, like so many other Teamster presidents, would go to jail, in his case for embezzlement. In 1956, Hoffa used his connections to Johnny Dioguardi to gain control of the New York IBT locals though the illegal creation of 'paper locals,' in New York city. Passing control of these non-existing locals into the management of Dioguardi’s associates, Hoffa was able to engineer the take-over of the city’s Joint Council 16.
How organized crime gained control over Hoffa remains a matter of conjecture, even among those people who were close to him at the time. He perhaps, began his unholy alliance in order to obtain 'mob muscle' to fight management in the rough and tumble years of the Teamsters organizational drives of 1930s and 1940s, and then, seduced by the power he'd created for himself, kept close to the hoodlums who for favours rendered, would guarantee him support and through that, the continuation of the hegemony he'd generated. His status in the union movement of America was not unlike that of the Christian Democratic Party of Italy in the post war years. Both Hoffa and the CD needed Mafia clout to engender votes, and maintain their survival.
In 1957, at the IBT annual convention held in Miami Beach, Florida, James Hoffa was elected General President of the Teamsters. In the next ten years he would work relentlessly, developing not only the union’s, but his own image, as hard driving, successful entities. Many of the rank and file looked on Hoffa as a legend in his own lifetime, the man who had made their union one of the most influential America has ever seen. As the president, in 1964, he negotiated the first ever-industry wide contract, the National Master Freight Agreement.
In that same year, he was convicted in a federal court in Chattanooga for tampering with a jury, and was sentenced to eight years in prison. On May 11, 1964, he was also found guilty on further charges of fraud and conspiracy, getting a further five years.
On March 6th., 1967, all his appeals exhausted, Jimmy Hoffa was assigned to serve his sentence at Lewisburg Penitentiary in Pennsylvania.
There were a number of organized crime figures doing time here, including Carmine Galante, the fearsome mob boss from the Bonanno family, Anthony 'Tough Tony' De Angelis, perpetrator of the great salad oil swindle of the 1960s that almost destroyed the American Express Company, and Anthony Provenzano, a caporegime in the New Jersey faction of the Genovese family, who was serving time for extortion.
Although Galante befriended Hoffa, Jimmy had little time for Provenzano. According to inmate Eddy Edwards, bank robber, escape artist and former headliner on the FBI's 'Ten Mosted Wanted' list, Hoffa once told him '.......that guy Provenzano is nuts.' In August 1967, in the prison mess hall, the two men came to blows. As they were separated, Provenzano was apparently heard screaming, ' ...... old man! Yours is coming! You know it's coming one of these days.....You're going to belong to me!'
Anthony Provenzano (right), most often referred to as 'Tony Pro,' had been part of the Teamsters for many years. Between 1948 and 1958, he was a business agent there, and in 1958 became president of Union City's Local 560, a position he held for the next ten years, before moving up to be president of New Jersey's Joint Council, and then to IBT vice president.
Local 560 was one of the biggest in America with over 10,000 members representing over 425 companies. It was also listed by the Justice Department as the most corrupt. Tony along with his brothers, Sal, Nunzio and Angelo, were all deeply involved in the labor movement, certainly not out of altruistic inclinations, but more for what they could screw out of the organization for themselves and the patron saint of their underworld endeavours, the Genovese crime family, often referred to as 'The West Side Mob,' into which 'Tony Pro' was inducted, sometime in the early 1960s. For almost twenty years 'Tony Pro' ran Local 560 with the proverbial fist of iron, wielded in his absence, by his brothers.
Anthony Provenzano had risen in the mob with the help and support of Anthony Strollo, also known in the underworld as 'Tony Bender,' himself a close associate of Vito Genovese. Bender and Provenzano grew up together on the same street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and when Bender moved his base to New Jersey to take control of the waterfront, among other things, 'Tony Pro' saw an opening and went with him. Both men were allegedly involved in criminal activities on the wharves, and may well have been into drug trafficking.
With Bender's clout and Provenzano's contact with truckers, it would seem to have been a perfect combination. Access to well controlled transportation was a vital ingredient in the drug business. It was no coincidence that when Vito Genovese went down on his drug bust in 1958, Big John Ormento of the Luchese family, who ran O & S Trucking Company and Long Island Garment Trucking Company, was right there with him.
