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Tag: Greg Stejskal

Despite All the Hype, The PBS Show on The Jimmy Hoffa Disappearance Didn’t Crack the Case

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com 

DETROIT — As we thought would be the case, the PBS show Tuesday night on Jimmy Hoffa — “Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa?” —  didn’t crack the case as the pre-show hype suggested it might. And it certainly didn’t leave you feeling as if you knew what really happened to the Teamster boss.

It was entertaining, but a little cheesy, particularly for a PBS production.

Greg Stejskal on the right.

Retired FBI Agent Greg Stejskal, who was interviewed in the show, told ticklethewire.com after the show that he thought it was full of “a lot of speculation” and “I thought pretty far fetched as far as some of the connections they made.”

“There’s a lot of information there,” he said. “But I thought they took a lot of literary license making things fit together that didn’t necessarily fit together and basically ignored things that would have argued otherwise.”

The PBS website hyped the upcoming show:

For decades, investigators have searched for clues about what happened to Hoffa and why. Was he murdered? If so, who wanted him dead? After serving prison time for conspiracy and fraud, Hoffa was pardoned by President Richard Nixon. What interest did the White House have in Jimmy Hoffa?

Recently declassified government files reveal shocking evidence of corruption at the highest levels. Interviews with a former mob lawyer, a murder witness, and an FBI agent are among the sources History Detectives unearth as they track Jimmy Hoffa’s final hours and answer the question: “Who killed Jimmy Hoffa?”

The show gave a lot of weight to a death bed confession of Frank Sheeran, a friend of Hoffa who was described as a hitman. Sheeran said he killed Hoffa at a home in Detroit.

Stejskal said the FBI investigated and was dismissive of his claims.

It also talked about President Richard Nixon possibly taking mob money, something that had reported in the past.

David Ashenfelter, a former Detroit News and Detroit Free Press reporter, and a Pulitzer prize winner, who was interviewed in the show, told ticklethewire.com:

David Ashenfelter

“I think Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance remains a mystery. I found the archival footage very interesting. I enjoyed the program.

“I thought they covered all of the major leads and brought a younger generation up to date on one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th Century,” he added. “But as it always turns out in the Hoffa mystery, we don’t know much more than we knew when the FBI wrote the Hoffex Memo six months after Jimmy Hoffa vanished.”

 

Omaha Columnist Interviews Retired FBI Agent Greg Stejskal About the Hoffa Disappearance

 Editors Note from ticklethewire.com: Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office. He is also a columnist for ticklethewire.com

Greg Stejskal

 
By Michael Kelly
World-Herald columnist

Omaha native and retired FBI agent Greg Stejskal recently returned to the scene of a famous crime: the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.

Stejskal, who worked on the case of the missing former Teamsters Union president, was interviewed for the PBS program “History Detectives” at the Red Fox restaurant in suburban Detroit, where Hoffa was last seen.

The ex-agent is curious as to whether the “History Detectives” turned up something new. The “Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa?”documentary airs at 9 tonight.

Says PBS: “Recently declassified government files reveal shocking evidence of corruption at the highest levels.”

To read more click here. 

Listen to his interview below on WDET in Detroit.

Detroit’s Reputed Godfather Jack Tocco Dead at 87

Featured_jack_tocco_13369Jack Tocco

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — Giacomo “Black Jack” Tocco, the reputed head of the Detroit Mafia for more than three decades, who kept a relatively low profile — more so than infamous mob brothers Vito and Anthony Giacalone —  died Monday night at age 87, mob expert Scott Burnstein of the Oakland Press reported.

Tocco, who was long suspected of having ties to the 1975 disappearance of James Hoffa, died of natural causes according to Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home in Sterling Heights. The funeral will be Friday.

Raised in the upscale Windmill Pointe section of Grosse Pointe Park, Tocco earned a finance degree from the University of Detroit In 1949, according to an entry in Wikipedia.

He went on to own businesses around the state and built an impressive real estate portfolio, all while managing to maintain a fairly low profile, particularly when it came to media attention. The Giacalone brothers, who were capos, and underlings of Tocco,  had far more recognizable names in Metro Detroit.

“Jack was very low-profile, highly intelligent and business savvy and really the opposite of what people would view as a typical gangster, the kind you see in movies and on television,” retired FBI agent Mike Carone told the Oakland Press.  “I think that’s why he was able to stay under the radar for such a long time and avoid a lot of the pitfalls of being a mob boss, such as violence and long prison sentences. He was one of the last of a dying era.”

Tocco’s only felony conviction came in 1998 in a major racketeering case, which sent him off to federal prison for two years. Before that, his only previous conviction was for attending an illegal cock fight, according to a history of the Detroit mob on the FBI’s website.

