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Tag: Jimmy Hoffa

Dan Moldea: On The 44 Anniversary of Jimmy Hoffa’s Disappearance. Here’s What I Think Happened

The writer, a Washington investigative journalist specializing in organized-crime and political-corruption investigations, is a Jimmy Hoffa murder expert. He is the author of “The Hoffa Wars” (1978) and eight other books. Tuesday marks the 44th anniversary of the unsolved disappearance of Hoffa, who wanted to regain the presidency of the Teamsters. 

James R. Hoffa

By Dan Moldea

Jimmy Hoffa disappeared 44 years ago today.

In early August 1975, while serving twenty years at Trenton State Prison for manslaughter, inmate Ralph Picardo received a visit from his accountant, who was accompanied by Stephen and Thomas Andretta, two of the alleged co-conspirators in Hoffa’s murder a few days earlier.  Picardo, who was a close friend of the Andretta brothers, told the FBI in or about November 1975 that he had spent some time alone with Steve Andretta during that prison visitation.  According to Picardo, Andretta had given him a few details about the murder.

Picardo told the FBI that, based on what he had learned from Andretta, Hoffa had been murdered near Detroit in a killing engineered by New Jersey mobster Anthony Provenzano, the Andretta brothers’ boss.  After his death, according to Andretta via Picardo, Hoffa was stuffed into a 55-gallon oil drum, loaded onto a Gateway Transportation truck, and shipped to New Jersey.

Shortly thereafter, Picardo made a deal with federal prosecutors and became the most credible witness about the Hoffa case to date.

When he was asked by the FBI specifically who had murdered Hoffa, Picardo replied that he didn’t know for sure but added that Salvatore Briguglio, Provenzano’s top lieutenant, had earlier received a contract from his boss to kill Hoffa in late 1973 or early 1974.  Provenzano sent Briguglio a note, delivered by his brother, Gabriel Briguglio, asking him to execute the Hoffa hit.

Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano

When Picardo was asked by the FBI where Hoffa was taken in New Jersey via the Gateway truck, he again replied that he didn’t know for sure but added that his friends in the Provenzano crew frequently disposed of dead bodies at a landfill in Jersey City, owed by Phillip Moscato, a soldier in the Genovese crime family.

In 1975-1976,  I revealed—in what was my biggest contribution to this case—that a vicious Hoffa rival, Rolland McMaster, was the mystery man behind a series of acts of violence—bombings, beatings, shootings, and general sabotage—directed primarily against Hoffa’s allies in Detroit’s Local 299, the last of which was a car bombing just twenty days before Hoffa vanished.

On the day of Hoffa’s murder, McMaster was with his brother-in-law, Stanton Barr, who was the head of Gateway Transportation’s steel division in Detroit.  Also, one of McMaster’s top goons was Jim Shaw, a long-haul driver for Gateway, who, directed by McMaster, had participated in the earlier anti-Hoffa violence in Local 299.  In addition, on the night before Hoffa’s murder, McMaster and Barr had met with Provenzano at a restaurant in Detroit, according to another federal witness, Donovan Wells, a long-time business associate of McMaster.

Dan Moldea’s book.

Only Person Living or Dead

Notably, I am the only person in the world, living or dead, who has interviewed all of these suspects—the Andretta brothers, the Briguglio brothers, Moscato, McMaster, Barr, and Shaw.  And most of these interviews were recorded.

I also recorded interviews with other persons of interest, including Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien, Hoffa’s “foster son,” and Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who would later falsely claim to have killed Hoffa.

Confirming that Ralph Picardo “basically had it right,” Phillip Moscato told me—on tape—that he and Briguglio had unloaded the barrel containing Hoffa’s body from the Gateway truck and then buried it at his landfill in Jersey City.

Read more »

A Key Federal Source in Jimmy Hoffa Caper Dies at 89

The writer, a Washington investigative journalist specializing in organized crime and political corruption investigations, is a Jimmy Hoffa murder specialist. He is the author of “The Hoffa Wars” (1978) and eight other books. 

By Dan Moldea

Featured_wells_37881
Don and Monica Wells, at their one-time horse farm in Wixom in 2009, which was dug up by the FBI during a 2006 search for Jimmy Hoffa. (Photo: Dan Moldea)

One of the most important federal sources of information about the Jimmy Hoffa murder case was Donovan Wells, who died Sept. 5  at age 89 outside of Detroit. Below is an excerpt of a story I wrote for the 40th anniversary of the Hoffa case in 2015, based partly on interviews with Don and his wife, Monica. I liked and respected him for turning his life around.