Anthony Provenzano's power was so absolute that throughout the Eastern Seaboard, few contracts were signed, pension fund dollars invested, or major grievances arbitrated without his input. The Teamster’s offices at Local 560 in Union City operated not only as a union headquarters, but also as a base for loan sharking, counterfeiting, sports betting and many other crimes, including contract killings. The men who reported to Anthony Provenzano were believed responsible for many mob murders.
Provenzano operated as a 'skipper' or crew boss for the Genovese Family in Northern New Jersey.
Members of his team included his brother Nunzio, the Andretta brothers, Stephen and Thomas, Gabriel and Salvatore Briguglio, Salvatore Sinno, Harold Konigsberg, Armand Faugno, Ralph Picardo, Ralph Pellecchia and Frederick Furino. The crew operated illegal Monte card games in New York and Hoboken and in Jersey City, in addition to their other criminal activities.
The building, at 7070 Summit Avenue that housed the headquarters of Local 560, almost proved to be a death trap for Provenzano himself, on one occasion.
On a Sunday morning, June 24th., 1962, he was found injured and unconscious on the floor of the building's elevator shaft. Taken to hospital with injuries that included six broken ribs, he told police had gone to the office to do some paper work and tend to his racing pigeons (a sport beloved of mobsters for some reason,) which he kept on the roof of the building, and had accidentally fallen into the shaft. Fifteen years later, a criminal associate claimed he had pushed Tony into the elevator opening. It was seemingly over a heroin deal that had gone bad.
Provenzano, ever the resourceful mobster, claimed the fall an accident, and received $17,000 in compensation. The story may or my not be true. What is more interesting, is that just a few weeks earlier, his mentor 'Tony Bender' disappeared from his Fort Lee, New Jersey home and was never seen again. Rumour has it he went on a one way trip and was murdered by Tommy Eboli, on the instructions of Vito Genovese.
Was Provenzano's 'accident' in some way connected to this?
Provenzano's grip on Local 560 was unassailable. In 1962, his official salary was $20,000. A year later it had increased to $95,000. Along with stipends from his post at the Joint Council 73, and as vice president of the Teamsters, he was earning over $113,000. More than Hoffa earned as leader of the union. Using the consumer price index as a measure, that's $800,000 by today's standard.
Tony Pro may well have been, at this time, the highest paid union official in the world. He was certainly one of the most crooked.
By the late 1960s, Provenzano had allied himself to Frank Fitzsimmons, the man who took over control of the Teamsters when Hoffa went off to prison. The two men became good friends, socializing to the extent that they often travelled the country, playing golf together.
Hoffa obviously hated the thought that a man as powerful as Provenzano was backing a man who Jimmy obviously thought of as a temporary back-stop for the job of running the Teamsters, until such times as he himself, could regain control. At a Teamster’s convention held in Miami in the early 1970s, after both Provenzano and Hoffa had been released from prison, the two men had another go at each other. According to Dan Sullivan, a New York teamster, Hoffa told him, 'Pro threatened to pull my guts out and kidnap my children if I attempt to return to the presidency of the Teamsters.'
Jimmy Hoffa's dream to make a comeback and take over the presidency of the Teamsters, was just that, a dream, according to Michigan organized crime expert, Vincent Piersante, head of the Michigan attorney general's office.
Because of the mob's tremendous influence on the Teamster’s Union, Hoffa had no chance of returning to power, unless the mob agreed. And the Mafia was not going to do that. The fact that Fitzsimmons and other top officials of the union had been in the pocket of the Mafia was almost indisputable. A new, and different relationship had developed in the union since Jimmy Hoffa had gone off to prison in 1967, and as always with the mob, it was tied into money. There were millions of dollars from the Central States Pension Fund that could be made available to the Dons to fund their schemes and help them grow bigger and more powerful, and Hoffa would not be allowed to stand between it and them.
He'd made a statement on his release from prison: 'Tell the rats to get off the ship because I'm coming back.' He may have thought it was a call to arms. In essence, it was his own personal valedictory.
By early 1975, it appeared that Anthony 'Tony Jack' Giacalone was trying to arrange some kind of sit-down with Hoffa and Provenzano to try and resolve their differences.