Burnstein writes that Tocco owned the Hazel Park Raceway for more than four decades. Last summer, FBI agents searched former property he owned in northern Oakland County, looking for Hoffa’s body. The search set off a circus-like atmosphere — replete with an army of FBI agents, the media and curious neighbors. The feds came up empty.

The tip came from the former second in command of the Detroit mob, Anthony “Tony Z” Zerilli, a now elderly man who was Tocco’s first cousin. Zerilli, who was in prison at the time of Hoffa’s disappearance, told the feds that he was informed of what happen to Hoffa after he left prison. He fell out of favor with the mob. 

Burnstein wrote:

Prior to his passing, Tocco was considered the most-tenured mob don in the United States, having taken power in 1979 at a ceremony the FBI photographed. He ruled unchallenged until his death, said Eric Straus, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in the United States Department of Justice. Straus spent two decades investigating Tocco.

Retired FBI agent Greg Stejskal, in an interview with Deadline Detroit Tuesday night, recalled that June 11, 1979, was the very day that it was officially announced to made-members of the Detroit Mafia that Tocco was taking over as boss, replacing Tony Zerilli, who had lost his juice in the organization.

Stejskal said he was part of an FBI surveillance team that followed some mobsters, including Tocco and Vito Giacalone, to a barber shop on Gratiot in northern Macomb County.

FBI surveillance photo at in 1979 at game farm with Tocco in the middle.

The men exited the shop and  got into a van. Stejskal and his fellow agents followed the van to a game farm north of Chelsea.

The agents saw it was a big gathering, and Stejskal recalls thinking:

 “Whatever it is, it’s a big deal. The only people there were all made guys.”

He said he and another agent quietly went behind an archery target on the property that was owned at the time by reputed mobsters Antonio and Luigi Ruggirello.

“I had my camera with a 300 mm lense and I started taking pictures,” Stejskal said.

Eventually, from intelligence, the agents learned that the gathering officially marked the start of Tocco’s long reign as Detroit’s reputed Godfather. 

Also read story:

A Detroit Mob Photo by the FBI Surveillance Squad Captures History

 

Column: The FBI, Some Gay Murders and a Fingerprint Examiner Named Thurman Williams

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.
 
By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

I was seated, facing Michael Lee Sprague as I interviewed him. We were on the same side of the table. As an FBI agent on the fugitive squad in the Detroit Division, I never liked having anything between me and the person I was interviewing. It was  easier to observe body language, and it didn’t  give the person being interviewed the psychological shield of having an object between them and me.

I was transfixed by Sprague’s eyes. He had just confessed to a double homicide, but his eyes revealed nothing. I knew the aphorism, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” Sprague’s eyes were more like black holes – they didn’t reflect light they absorbed it.

But how did Sprague come to be arrested and interviewed by the FBI?

The story really begins in Jackson, Tennessee. Sprague was a drifter, and he had met Thomas Menth on the road. They had decided to travel together. In December, 1975, they picked up two gay professors from Bethel College which is near Jackson. They had all gone to a room at the Holiday Inn where Sprague and Menth overpowered the professors. They bound and gagged them, stabbed them multiple times and slit their throats – their throats weren’t just slit, the professors were nearly decapitated.

The murder scene was extremely bloody. When Sprague and Menth left the room, one of them put his hands covered with the victims’ blood on the wall near the light switch. This left impressions of several of his fingerprints from both hands. These prints were” identifiable,” but there was a problem.

There was a common myth at the time probably propagated by the movies and TV, that a fingerprint found at a crime scene could be matched with someone if their fingerprints were on record. The reality was, at the time, fingerprints were classified using all 10 fingers. The US central repository for all the fingerprint records was the FBI Identification Division in Washington, DC. (In 1924, J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI, was responsible for the establishment of a national repository for fingerprints.)

ice photo

When a person was arrested their inked prints were put on a fingerprint card which had pre-marked spaces for each finger. At the Identification Division, the card was classified by fingerprint examiners using the Henry classification system. Each fingerprint is unique like a snowflake. All fingerprints have common characteristics referred to by terms like loups, arches & whorls. Using these common features with their infinite variations, each of the fingerprints is classified with numbers and letters. These individual classifications are written in sequence determined by the order of the fingerprints on the card. The total sequence of all 10 fingers is the classification.

If an investigator were lucky enough to find an identifiable fingerprint at a crime scene, that is, one that was at least partially classifiable, the investigator could compare the single print to the fingerprints of a suspect. But only if a suspect was developed through investigation, a suspect could not be identified with just the found fingerprint.

Read more »

Column: The Manhunt and Capture of Vincent Loonsfoot in North Woods of Michigan

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office. 