♦ ♦ ♦

FBI agents raided a Milford Township farm looking for Hoffa’s remains in May 2006, based on information from Donovan Wells, a former business partner of both Rolland McMaster and Stanton Barr. At the time, Wells was in a federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky. He and his family lived on McMaster’s farm the summer Hoffa disappeared.

The FBI’s search warrant for McMaster’s farm has never been released. But Wells told me in 2009 that he informed the FBI that a large hole had been dug on the north end of the property several weeks before Hoffa’s murder.

In addition, his wife Monica claimed that on the afternoon of Hoffa’s July 30, 1975 disappearance, she saw two or three dark cars speeding onto the property, roaring past the farmhouse on an adjacent dirt road, and heading towards the pre-dug hole.

But what had really piqued the FBI’s interest was what Wells had seen and heard the night before Hoffa’s murder. At a local restaurant, as Wells, McMaster, and Barr were having dinner, mobster and Teamster official Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano – in the flesh – suddenly appeared, slapped his hand on their table, and said: “It’s going to be a great day tomorrow! A great day tomorrow! Right, Mac?” And he slapped McMaster on the back.

Provenzano then asked McMaster to accompany him to the bar for a private conversation.

Featured_jimmy-hoffa-found-2013_23655
Jimmy Hoffa

While they were gone, Wells asked Barr what was going on. Barr replied that Provenzano and Hoffa were meeting the following day to settle their differences—and that Tony Giacalone was making the arrangements for the sitdown.

When Provenzano and McMaster returned to the table, Provenzano pointed to McMaster and Barr and asked, “Do you guys know where you’re going to be tomorrow?”

McMaster responded, “Yeah, we’re all straight on that.”

The FBI never unearthed Hoffa’s remains, or any evidence that he had been killed on McMaster’s farm, but Don Wells—who passed an FBI polygraph test—gave the bureauh important new information about Hoffa’s disappearance in 2006: Rolland McMaster and Tony Pro were together at a restaurant in Detroit on July 29, 1975, the night before Hoffa disappeared. Wells also heard a portion of their conversation which was clearly about Provenzano’s scheduled 2 p.m. meeting with Hoffa on July 30, as well as the need for McMaster and Barr to have established alibis for the afternoon when Hoffa was last seen.

The writer authored a story in July headlined Jimmy Hoffa Vanished 44 Years Ago. Here’s What I Think Happened.

Mob Experts Says East Coast Gangsters Didn’t Have a Hand in Jimmy Hoffa Murder 41 Years Ago

Jimmy Hoffa

Jimmy Hoffa

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — Mob historian and author Andy Petepiece says the feds, historians and investigative reporters have it all wrong when it comes to the killing of Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa 41 years ago this month.

In a piece in Gang Land News, an online site specializing in mobster news, Petepiece dismisses decades of talk that Mafia guys from New Jersey and Pennsylvania had a hand in the killing. Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975.

He insists it was the Detroit mobsters who likely did the deed without the help of their east coast brethren, and writes that it was a mob associate, Ralph Picardo, who concocted erroneous accounts linking Genovese capo Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano and Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino to Hoffa’s killing to get a reduced sentence for a 1974 murder in New Jersey. Picardo was a former driver for Provenzano.

Petepiece, a contributor to Gang Land News, writes:

After 41 years, no one really believes that anyone is going to find Jimmy Hoffa — alive or dead. But even if someone does discover his remains, it’s a safe bet that the usual suspects from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, whose names have been bandied about for decades, had nothing to do with Hoffa’s demise, or the disposal of his remains.

This includes Pennsylvania Mafia boss Russell Bufalino, Genovese capo Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano, soldier Salvatore (Sally Bugs) Briguglio, Teamsters Union official Frank (The Irishman) Sheeran, and Philip (Brother) Moscato, the mob­connected owner of a dump on the Hackensack River where Hoffa’s remains were supposedly disposed of 40 years ago.

I say this with all due respect to the FBI, and my good friend Dan Moldea, who has written extensively about the subject and who knows more about the late Teamsters Union president than anyone.

I believe they, the media and the entire law enforcement community were all taken in by Ralph (Little Ralphie) Picardo, a low life murderer with ties to Tony Pro who came up with a tall tale to get out of a 17­ to ­23 years prison term for the slaying of a New Jersey man.

To begin with, it makes no sense that North East mob families would be given the task of whacking Hoffa, whose murder was likely sanctioned by the Mafia Commission since he was such a prominent national figure. He was an associate of the Detroit family. They could do it without raising Hoffa’s suspicions. And too many things could go wrong with a plan involving a New Jersey hit team traveling to Detroit, killing Hoffa and then transporting his body 600 miles for burial in the Garden State.