Married to Provenzano's cousin, Giacalone was also making the rounds of the golf courses with 'Tony Pro' and Frank Fitzsimmons. Giacalone was currently under investigation by a federal grand jury, in Detroit, for income tax fraud and extorting a Teamster’s pension plan. He would go down in June 1976 for ten years on another tax fraud case.
'Tony Jack' (right) and 'Tony Pro' were to be the key elements that on combination, created the fusible mass that led to the destruction of Jimmy Hoffa.
On July 30th., 1975, Jimmy Hoffa dressed casually in a dark blue pullover shirt, blue pants, black Gucci loafers, and trademark white socks. Sometime that morning, he received a telephone call at his two storied, cottage-style summer house on Square Lake, in Bloomfield Hills, about 20 miles north of Detroit. It apparently confirmed a meeting he was waiting to hear about. He kissed his wife goodbye, and drove off at 1.15p.m. in his big, green, two-door Pontiac Grand Ville. He told his wife he was going to the Machus Red Fox restaurant, next to a shopping strip on Maple and Telegraph Roads, in Bloomfield Township.
He had told Josephine that one of the men he was going to have lunch with was Anthony Giacalone, and that he and some other associates were waiting for him at the tony, 270 seat eating place which had been opened in December 1965, by food entrepreneur Harris O. Machus. The Red Fox (above) was one of eight restaurants and pastry shops he operated in the Detroit area. Jimmy had often used the place for dining and entertaining. It had in fact, hosted his son, James P. Hoffa's wedding reception.
According to the manager of the Red Fox, Hoffa never entered the building that day. He parked his Pontiac at the north end of the restaurant's lot, and waited. At 2.30 p.m. he telephoned his wife from a hardware store, in the strip mall, behind the Red Fox, to see if Giacalone had rung in. The last legitimate sighting of Jimmy Hoffa on that day, was sometime about 2.45 p.m., still waiting in the parking lot. A real estate salesman stopped by to talk with him for a few minutes. Hoffa then disappeared off the face of the earth, falling over the edge, missing in action to this day, thirty-three years later. His family filed a missing person report with the Detroit police at 6 p.m. on July 31st., and it is still listed there as:
Missing Person #75-3425
So what happened to Jimmy Hoffa?
Well, it's safe to assume that he probably died that day, some time.
According to Rolland McMaster, a close friend and mover and shaker in the Teamsters, who had turned against Jimmy in 1967:
'Jimmy ran off to Brazil with a go-go dancer.'
That would have to be one of the more fanciful interpretations of Hoffa's ultimate destination.
Here are some of the others:
* Mixed in concrete and now part of the Giant's Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
* Dumped into the Au Sable River in Michigan in 30 feet of water, between two dams.
* Run through a mob operated fat-rendering plant that was subsequently burned down.
* Buried under the helicopter pad at the Sheraton Savannah Resort Hotel.
* Crushed in a steel compactor for junk cars at Central Sanitation Services, a company owned by Raffaele Quasarano in Hamtramck, East Detroit, which was destroyed by fire in 1978.
* Ironically, part of the site now occupied by the Wayne County Jail.
* Stuffed into a 50 gallon oil drum, and taken on a Gateway Transportation truck to the Gulf of Mexico.
* Ground up into little pieces and dumped into a Florida swamp.
* Buried in a field in Waterford Township.
* Disposed of in the Central Waste Management trash incinerator, again at Hamtramck, owned by Peter Vitale and Raffaele Quasarano.
* Buried at the bottom of a swimming pool behind a mansion in Bloomfield Hills, near Turtle Lake.
* Buried under a public works garage in Cadillac, Michigan.
* Dumped into a 100 acre gravel pit, owned by his brother William, near Highland. Infra- red photos were taken of the site from a military plane. No luck.
* In May, 2004, authorities in Oakland County, Michigan, removed floorboards from a Detroit house and found blood stains that they thought might be linked to Jimmy. They weren't.
* In 2006, the FBI spent a lot of time digging up parts of an 80 acre horse farm near Milford Township, 30 miles west of Detroit on the basis of 'strong evidence.'
Squads of FBI agents fanned out across the Hidden Dreams farm outside Detroit and special agent Daniel Roberts, who lead the operation, expressed guarded optimism about solving one of modern America's greatest crime mysteries, which has endured for 30 years. "This is the best lead I've come across on the Hoffa investigation," he said. It wasn't.