Greg Stejskal

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

In the summer of 1988, Vincent Loonsfoot, an American Indian, drove to the Hannahville Potawatomi Reservation near Escanaba, Mich. There he ambushed and shot to death four members of his wife’s family and kidnapped his estranged wife. Loonsfoot then set off into the woods – beginning a highly publicized manhunt through the almost impenetrable forest of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Michigan is made up of two peninsulas, the upper and the lower. The Upper Peninsula extends east from Wisconsin and is bounded on the north by Lake Superior. The Lower Peninsula, the bigger of the two, looks like a mitten. So Michiganders tend to point to their hand when giving directions.

The Lower Peninsula is bounded by Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the east. The shortest distance between the two peninsulas, the Straits of Mackinac, is where the two lakes meet at the top of the Lower Peninsula. For years the only way to get from one peninsula to the other was by boat or plane. In 1957 the Mackinac Bridge was finished allowing for car and truck traffic between the two.

Although the two peninsulas are now connected, they remain dramatically different. In some ways the U.P. remains the pristine wilderness immortalized in Longfellow’s epic poem, “Hiawatha.” “By the shores of Gitche Gumee….” was Longfellow describing the Lake Superior coast of the U.P.

Vincent Loonsfoot and his wife, Peggy, were living near Baraga on the Keweenaw Bay Reservation. An Ojibwa Indian Tribal Court awarded Peggy sole custody of the Loonsfoot’s 2-year-old daughter, based on a finding that Loonsfoot had repeatedly, physically abused Peggy. Peggy was afraid of Loonsfoot, so without telling him, Peggy moved with their daughter to Escanaba on the south/ Lake Michigan side of the U.P.

Read more »

Ex-FBI Agent Says Shooting Detroit Imam 20 Times Was Justified

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Retired FBI agent Greg Stejskal, a columnist for ticklethewire.com, tells the Detroit News that he thinks agents acted appropriately when they fatally shot an imam 20 times during an October raid in Dearborn, Mi, after the imam shot and killed an FBI dog.

“Once you’ve made the decision to use deadly force, you fire until the threat is eliminated,” Stejskal told the News. He said he studied the medical examiner’s report and media reports and spoke to FBI agents.

Stejskal spent more than 20 years on the Detroit FBI’s SWAT and now teaches at the police academy at Washtenaw Community College.

Agents shot and killed Detroit imam in the warehouse raid that was part of a probe into stolen goods.

The News reported that Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan, “said he wants to wait and review the investigative reports of the shooting and have an independent pathologist review the medical examiner’s report.”

“The reality is that none of us were at the scene,” he told the News. “We really don’t know what happened.”

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Retired FBI Agent Says Baseball Slugger Mark McGwire Used Steroids

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — Ticklethewire.com’s own columnist Greg Stejskal is stirring up a little controversy in major league baseball.

The retired Michigan FBI agent, who became one of  the FBI’s expert on steroid use in sports, told the N.Y. Daily News earlier this week that one time slugger Mark McGwire used some type of steroids while he played.

“The FBI agent who led a landmark steroid investigation said investigators obtained information that former home run king Mark McGwire – who is ending a self-imposed exile to return to the St. Louis Cardinals as the team’s hitting coach – had used performance-enhancing drugs in the early 1990s,” The Daily News reported in Monday’s edition.

“We had information, after Operation Equine had finished, that we believed to be credible info that McGwire did in fact use steroids,” Stejskal told the Daily News. “And then you look at the physical changes. Based on a certain amount of expertise, his physical development would indicate steroid use.”

The St. Louis Cardinals announced Monday that McGwire will join the coaching staff.

Ex-FBI Agent Featured in Tv Episode on Steroids

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal

ticklethewire.com columnist Greg Stejskal is featured in an episode on the Investigation Discovery network about steroids.

By Amalie Nash
Ann Arbor News
ANN ARBOR, Mi. — Retired Ann Arbor FBI Agent Greg Stejskal jokes that he was hoping Clint Eastwood would play him. Stejskal is indeed portrayed by an actor – not exactly Eastwood, though – in an upcoming episode of “Undercover: Double Life,” on the cable network Investigation Discovery.

The hour-long episode, airing Tuesday for the first time, focuses on Operation Equine, an investigation into steroid trafficking that began in Ann Arbor in 1989.

That investigation later generated controversy when Stejskal revealed in 2005 that he had warned Major League Baseball years earlier about steroid use among players after arresting the personal trainer of star player Jose Canseco.

The Investigation Discovery piece – which The News got a sneak peak of this week – focuses on Bill Randall, the undercover agent Stejskal chose to pose as a gym owner interested in getting steroids for some clients.

Randall and Stejskal are extensively interviewed, interspersed with a number of flashback scenes showing them – portrayed by actors – working together on the case. Randall was assigned to the Detroit FBI office and now lives in Oakland County.

For Full Story