The only so­called evidence that links Tony Pro’s guys to the hit are the words of Picardo, who told the FBI he learned about Hoffa’s demise from gangster buddy Steve Andretta in August of 1975, less than a month after Hoffa

At the time, Picardo was not a happy camper. He had a very strong motive to find a way to freedom. Tony Pro’s crew had taken his business interests when he was in jail. The only thing of value he had was his connection to Tony Pro and the suspicion he was involved in the Hoffa hit. Andretta’s visit after the Hoffa hit provided the link.

Isn’t it highly unlikely that Andretta would tell Picardo about the sensational killing of Hoffa while he was on one side of a glass partition talking to him on a prison phone that could easily be bugged? It’s hard to believe that any gangster, even the dumbest alive, would do such a thing.

The FBI, which was floundering around making no progress, was delighted with the story he told them four months later in November. There is no report of him passing a polygraph exam, but even if he did, since then no one has found any evidence that confirms his account.

With Picardo’s information, the FBI developed this theory on the Hoffa murder: Bufalino, the boss of the tiny Northeast Pennsylvania family had given the contract to Tony Pro. Detroit mob capo Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone lured Hoffa to a fake peace meeting with Provenzano. Hoffa was picked up by his associate, Charles (Chuckie) O’Brien, and taken to a home where he was killed.

Provenzano associates Briguglio, his brother Gabe, and Thomas Andretta had all flown to Detroit by private plane and did the job, the theory goes. Some allege that Frank Sheeran was involved in some way. Hoffa’s body was placed in a 55­gallon drum and driven to Jersey City for disposal by a Gateway Transportation truck.

Neither the FBI, nor anyone else, has come up with any evidence to support this theory.

Even the feds realized it was nuts to think that gangsters would drive a body from Michigan to New Jersey to dispose of it. In January of 1976, a little more than a month after the FBI got a federal judge to authorize a search of Brother Moscato’s dump, the Department of Justice announced it had decided not to bother.

Petepiece concedes that he has no hard evidence to back up his theory, but says his theory makes the most sense.

Read more »

A Chat With the Head of the Detroit FBI on ISIS, Corruption, Jimmy Hoffa and Flint

David P. Gelios

David P. Gelios

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — It has been anything but dull since David P. Gelios arrived eight months ago from FBI headquarters in Washington to head up the Detroit FBI office.

For one, his agents have been busy probing the highly-publicized Flint water crisis.  And then there’s the kickback scandal in Detroit Public Schools that has resulted in charges against a dozen principals, a school administrator and a greedy vendor.  He says the investigation, which is still open, hit close to home because of his previous life as a school teacher.

A native of the Toledo area, Gelios graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. He went on to work as a high school teacher in Bakersfield, Calif., a college volley ball coach at Ball State and an outreach officer for the University of California Office of the President.

In 1995, he joined the FBI, first working in the Sacramento Division. He then went on to work in a number of offices including Juneau, Louisville, New Haven and headquarters in D.C., his last stop before Detroit where he served as chief of the Inspection Division, overseeing all FBI field inspections, national program reviews and agent-involved shootings

Of his new assignment in Detroit, he says:

“I like to call it one of the better kept secrets in the FBI.”

In a wide ranging interview, Gelios recently sat down with ticklethewire.com’s Allan Lengel to talk about public corruption, the challenges of encrypted communication devices and apps, cyber crime, ISIS recruiting, the Hoffa investigation and organized crime.

The following interview has been trimmed for brevity. The questions have been edited for clarity.

DD: As a former teacher, did you look at the kickback investigation into the Detroit school principals and the administrator from more than just the perspective of an FBI agent?

Gelios: I absolutely did and in my remarks at the announcement of the charges at the press conference, I said, having been a former teacher, I found it especially disturbing to me knowing what I know about education and knowing what I know about education in the city of Detroit, that people would embezzle such limited funds from a struggling school district.

DD: Being an FBI agent, does it surprise you that people would take advantage of a situation like that?

Gelios: You know in my career, nothing really surprises me any more. School districts have been embezzled from in the past and they continue to be embezzled from.

DD: Do you expect more charges in the school scandal?

Gelios: I would only say that it’s possible. It remains a pending investigation, but that’s as far as I’ll go with that.

DD: In the Flint water system mess, the state has its own investigation and the FBI has an investigation with the U.S. Attorney and EPA. Are you working with state investigators?

Gelios: We have a separate investigation, but the door is open for collaboration between the state investigation and the FBI’s investigation. But I’d best characterize it as an independent investigation being conducted with EPA and the FBI.

David Gelios (far right) at press conference for school corruption probe.

DD: Are you concentrating more on federal employees and federal charges?