And my favourite. According to Johnny Carson in a monologue on his late night show, Hoffa was buried under Tammy Faye Baker's makeup.
Jimmy was gone, so who killed him?
The most likely suspects were a number of men working for 'Tony Pro,' who along with Tony Giacalone, had set up this meeting at the Red Fox, in order to lure Hoffa to his death. He had become just too much of an embarrassment and irritation in their desire to control the Teamster’s pension fund, and as usual, with the Mafia, when they had a problem, they simply removed it. For good.
In 1985, the FBI issued a 50 page summary of the case of Jimmy Hoffa, referred to as The Hoffex Memo. In essence, it lists Chuckie O'Brien, Anthony Provenzano, Anthony Giacalone, Thomas and Stephen Andretta, Russel Buffalino (eastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York Mafia boss,) and Salvatore Briguglio and his brother Gabriel, as prime suspects in the murder.
According to the bureau, Chuckie O'Brien arrived at The Red Fox lot in a borrowed car, a 1975 maroon Mercury Brougham, that belonged to Joey, son of Anthony Giacalone. He picked up his adopted father, who obviously thought they were going to a meeting with Provenzano and Giacalone senior. Instead, somewhere along the way, the car detoured to a pre-arranged spot, and Jimmy Hoffa was murdered.
Remember, Chuckie's mother had been in a close relationship with Giacalone for many years, to the point that Chuckie referred to him as 'Uncle Tony.' Did a hoodlum's demands outweigh a step son's loyalty?
Sniffer dogs subsequently picked up the scent of Hoffa from inside the vehicle, and years later, a DNA test on a human hair found inside the car, confirmed it was from the missing man.
Of course, none of these suspects ever admitted to any involvement in the murder or disappearance of Jimmy. To my knowledge, only two men have actually confessed to the killing.
Donald Frankos, an alleged hit man for the mob, stated in his biography, 'Contract Killer' that he John Sullivan, an infamous New York criminal, and Jimmy Coonan, a member of the notorious Hell's Kichen mob, who called themselves 'The Westies,' ambushed and shot Hoffa dead in a house in Mount Clemens, Macomb County, about 25 miles north-east of Detroit. Frankos claimed they cut up the body and stuffed it into a freezer in the house.
Frank 'Frankie the Irishman' Sheerhan, a hit man who apparently worked for Russel Buffalino, also confessed to killing Jimmy, in a death-bed confession recorded in a book called 'I heard you paint Houses.' The killing he orchestrated, went down in a house on Beaverland Street, off Seven Mile Road, in Detroit. That was the May 2004 FBI investigation which confirmed nothing at all.
From another source, a different theory emerges about the events surrounding the lead up to the killing.
Among all the claims, counter-claims, innuendoes and suppositions that surround and at times, stifle the story of Jimmy Hoffa, this one is from the horse's mouth, so to speak. To my knowledge, this information has never been published before, anywhere.
Jimmy was released from prison at the end of December, 1971 following a Presidential pardon. His commutation of sentence however, barred him from any active union activities until 1980, when he would be 67 years old.
By 1975 he was perhaps, facing many financial pressures. Frank Fitzsimmons who had taken over as head of the Teamsters when Hoffa went to prison, fired Josephine from her $40,000 a year job as head of the IBT women's DRIVE committee, and then Jimmy, from his $30,000 a year position as a counsellor for the IBT.
Conceivably, under these strains, Jimmy Hoffa started to put pressure on many important people within the Teamster’s union and their powerful associates. Was he shaking these people down for money using as a threat, his intimate knowledge of all the skeletons in all the closets? Anthony Giacalone apparently tried to persuade Jimmy away from this course of action, without success.
Provenzano would have been one of the biggest fish Jimmy would try and land, a man with plenty of secrets to hide himself, and a man that Jimmy Hoffa had little regard for. In addition to all of this, Hoffa had allied himself to Bonanno underboss Carmine Galante a fearsome man, hated by the Gambino and Genovese crime families in New York. Galante had offered friendship and protection to Jimmy when he arrived at the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, and Jimmy had maintained ties with the mafioso.
