Jimmy Hoffa: Disappearing Man

Crime Files

On 30th July 1975, Jimmy Hoffa stood outside the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, impatient that the men he was supposed to be meeting for lunch had not yet arrived. He was last seen wearing a dark blue shirt, blue trousers and black Gucci loafers walking to a nearby telephone booth, to call his wife Josephine to tell her that he appeared to have been stood up. Josephine Hoffa later commented that she thought her husband seemed uncharacteristically nervous before he left home that day for his lunch meeting. Hoffa had arranged to meet Detroit mobster Anthony 'Tony Jack' Giacalone and New Jersey labour leader Anthony 'Tony Pro' Provenzano, also a member of the Genovese crime family, to discuss his intention to run for the presidency of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the powerful position he had lost in 1964 after convictions for jury tampering, conspiracy and fraud. Although Hoffa had enjoyed close relations with the Mafia in the past, they were now unsure whether or not they wanted him back in power. While Hoffa had been in prison, the Mafia had come to prefer the ways of his successor, Frank Fitzsimmons because he was easier to manipulate and they did not want anything to change within the Teamsters. Soon after Hoffa finished his phone call to Josephine, a maroon 1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham pulled out of the restaurant car park, nearly hitting a truck. The truck driver, who was making deliveries in the area, pulled up to the car to confront it and he immediately recognised Jimmy Hoffa sitting in the back seat. The driver also noticed a long object covered with a grey blanket on the seat between Hoffa and another passenger, which he believed could have been a gun or rifle. He did not take note of any of the other passengers in the car however. The following day, Hoffa's green 1974 Pontiac Grand Ville was found unlocked in the restaurant car park and Hoffa has never been seen since.

Timeline

Born: 14th February 1913The Victim: Jimmy HoffaArrested: At least 50 people with ties to the mob were called to testify, the most significant being: Charles 'Chuckie' O'Brien Anthony “'Tony Jack' Giacalone Anthony 'Tony Pro' ProvenzanoTrial: No trial ever took place as no one was ever charged for Hoffa's disappearanceDied: 30th July 1975 – Hoffa disappears, never to be seen again 1983 - Hoffa officially declared dead but the exact date of his death is unknown

The Trial

The number of possible killers grew and grew, as investigators probed their underworld connections and bargained with convicts who were willing to dish the dirt in exchange for a reduction in their sentences.Between January 1976 and February 1977 the United States government issued internal reports which were based on interviews with an informer who claimed to know the entire story of Hoffa's disappearance. The informer, Ralph Picardo was serving a sentence for murder at Trenton State Prison in New Jersey. In 1975 Picardo was a driver for 'Tony Pro' Provenzano and he revealed that Hoffa had been invited to the restaurant meeting by renowned Detoriot mobster, Anthony Giacalone for a 'sit down' with Provenzano to make amends over their differences.O'Brien, who claimed to have been on a fish-carving expedition that day, had, according to Picardo, picked up Hoffa at the restaurant and driven him to a nearby house where Teamster business agent Thomas Andretta, Salvatore Briguglio and his brother Gabriel waited to ambush Hoffa. Frank Sheeran was also present.Picardo claimed that the hit had been ordered by Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino, because his cousin, William, had a big falling out with Hoffa in 1967, and Bufalino had passed the actual deed of murder onto Provenzano.Bufalino's exact whereabouts on the day Hoffa was murdered were never confirmed but the FBI believed there was little doubt that Hoffa was murdered, as Picardo had confessed.In 1985 the FBI released a memo summarising citing, Briguglio along with brother Gabriel, Andretta, O'Brien, Provenzano, Giacalone and Bufalino as their prime suspect for Hoffa's murder. Without a body or circumstantial evidence that will hold up in court, there will probably never be a conviction in the case of Hoffa's disappearance. While the so-called conspirators could not be charged, over the years the United States government ensured the men were prosecuted to the full extent of the law on countless other charges.Provenzano's pocket local, Local 560, eventually came under government oversight, putting a major crimp in his illegal operations. In 1978 he was prosecuted and found guilty of the 1961 murder of Anthony Castellito. A full 17 years after Castellito's body was allegedly put through a tree shredder, he was sent to prison where he died 10 years later at the age of 81.Giacalone was tried and convicted on tax evasion charges in 1976 and spent 10 years in prison. He was also charged with racketeering, or operating an illegal business for profit, violations in 1996, but died before the case could be tried.Despite numerous holes in O'Brien's alibi, he was never charged with Hoffa's disappearance. O'Brien moved to Florida where he was given a job by Teamster president Frank Fitzsimmons but was banished from the union in 1990 for his mob connections. Plagued with ill-health, O'Brien has survived cancer and four heart bypass operations and now lives in Florida where he maintains that the government, not the mob, killed Hoffa.Briguglio was murdered in New York in 1978. At the time, he had been talking with prosecutors and was about to make a deal in exchange for his testimony against Provenzano in the Castellito murder case.

