Source – killingjimmyhoffa.com
– “…Jimmy Hoffa was a Shakespearean character. One of the last of the self-made American men to rise out of the working class, he was born fighting. To seize and maintain the power he so obviously craved Hoffa had to embrace the corruption of the world he inhabited. Corrupt businesses, corrupt politicians, and the very essence of corruption: La Cosa Nostra”:
Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance and probable murder is one of the great crimes of the century. Despite a massive Federal investigation spanning 4 decades and hundreds of suspects, only the general contours of the crime are known. In the American mythology Hoffa is both hero and villain; a self-made man who ran the nation’s largest union and was so beloved by the rank and file Teamsters he represented that they supported him as union president while he was under indictment and even in prison.
Hoffa also moved in the highest circles of organized crime. Among his closest friends and business partners were members of the national Mafia commission, men he was forced to align with during the violent and chaotic early days of union building when corporations deployed armed goons and police to attack workers in the street, and unions battled each other to control the workforce.
Hoffa’s chief nemesis was US attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, and the two men developed a deep hatred for each other. In the long aftermath of President F. John Kennedy’s assassination Jimmy Hoffa’s name swirled in the aether of conspiracy theories, and his close Mafia associates Carlos Marcello and Santos Trafficante are at the center of the most plausible theories about Kennedy’s death.
The two men Hoffa thought he was going to meet on the day of his disappearance have the most ironclad alibis of any suspects in the case. All the FBI’s other leads came from informants and unreliable witnesses. In the years after the case the FBI has dug up farms, investigated waste dumps, and debriefed numerous Mafia turncoats that purported to have information on Hoffa’s death, but they all turned out to be ephemeral. The only physical evidence is a single piece of Hoffa’s hair found in Mafia enforcer Tony Giacalone’s son’s car.
Frank Sheeran, a Teamster ally and Mafia enforcer, made the claim that he personally killed Hoffa in a house in Detroit and his story became a national best seller. But the veracity of Sheeran’s story is undermined by his previous attempts to get a book deal centered around the claim that Richard Nixon had Hoffa killed, and his use of a forged document purportedly signed by Hoffa that validated his story.
“Killing Jimmy Hoffa” covers the life and times of Hoffa and explore all the theories about his disappearance. In analyzing the suspects we will take a tour of America’s 20th criminal landscape and see how the Hoffa hit was the final act in the nearly 50 year reign of La Cosa Nostra as a shadow government that wielded chilling power and control over America.
Finally, we will unveil a previously unknown, and the most likely, account of the events of July 30th, 1975, the day James Riddle Hoffa vanished.
Jimmy Hoffa was a Shakespearean character. One of the last of the self-made American men to rise out of the working class, he was born fighting. To seize and maintain the power he so obviously craved Hoffa had to embrace the corruption of the world he inhabited. Corrupt businesses, corrupt politicians, and the very essence of corruption: La Cosa Nostra. He was a Caesar surrounded by many Brutus’. He lived to see his great nemesis, the golden boy Robert F. Kennedy, die before him, but also lost his greatest possession-the Teamsters union itself. In the ultimate insult, whoever killed him got away with it; Hoffa’s soul forever un-avenged.
Why do we still think about him? It must be that he reminds us of something about America, he reminds us that it wasn’t always so easy, that it wasn’t always so slick and clean. We know that he is dead, but the important question is: Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa?
The cast of characters in the saga of Jimmy Hoffa is quite a menagerie. His peers were the most powerful men in America, on both sides of the law. The Kennedy brothers, Mafia strongmen like Detroit’s Giacalone brothers and the murderous Carmine Galante, hard-nosed union men, CIA spies, and the captains of American industry. Hoffa was at the center of such a complex web of relationships, plots, and conspiracies that eventually he could no longer manage them and found himself taking a ride that he would never return from.
At the height of his fame, his face was more recognizable than a movie star, he was more loved than Mickey Mantle. Just as the Kennedy’s were the Golden Boys of the aspiring classes, of the college students , James Hoffa was the Golden Boy of the all those Americans who worked for a living, even if he was just as flawed as Jack and Bobby.
The Hoffa hit was the last great flexing of Mafia power on a national scale. While the government didn’t charge anybody, all the prime suspects received significant prison sentences soon after, unlike in the assassination of JFK, where they got away fairly cleanly. Starting in the late 80’s many of the top Mafia chiefs were sent to prison for lengthy terms, and their ability to pull off crimes right in the public eye diminished. What we saw was an end to a period of extreme corruption in the American economic, political, and social systems that began during Prohibition. The era of assassinations, Watergate, etc. Corrupt politicians, corrupt police, corrupt leaders. Hoffa was a man of his times. Hoffa’s disappearance was the capstone of 15 years of psychic trauma and shocking events that started with JFK’s assassination and continued through the murders of MLK , RFK, and Watergate.