Somehow, Jimmy had hoped Galante would be able to help him in his struggle to regain the leadership of the Teamsters. But 'Lillo' as he was known throughout the underworld, had a basketful of his own problems to handle in 1975, and helping Jimmy was low on his priority list.
Aware of Hoffa's manoeuvrings and the moves he was making, and maybe under more pressure from the rumors that 'Sally Bugs' might be going to roll-over, Anthony Provenzano visited Anthony 'Fat Tony' Salerno at his headquarters, the Palma Boys Social Club, at East 115th Street in Harlem, to seek his help in solving the problem. Salerno at this time was the consigliere or counsellor, of the Genovese Cosa Nostra family.
The boss in this period was Frank Alfonso Tieri, also known as 'Funzuola,' and Salerno would need his approval and blessing to set up a hit this big.
'Fat Tony' rarely strayed from his club, except when he went home for the weekends to his luxurious horse farm in upstate New York, but it's reasonable to assume he got off his rather large ass and went somewhere to talk to 'Funzi,' either at the Rio Grande Social Club in Brooklyn, or perhaps across the Hudson to one of Tieri's favourite restaurants, Sorrentino's in Newark. Either way, the blessing came down, and Provenzano was given the okay to liaise with the men in Detroit. There is no doubt that Joe Zerilli, the Sicilian born, seventy-eight year old Don of Detroit would have had to okay the hit, and 'Tony Jack' got the word to 'go with the flow'.
So what became of the other players in this complex and disturbing story?
Salvatore 'Sally Bugs' Briguglio (right), ostensibly a business agent for Local 560, was apparently a strong arm man for Provenzano. Although small in stature, and looking more like a civil servant or a professor, with his dark, horn-rimmed glasses and short hair, one, however with a strong New Jersey accent, he was it seems, a dangerous and very capable killer. If he did help to kill Jimmy, it wouldn't be the first time that he may have been involved in the murder of a union official.
Fearing that 'Sally Bugs' might weaken under the constant police pressure during a 1978 investigation into yet more kickbacks and extortion charges in connection with the Teamsters, Tony Pro apparently arranged to reduce his exposure by having his friend and colleague removed, for good. He may well have also been disturbed by a rumour that Briguglio was talking to the FBI, feeling out their reaction to him becoming an informant. This was apparently known to agents in the Detroit office, before 'Sally Bugs' got swatted.
Late in the evening of March 21st, Briguglio was blasted off his feet by five .45 calibre bullets as he stood outside Benito's Restaurant on Mulberry Street in Manhattan. Amazingly, the killing was witnessed by two NYPD Intelligence cops who were busy trailing one of Briguglio's dinner guests, Genovese capo, Mathew Ianiello, and for some reason these cops were unable or unwilling to intervene. The killers, as always, disappeared, although another eyewitness to the shooting, identified underworld figure Joe Scarborough as a potential suspect. The eye-witness, a young Chinese student, also helped to describe a getaway car used in the hit, a 1978 Lincoln Versailles, eventually traced to a small town in Georgia. Nothing developed from these investigations.
There is another theory to explain the killing of 'Sally Bugs.' The day after the hit, Pasquale 'Paddy Mack' Macchiarole, a capo in the Genovese family, was murdered. His body, shot in the head multiple times, was found stuffed in the trunk of his new Cadillac alongside the Rockaway Parkway in Brooklyn. Police posited, on information they had received from an underworld source that the two men were about to make a power play to take over control of Local 560, in the event that Tony Pro would go to prison (which he did,) for the murder of union leader Anthony Castellito, the previous leader of 560, who had been murdered in Kerhonkson, Ulster County, New York, in 1961, by 'Sally Bugs' and Kayo Koningsberg, on the orders of Provenzano.
Another underworld source however, indicates that 'Paddy Mack' got whacked because of his big mouth, and his habit of belittling Genovese mob boss Alphone 'Funzi' Terri.
When he was questioned by the police and F.B.I., Thomas Andretta denied any knowledge of Hoffa's disappearance. He claimed he was playing gin rummy with Anthony Provenzano in the hall at Local 560, in Union City, 700 miles from where Jimmy vanished.