The Arrest

The number of possible killers grew and grew, as investigators probed their underworld connections and bargained with convicts who were willing to dish the dirt in exchange for a reduction in their sentences.Between January 1976 and February 1977 the United States government issued internal reports which were based on interviews with an informer who claimed to know the entire story of Hoffa's disappearance. The informer, Ralph Picardo was serving a sentence for murder at Trenton State Prison in New Jersey. In 1975 Picardo was a driver for 'Tony Pro' Provenzano and he revealed that Hoffa had been invited to the restaurant meeting by renowned Detoriot mobster, Anthony Giacalone for a 'sit down' with Provenzano to make amends over their differences.O'Brien, who claimed to have been on a fish-carving expedition that day, had, according to Picardo, picked up Hoffa at the restaurant and driven him to a nearby house where Teamster business agent Thomas Andretta, Salvatore Briguglio and his brother Gabriel waited to ambush Hoffa. Frank Sheeran was also present.Picardo claimed that the hit had been ordered by Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino, because his cousin, William, had a big falling out with Hoffa in 1967, and Bufalino had passed the actual deed of murder onto Provenzano.Bufalino's exact whereabouts on the day Hoffa was murdered were never confirmed but the FBI believed there was little doubt that Hoffa was murdered, as Picardo had confessed.In 1985 the FBI released a memo summarising citing, Briguglio along with brother Gabriel, Andretta, O'Brien, Provenzano, Giacalone and Bufalino as their prime suspect for Hoffa's murder.

The Investigation

Using the description of the car in which Hoffa was last seen by the lorry driver, FBI investigators were able to trace the maroon Mercury to its owner, Joe Giacalone, the son of mobster Anthony Giacalone. Giacalone claimed that on the day Hoffa was last seen, he had loaned the car to a friend, a teamster named Charles 'Chuckie' O'Brien, who was close to the Hoffa family and had actually lived with them at one time.The car was soon located and O'Brien's fingerprints were found on a ‘7-UP’ soft drink bottle and a piece of paper recovered from the car. Investigators believed that Hoffa would have felt comfortable enough with O'Brien, whom he regarded as a son, to get into the Mercury without force.The next step was for FBI agents to check on the whereabouts of the two men Hoffa was supposed to be meeting that day. 'Tony Jack' Giacalone claimed that he was at the gym, where he went every day. Witnesses confirmed they had seen him at the Southfield Athletic Club at the time of Hoffa's disappearance. 'Tony Pro' Provenzano said he has been in New Jersey playing cards with friends. Both suspects claimed they knew nothing about a scheduled meeting with Hoffa.Chuckie O'Brien, who had apparently been driving the car in which Hoffa was last seen, claimed that he had delivered frozen salmon to the home of a Teamster International vice president and then helped the man's wife cut the fish into steaks on the morning of 30th July. While Hoffa had been waiting at the restaurant, O'Brien said he was also at the Southfield Athletic Club with Anthony Giacalone. O'Brien then said he had taken the loaned car to be washed because fish blood had leaked onto the back-seat. Unlike Giacalone's alibi, no one at the gym or the car wash could corroborate his story.Specially trained German shepherds were flown in from Philadelphia eight days after Hoffa's disappearance. The dogs were given a pair of the labour leader's Bermuda shorts and a pair of his moccasins. They picked up Hoffa's scent in the back-seat and trunk of Joe Giacalone's maroon Mercury but with no body, there was nothing on which to base an arrest.There have been many theories about what happened to Hoffa that fateful day in 1975. One theory was that Hoffa’s body was put into a 55-gallon steel drum and driven away in a truck. The drum was subsequently buried in the grounds of a toxic waste site in New Jersey. Another theory was that Hoffa’s body was mixed into the concrete that was used to construct the New York Giant’s football stadium in New Jersey. Some suggested that Hoffa was buried in a gravel pit in Michigan, which was owned by his brother William Hoffa. Perhaps one of the most gruesome theories was that Hoffa had been ground up at a meat processing plant and then dumped in a Florida swamp or disintegrated at a fat-rendering plant.

The Key Figures

Victim: Jimmy HoffaSuspects: Charles O'Brien Frank Sheeran Anthony Giacalone Anthony Provenzano Gabriel Briguglio Russell BufalinoPolice: More than 200 FBI agents were assigned to the case