Jimmy Hoffa, president of the Teamster’s Union, disappeared without a trace on July 30, 1975. He led the teamsters from 1957 to 1971, and from the beginning had been instrumental in unionizing workers — he was the brains and guts behind its success.
It was alleged and widely known that Jimmy Hoffa had ties to organized crime. He admitted that liaisons with the Mob were needed, because the Mob had the power to disrupt strikes, so deals had to be made with them. Federal investigators pursued him in the 1950s and ‘60s without much success at first, but law enforcement efforts eventually bore fruit.
The Justice Department during the Kennedy Administration turned up the heat and convictions were finally made in 1964. In 1967, after all of Hoffa's appeals were exhausted, he was sent to federal prison at Lewisburg, PA., convicted on the testimony of a teamster, Edward Grady Putin, who was awaiting trial for a variety of crimes, and had made a deal with the prosecution. Thus Hoffa was convicted of pension fund fraud, jury tampering, and conspiracy, together with fellow Teamster Tony "Pro" Provenzano, whom Hoffa blamed for attracting federal interest in the first place to his illegal activities.
Hoffa only served four years of his 13 year sentence, after President Nixon commuted his sentence with the understanding that Hoffa would be legally barred from holding office in the Teamsters until 1980, which would’ve been the end of his original 13-year sentence anyway. The deal was made between the White House and Union Vice-President Frank Fitzsimmons, who emerged as Hoffa’s rival for power in the Union.
On July 30th, 1975 things began poorly for Hoffa, when New Jersey mob leaders Tony Giacalone and Tony Provenzano stood him up at the luncheon meeting they'd agreed to at the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Michigan. Hoffa's penchant for punctuality was well known, and the fact that he was left cooling his heels was a clear sign of disrespect in what had become a bitter struggle for power, for though Hoffa was ostensibly barred from holding a Teamster leadership position, his intention of returning to the summit of the organization he'd built could not have been clearer. Several hours passed, and Hoffa called home to see if anyone had left any messages. His last call was to his friend Louis Linteau. After that a car did finally pick him up, and he was last seen sitting in the back seat with several men, who in turn reportedly leaning forward to talk to the driver. The FBI think Hoffa never left that car alive. His blood and hair were found in it later.
When he failed to come back, authorities swung into a full man hunt, questioning Hoffa's Union Mob friends, digging up various places, hammering walls and cement floors in search of his body, but to no avail. The FBI theorize that his body was run through a Mob-controlled fat-rendering plant that was later mysteriously destroyed by fire. In 1983, Hoffa was declared legally dead.
Hoffa had many powerful and motivated enemies. At the top of the list were people like Russell Bufalino, Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano and three Hoffa cronies, Thomas Andretta, Gabriel Briguglio and Salvador Briguglio. There wasn’t enough evidence to charge any of them, but they all wound up in prison for other crimes.
In 2001, DNA tests by FBI experts tied Hoffa to his friend’s car, an associate by the name of Charles O'Brien.
Many observers theorize that he'd begun to "spill the beans" about the connections between the Union and organized crime; he was livid about the deal Fitzsimmons had cut with the White House.
Others think he was rubbed out because he was trying to regain his power in the Union, and certain individuals weren’t about to let him. Tony Provenzano had told him at one point, "get out of Union politics or else." The F.B.I. and many teamsters think that Provenzano personally ordered Hoffa’s death, and the new Jersey Mafia did the deed and disposed of the body. But Provenzano had an air-tight alibi.
Others have linked Hoffa's murder to various elements of the ongoing and corrupt ties between the mob and the Union, whose pension funds had been blended with illegal profits from gambling, prostitution and narcotics. Many speculate that the Mob found Hoffa’s replacement, Frank Fitzsimmons, was much easier to manipulate and cut deals with, as opposed to Hoffa, who was notoriously tough. Also, the Nixon Administration approved of Fitzsimmons, and would be more likely to relax law enforcement surveillance of the Teamsters, thus making life much less difficult for the Mob.
In his book "The Last Mafioso", however, Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno wrote that Hoffa wasn’t killed by the New Jersey Mob at all, but by the local Detroit Mafia bosses. He says that Tony Giacalone, a close friend of Hoffa set him up, and Tony Zerilli and Mike Polizi ordered him killed.
Others have claimed he wasn’t dead, just in hiding. One Teamster stuck to his story when diligently questioned by the authorities that Hoffa had run off to Brazil with a black go-go dancer.
Data Resources include: Mysteries of the Unexplained, The Reader’s Digest Association; detnews.com; thepetdetective.com; who2.com; and carpenoctem.tv.
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