Ralph 'Little Ralphie' Picardo, one time driver for Tony Pro, testified that the Briguglio brothers and Thomas Andretta (right) had personally killed Jimmy, and that they had arranged for the body to be loaded into an empty oil drum and transported out of the Detroit area on a truck belonging to the Gateway Transportation Company, but they were never indicted on this evidence. By way of supporting evidence on their aptitude for violence, he also stated that Andretta and 'Sally Bugs' had murdered a loan shark in 1972 and fed the body into a tree shredder before burying the remains under the Hackensack Bridge in Jersey City.
Stephen Andretta was indicted in New Jersey on RICO charges in connection with 'labour peace' payments from trucking companies which serviced Seatrain Lines out of the port of New Jersey. On July 10th., 1979, he was sentenced to a prison term of ten years.
The two Tonys eventually went down for some of the dozens of crimes they had committed over the years. In 1976, Giacalone was convicted of income tax evasion and served ten years in prison. In 1996 he was charged again, this time with racketeering, but died in February, 2001, at the age of 82, before the case was tried.
Anthony Provenzano was arraigned for trial in the summer of 1978 for his involvement in the murder of Anthony Castelito. As a reward for his part in the killing, 'Tony Pro' had rewarded Salvatore Briguglio with the sinecure of business agent in Local 560. The government, on June 21st, 1978, rewarded 'Tony Pro' with life in prison, where he died aged 71, on December 12th., 1988. His conviction was the first time that the famous RICO law was applied and used to convict a member of the Mafia in America. Alphonse Tieri would subsequently become the first mob boss to be indicted under this law, but he died before his case was finalized.
The Machus Red Fox at 6676 Telegraph Road, is also no more. It folded in February 1996, and was replaced by an outpost of an Italian restaurant chain called 'Andiamo's Italia West.' The former button-down premises, linked ineluctably with the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, is now a trendy Italian eating house in shades of purple and gold, a gourmet trattoria with hand-painted chandeliers and sunflower-filled urns. Instead of gangsters cutting deals, it now hosts stock brokers watching share prices on the bar television sets.
However, it still has links back into the days of Jimmy H.
The owner of the chain, Joe Vicarri, is the son-in-law of modern day Detroit Cosa Nostra consigliere, Anthony 'Tony T' Tocco, son of the late 'Black Bill' Tocco. And a former silent partner in the business, who died in March this year, was Vincent 'Little Vince' Meli, the nephew of that long ago underboss of the Detriot Mafia, Angelo 'The Chairman' Meli.
It's hard to get away from these guys, no matter which way you turn.
Chuckie O'Brien (photo right) left Detroit and moved to Florida, into a job provided for him by Teamster president, Frank Fitzsimmons. As of May 2006, he was living in a town house in a gated Boca Raton, Florida, community, working as a janitor at the University of Miami. Chuckie was kicked out of the union by a review board in 1990 for his connection to Detroit mobsters, including Giacalone. In 1976 he had been convicted in federal court for accepting a free car from an auto dealer. In 1978 he was convicted for lying on a loan application. He has served at least one year in prison. Now, in ill-health, he has had two cancer surgeries, a gall bladder operation and four heart by-pass operations.
He has always denied being anywhere near the Red Fox that day, and driving Hoffa away in Giacalone's car.
There is finally, yet another scenario we can consider in the matter of Jimmy's disappearance, and that suggests that yet another man met Jimmy that afternoon. This was Vito 'Billy Jack' Giacalone the fifty-three year old brother of 'Tony Jack.' and another good friend of Hoffa's, who may have accompanied Chuckie to that fateful meeting. Whoever was going to kill Jimmy, it's certain that Zerilli, the boss of the Detroit Mafia, would have wanted one of his senior men on the job, supervising. If that's the case, it's highly likely that Jimmy's last drive was probably a very short one, not more than say five miles.
Carlo Licata, a relative of 'Black Bill' Tocco, (he'd married his daughter Grace,) was the son of Nick Licata, the right hand of mob boss Jack Dragna in Los Angeles, and a soldier in the Detroit Mafia family. He owned a house that distance from the Red Fox, at 680 Long Lake Road, not far east from the intersection of Telegraph, and there is a theory that Jimmy was taken there, and then killed by Sally Bugs, the Andretta brothers and 'Billy Jack.' The house stood back from the highway among trees, and was very secluded. An ideal place to carry out the hit. If that's the way it went down, his body would have been disposed of fairly quickly. It's standard mob procedure, no one travels 'easily' with a body in the car, so Jimmy's cadaver would have gone somewhere for burial, reasonably close, and quickly.