Robert F. Kennedy
Robert Kennedy first appeared on the public stage as Senator Joe McCarthy’s henchman during the Senator’s anti-communist crusade. RFK parlayed that into a job as chief counsel on the McClellan Senate hearings on labor corruption in the late 50’s, which he used to launch his national political career by targeting Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters.
While the most of the American labor movement traditionally supported Democratic candidates with their votes, and, more importantly, with their money, Jimmy Hoffa was more pragmatic with his power. He strategically used the Teamster voting block and campaign funds to support whichever candidates served his purposes for the moment. As the 1972 election approached Nixon, who also may have have received a cash sum of 1 million dollars (so the story goes) from Hoffa, granted the imprisoned labor a pardon. Hoffa was still wildly popular with a large portion of America’s blue-collar work force and Nixon needed all the votes he could get.
New Orleans was actually the first city in America with a functioning Sicilian “Mafia”- dating back to the Civil War period. In 1947 Carlos Marcello became the boss of the family, which was powerful enough, respected enough, and was far enough away from the rest of the Mafia Commission families in the East and Midwest, that it operated very independently from the rest of the country. Some Federal reports at the time estimated Marcello as the single most powerful Godfather in the country. Marcello was briefly deported to Guatemala by Bobby Kennedy in 1961 and several informants claimed he made threats about killing president John Kennedy so as to get Bobby out of the Attorney General’s office. His ties to important operatives in the anti-Castro community made him one of the Mafia chieftains the CIA sought out to help with their bungled attempt to assassinate Castro. Marcello was also close associate of Hoffa and may have sent the bribe to Nixon that helped secure Hoffa’s pardon.
Santo Trafficante, jr was the Mob boss of Tampa, Florida. He also owned casinos in Havana, Cuba and handled the Cuban interests of many important east coast Mafiosi. He was close partners with Meyer Lansky, and when Fidel Castro took power in 1959 he seized Trafficante’s property and put Trafficante in jail. Trafficante quickly extricated himself from Cuban jail, but once back in the US he became the go-to-guy when the CIA wanted to kill Fidel Castro. Trafficante had the contacts and connections in the Cuban underground to get the job done, and along with his close confidante Carlos Marcello in New Orleans, the two men formed a southern Mafia alliance every bit as rich and powerful as New York’s 5 families. Trafficante, Marcello, and Jimmy Hoffa shared a lawyer for many years, Frank Ragano, who claimed (while writing a book long after his 3 clients were dead) that Jimmy Hoffa had him carry the contract on John Kennedy to Marcello and Trafficante, the only two men with the power and the willingness to kill the President.
Known as the “Quiet Don” Buffalino was ostensibly the boss the small Scranton, Pennsylvania Mafia family, but was so well-respected that it is believed that he was appointed acting head New York’s Genovese family. Tony Provenza, Hoffa’s hated enemy and prime suspect in orchestrating his murder, would have had to clear the hit with Bufalino and Bufalino’s personal hitman and enforcer Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, is the man who claimed in the early 2000’s to have personally pulled the trigger on the Hoffa hit, though most serious scholars in the case consider Sheeran’s confession a ploy to sell books -which he did- the book, an “as told to” confessional became a best-seller and the movie rights were optioned by Martin Scorcese.
Joseph “Joe Uno” Zerilli
The Boss of the Detroit LCN since the mid 1930’s, Joe Zerilli at on the national Mafia Commission and when he finally turned over power to his son in the early 70’s he finished his career as the longest serving Mafia Godfather of any family in the country. Joe Uno would have had to okay the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, as Detroit was his town and there was no way any outside Mafia family would operate in Detroit without his okay, especially on such a high profile hit as Jimmy Hoffa. In the picture above, Zerilli is on the right, and “Black Bill” Tocco is on the left.
Jack Tocco’s father “Black Bill” Tocco was the Detroit Family’s first official Godfather. After being convicted of tax evasion in the mid 30’s he “retired” to Florida and his brother-in-law Joseph Zerilli became boss. Jack Tocco and his cousin Joe Zerilli supposedly made their bones by strangling a Greek policy king in front of their father’s the former and current Godfather’s of the time. Jack went on to obtain a college degree and quickly rose the ranks of the family. Joe “Uno” Zerilli’s son Tony was briefly made boss of the family in the early 70’s, but when we went to jail for involvement in a Las Vegas casino skimming case his cousin Jack Tocco was made boss in 1978. Less than two hours after disappeared, the FBI saw Tocco go to meet with Tony Giacalone -prime suspect in overseeing the hit on Hoffa for the Detroit family- in a private meeting. Tocco and Giacalone rarely, if ever, had meetings, as Tocco kept himself insulated from the street. When Jack Tocco died in 2014, he had been, like his predecessor and uncle Joe Zerilli, the longest serving Mafia boss in America.
