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

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.

He goes on to write what he thinks transpired:

Tony Giacalone lured Hoffa to a supposed peace meeting. The evidence for that is a reminder note that Hoffa left on his desk. In addition, Hoffa told others about this meeting. Outside the Machus Red Fox restaurant, Hoffa was picked up, probably by Giacalone’s brother Vito (Billy Jack), maybe with a few others. Billy Jack’s presence would make sense to Hoffa since he was to meet with his brother.

Billy Giacalone’s location that day has not been pinned down. Hoffa may have been killed in the car, or somewhere else. His body was most likely buried in the Detroit area. It was a very small group that greatly decreased the likelihood that an informer could learn of it, and spill the beans. All the Detroit characters are dead now, thus there is little chance we will ever get a full account of the famous hit, let alone find Hoffa’s body.

Dan Moldea, an investigative reporter and author who is regarded as an expert on the Hoffa case, wrote last year in Gang Land News that the east coast mobsters had a hand in the death.

Responding to Petepiece’s story, he told Gang Land News: “Andy has earned the right to be wrong.” Moldea says his  account of “what happened, who did it, and where Hoffa ended up,” is the “most plausible” theory about the mysterious case.

In his piece last year, Moldea wrote for Gang Land News:

The Hoffa murder was a three­ act drama with different characters in each act: In Act One, Hoffa went to the Machus Red Fox restaurant in a Detroit suburb in anticipation of a meeting with two Mafia figures, Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone of Detroit and Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano of Union City, New Jersey. Supposedly, neither man showed up.

In Act Two, Hoffa was picked up and taken to the location where he was murdered.

In Act Three, his body was disposed of.

This is a story about Act Three with passing references to Acts One and Two. The first public break in the case came on December 4, 1975, when Salvatore and Gabriel Briguglio and Stephen and Thomas Andretta, four long­time associates of Tony Provenzano, appeared before a federal grand jury in Detroit and invoked their Fifth Amendment rights rather than answer any questions about the murder of Jimmy Hoffa.

The Briguglio and Andretta brothers had been implicated by Ralph Picardo, who had placed them on the FBI’s radar screen. At the time, Picardo was serving 20 years for manslaughter in Trenton State Penitentiary.

According to Picardo, Steve and Tom Andretta, along with an accountant used by all three, had visited him at the prison a few days after Hoffa disappeared. While Steve and Ralph were alone, Steve allegedly gave him some specific details about how the Hoffa murder had been executed.

Picardo quickly made his way to the law­enforcement community and cut himself a deal. When he told his story, he suggested that Sal Briguglio had actually killed Hoffa, adding that Hoffa’s body was placed in a 55­gallon drum and shipped via a Gateway Transportation truck to an unknown destination in New Jersey.

Gang Land News is a paid subscription website that reports on the mob. It is run by Jerry Capeci, a mob expert who formerly worked for the New York Daily News. 

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