Jimmy Hoffa would have been relaxed going to this house. He had been there many times before for similar meetings, with mobsters and union associates, so would not have been suspicious of it as the venue.
For the FBI, the file remains open. Case No HQ 9-60052 has an agent assigned to it in the Detroit office. In the ten years up to 2002, it added a further 377 documents to the more than 16000 pages on file. After Hoffa vanished, the United States government went after the mob, big time. It added hundreds of agents and federal prosecutors to its roster, used wiretaps, undercover surveillance and adopted a policy of developing underworld informants on a national scale. Hoffa's disappearance led to the government's take-over of local 560 in Union City, and eventually, their investigation of all aspects of the Teamsters organization.
In 1985, the FBI Special Agent in Charge, Detroit, told reporters that the bureau knew who was responsible for the murder of Hoffa. By then, he had been declared, legally dead. In June 2001, the head of the FBI's organized crime unit stated his belief that a decision would be made within two years whether or not to prosecute anyone for the murder. It hasn't happened yet.
They better get a move on. There are not many people left alive, to charge.
To me, the fascinating thing about Jimmy Hoffa is that as a victim of lupara bianca, the 'white death' as the Sicilian Mafia refer to dead men disappeared, he probably became a bigger brand name in his passing than he ever was in life.
More than once, he said that no one would remember him ten years after he was dead. He also said 'I may have my faults, but being wrong ain't one of them.'
Well he was incorrect on both points as it turned out.
And then of course, there is the conspiracy theory. It's long and complicated and includes lot's of sudden deaths, and like all conspiracy theories, it feeds off its own blarney, but in essence it goes something like this:
Hoffa was killed, not because he was a carbuncle on the ass of the Teamster's Union, an irritation that just wouldn't go away, but a much bigger problem than that. An integral part of a huge, intercontinental collusion to destroy Fidel Castro.
William Eugene Buffalino, a hot-shot lawyer and the cousin of Russell, once said, 'Tell the FBI to look into the CIA. And tell the CIA to look into the FBI. Then you'll find the real answer to the Hoffa case.' He was referring to the Church Committee's closed hearings on the CIA/underworld plot to kill Castro.
The CIA was apparently involved in a scheme, using mob muscle, expertise and men, to take out the Cuban dictator. At the top of the tree, the management committee as it where, organizing this event, were Sam Giancana, mob boss of Chicago, along with Johnny Roselli, mob gopher extraordinary, Russell Buffalino, Santo Trafficante, boss of Tampa, Florida, Joey 'Doves' Aiuppa of Chicago, Carlos Marcello the head of the Louisiana mob, and last, but not least, Jimmy Hoffa.
Charles 'Chuckie' Grimaldi, a self-confessed hit-man for the Chicago Syndicate, claimed in his biography, 'Momo Giancana was hit by the CIA.'
He claimed that the same man who killed the Chicago mob boss also killed Hoffa, who he claimed was the original contact between the mob and the CIA on the Castro conspiracy. Jimmy, Sam and Johnny got popped because people in high places started to worry that they might falter and become informants to this conspiracy. There's a lot more to it, but that's the bones of the intrigue.
Maybe it's all linked into the hit on J.F.K., but let's not go there.
If you type 'Jimmy Hoffa' into Google, you'll get almost 400,000 hits. There has been at least two movies based on his life, dozens of television references to him in all kinds of shows, at least a dozen songs that mention his name, books and articles by the score and even an acknowledgment to him in the massively popular video game 'Grand Theft Auto,' indicating that in his death and disappearance that has fascinated the world for over thirty years, he has truly transcended the generation gap.
Jimmy Hoffa may be dead and buried, somewhere, but the legend of Jimmy Hoffa looks to be around for a long time to come.Acknowledgments:I would like to thank MC Scott, author, from the real Deal Forum, for his invaluable help in making sure all the Detroit ends of the story made sense, and introducing me to parts I never knew existed. Also Picasso, for pointing me in a direction that I think has never been explored before in the story of Jimmy Hoffa.
© Thom L. Jones 2010