Jimmy Hoffa

Jimmy Hoffa
Jimmy Hoffa

His long disappearance has supplied endless jokes for late-night comedians and the theories about what happened to him have spawned a half-dozen nonfiction books; three fictionalized accounts, including a comic treatment; a Hollywood movie written by David Mamet and starring Danny DeVito and Jack Nicholson; and a few prime-time television specials.

Where is Jimmy Hoffa? How could such a wellknown figure—revered by his loyal union members and reviled by former Attorney General Robert Kennedy and other U.S. government officials—just disappear? Is the ex-Teamster leader buried under the end zone of Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands as is rumored ?

Some facts are indisputable: Jimmy Hoffa was last seen in the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, a Detroit suburb, at about 2:30 P.M. on 30 July 1975. He was supposed to meet two Mafia leaders, Anthony Giacalone of Detroit and Anthony Provenzano of Union City, New Jersey. Neither of these men ever showed up. Jimmy Hoffa was declared legally dead on 30 July 1982.

So what happened? The speculation began immediately. Newsweek mentioned the following possible murder motivations: Hoffa was challenging the leadership of then Teamster head Frank Fitzsimmons. During the previous months, severe conflicts within the union resulted in frequent violence. Fitzsimmons, however, pledged his full cooperation in the investigation and Local 299 offered a $25,000 reward for information about Hoffa’s whereabouts.

Rumors also persisted about a mob connection: Anthony (“Tony Pro”) Provenzano was considered a possible suspect because Hoffa was allegedly threatening to expose Mafia links to the Teamsters. In July 1982, a federal witness testified at a U.S. Senate hearing that Hoffa was “ground up in pieces, shipped to Florida and dumped in a swamp” (Newsweek).

According to excerpts from FBI case files, published in a two-part series in the Detroit Sunday Journal in October 1975, “All sources believe that Hoffa’s disappearance is directly connected to his attempts to regain power within the Teamsters Union, which would possibly have an effect on the LCN’s [La Costra Nostra] control and manipulation of Teamster Pension Funds” (Zacharis). After his disappearance, the FBI investigated a claim made by one Teamster that Hoffa, disguised in fake glasses, checked into a hotel on 2 August 1975, under the name of “Jewell.”

Other theories: Donald Frankos, a prison inmate, told Playboy that he was involved in a plot to kill Hoffa and that the remains were mixed with concrete used to build Giants Stadium. “He ain’t here,” later declared John Samerjan, vice-president of public affairs for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

When convicted murderer Ricky Powell claimed that Hoffa was floating beneath two dams in Michigan, Boating magazine posted a $10,000 reward to the person who could find his remains in the Au Sable River, 175 miles from Detroit. Nobody ever claimed the award.

Los Angeles Magazine speculated that Hoffa’s remains were located at the El Dorado Restaurant and Poker Club in Gardena, California, but Larry Flynt, the pornography publisher, later purchased the property and no evidence was ever found.

Investigative reporter Dan Moldea, who spent more than two decades writing about Hoffa, believes that Salvatore (“Sally Bugs”) Briguglio, a Local 560 business agent, killed the Teamster leader.

In September 2001, DNA tests indicated that a hair taken from Mr. Hoffa’s hairbrush was found in the car driven by Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien—a union member with ties to the Mafia—on the day Hoffa disappeared. Federal prosecutors had to decide no later than December 2003 whether to press charges. In the 1980s, author Steven Brill called the Hoffa disappearance the “most notorious unsolved mystery of the decade.” More than a quarter of a century later, the mystery still remains un- solved.

Hoffa also bears a perhaps unique distinction: he is a victim of a possible conspiracy and he may be a party in one of the major conspiracy theories of the twentieth century. In 1979, four years after Hoffa’s disappearance, the House Select Commission on Assassinations (HSCA) stated that Jimmy Hoffa, along with two mob figures—Carlos Marcello and Santos Trafficante—had the “motives, means and opportunity” to kill Robert Kennedy.

The former attorney general was a longtime Hoffa nemesis because of his vigorous prosecution of the Teamster leadership. A federal informant reportedly said that Hoffa would like to kill Kennedy but that his brother was a more likely target because “when you cut down the tree, the branches fall with it” (Caloff). The HSCA was never able to establish any evidence of mob complicity in either of the assassinations.