Gelios: It’s a pending investigation, so I’m not going to be able to say much. But I think we’re investigating the entire situation, so ours would not just be focused on federal employees. Often times when there’s a state investigation and a federal investigation, we work through the appropriate prosecutors at the state level and the federal levels to see where we can most effectively bring charges. It’s conceivable that some charges would simply be at the state level and some charges would be at the federal level, if and when there are federal charges.

Read more »

Jimmy Hoffa: On the 40th Anniversary of His Disappearance, the Case Goes Unsolved

Featured_hoffajameshoffascreen_shot_2013-02-18_at_12.02.00_am

Jimmy Hoffa

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — I remember back in 1983 interviewing Jimmy P. Hoffa about his father’s disappearance and asking if it bothered him that comedians like Johnny Carson used his father as a punch line in jokes.

Eight years had passed since his disappearance, but time didn’t seem to soften the blow. Hoffa, who was 42 at the time and a labor attorney,  said in no uncertain terms that it did bother him and he didn’t appreciate it one bit. He also wanted to know what really happened. To this day, no one has ever been charged.

Today marks the 40 year anniversary of the disappearance of James Riddle Hoffa, who would now be 102.

Hoffa, who is now the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, declined to comment on Thursday on the anniversary.

Instead, the union issued a press release that said:

Hoffa was devoted to his union and to his family. He gave his life while fighting to remove corrupt elements from the union and return power to the members.

On this tragic anniversary, Teamster members and retirees from across North America join together in honoring the man who forever improved the lives of millions of workers and their families.

On July 30, 1975, he was supposed to meet two gangsters — Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano  of New Jersey and Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone of the Detroit area — at the Machus Red Fox on Telegraph Road in Bloomfield Township. They didn’t show and he reportedly got into someone’s car in the parking lot and was never seen again.

Theories abound. Over the years, properties have been dug up on the hunch that the body was buried there.

Some gangsters who likely knew what happened are dead including Giacalone and Provenzano. And the Machus Red Fox is gone as well.

WDIV’s Kevin Dietz reports on the anniversary. He  goes over some of the theories, reports on the embarrassing FBI digs and talks to Scott Burnstein, a Detroit area reporter who specializes in organized crime.

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Weekend Series on Crime History: Parole Denied for Jimmy Hoffa

Ex-Detroit Mob Boss Tony Zerilli, Who Triggered FBI Dig for Hoffa, Is Dead at 87

Tony Zerilli/ from WDIV video

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit
DETROIT — The former acting boss of the Detroit mob, Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli, who triggered a massive FBI dig in northern Oakland County in 2013 in search of James R. Hoffa, died several days ago of natural causes in the Ft. Lauderdale area. He was 87.

Scott Burnstein, a local mob expert, who runs the website, Gangster Report, wrote that Zerilli was the last of the upper-echelon old guard in the Detroit mafia. He was an underboss and acting boss and son of the local Godfather Joseph (Joe Uno) Zerilli. He was also the son-in-law of the New York don Joe Profaci.

Less than a decade ago, he was stripped of his duties as the syndicate’s No. 2 in charge, Gangster Report reported.

After being out of the spotlight for quite a long time, Zerilli surfaced as a very public figure in January 2013 when he told NBC 4 New York reporter Marc Santia, formerly of WDIV  that Hoffa was buried in northern Oakland County, but he had nothing to do with the 1975 disappearance. At the time of the Hoffa disappearance, that property belonged to another top-ranking mobster.

The statements put the FBI in a bind. Embarrassed before in its never-ending hunt for Hoffa, the agency would have preferred to avoid another failed dig, and the accompanying skepticisim and wisecracks from the public. On the other hand, it was hard for the agency to ignore Zerilli’s claims considered he was a guy who was once high up the chain, who could have had some knowledge.

So, in June 2013, the FBI started digging up a property in Oakland Township, but came up empty after more than two days and called it quits. Few were surprised.

Several months before the dig,  Zerilli told the New York reporter that the mob intended to move Hoffa’s body to a hunting lodge in Rogers City at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula, but never did. He gives no names, saying he’s not a snitch.

At the time, the NBC 4 correspondent Santia says Zerilli, who was hurting for money, came forward in hopes of profiting from publicity and showing he had nothing to do with Hoffa’s abrupt disappearance outside a Bloomfield Township restaurant on July 30, 1975. He has a website to promote a book in the making.

“Finally, a book will soon be published with all of the facts surrounding the Hoffa disappearance,” his website said, adding: “Many have long speculated that Anthony J. Zerilli was the ‘boss’ of the Detroit Mafia, and that he ordered the killing of Jimmy Hoffa. This is absolutely untrue.”

 

Weekend Series on Law Enforcement History: Jimmy Hoffa Talks About Being In Prison