Jack Ruby is the smoking gun in the evidence connecting elements of the Mafia with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Ruby was a Dallas night club owner (Dallas fell under the shadow of New Orleans boss Carlos Marcello) and long time Teamster and Mafia associate from his early days back in Chicago. Ruby met with the Dallas Mafia boss (who took orders from Marcello) on the night before he killed Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruby was friendly with the Dallas police (via payoffs and free drinks at his night club) and was allowed to freely roam around the Dallas police station waiting for a chance to shoot Oswald. Ruby may have assumed he would receive a short prison sentence and the respect of the Mafia for killing Oswald, but he ended up with a death sentence from the state of Texas.
Ruby’s mental state deteriorated quickly in prison, and he began penning paranoid letters to his brother and others. He had always been considered a nut by real Mobsters, which was why he never was allowed to move into the inner circles of organized crime, but it is documented that Ruby traveled to Cuba to help get Santos Trafficante out of jail when Castro seized power.
Ruby never explicitly stated he was told to kill Ruby by anyone, but his phone records indicate many phone calls in the weeks and days leading up to Oswald’s murder with prominent Teamsters and back in Chicago he worked for the uber-important Jewish criminal Allen Dorfman, who operated the massive Teamster pension fund which served as the greatest source of Jimmy Hoffa’s power and as a personal bank for the Mafia.
Jack Ruby was granted a new trial, but died of lung cancer while in prison in 1967. Ruby was a mentally unstable man, just like Lee Harvey Oswald, duped and manipulated into participating in the cover up of an American president’s murder.
Hard Times in America
Jimmy Hoffa was born in Indiana on the eve of the First World War. He grew up during perhaps the most rapidly changing era in American history – the country was becoming totally industrialized and a great migration from the farm to the city changed society in fundamental ways. He was born into a country that was shockingly poor by modern standards. Life was lived on the edge, not just in the slums of New York, but in the mill and mining towns where Hoffa spent his childhood. In Robert Hunter’s study, Poverty (1904), he estimated that half the population of New York City lived in absolute poverty, a number that was likely just as high or higher in other parts of the country.
Poverty in pre-Social Security America was often driven by sickness, and when young Jimmy Hoffa’s father died his mother was barely able to make ends meet for Hoffa and his siblings. They lived in a series of rough and tumble small industrial towns in Indiana, filled with bootleggers, bandits, proto-Mafiosi and the Ku Klux Klan. In the early 1920’s the family moved to the west side of Detroit, the ultimate rough-and-tumble boom town. Henry Ford’s $5 a day wage attracted such a stream of men into Detroit from the failing farms and denuded lumber towns that Hoffa’s west-side neighborhood had one of the largest imbalances of male-to-females of any area in the entire country. But just as Hoffa’s family was settling in and thought they’d finally found the land of opportunity, the Great Depression struck- hitting Detroit harder than almost anywhere in the country.
Despite Detroit’s 50% unemployment rate, Jimmy Hoffa’s hustle and determination got him a job at the Kroger supermarket warehouse when he was 19. Though most men in his position would have been content just to have a job, Hoffa and several of his co-workers banded together on a hot summer day and refused to unload a shipment of strawberries that had just arrived. Because strawberries are so perishable Hoffa and his comrades knew they could take advantage of the situation and were able to have some success in negotiations with Kroger.
Hoffa’s success with his first strike drew the attention of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who hired him as a recruiter. Teamster recruiters were paid a portion of dues from anyone they signed up, and Jimmy Hoffa was a very aggressive recruiter- according to Dr. Thaddeus Russel, Hoffa saw his employment in the labor union system as a purely entrepreneurial opportunity and his aggressive and daring recruitment tactics led to brutal street battles; Hoffa had to be stitched up 6! different times during his first year as a Teamster organizer. The world of labor unions Hoffa entered was almost unimaginably violent by modern standards; car-bombings, beatings, and even murders were daily occurrences as the Teamsters fought employers for hire wages and other unions for membership.
The quality of life for the average American during this phase of Hoffa’s career was very different than today. Not only was work hard and long, 40 percent of working households under the age of 65 earned poverty wages – a figure that rises to 54 percent with the inclusion of those over 65 and those not working, according to this academic study of poverty in America. Almost one-third of all households had a non-nuclear family member or outside boarder living with them as a way to make ends meet.
After WW2, the US economy boomed, and the Teamsters were one of the chief beneficiaries. Worker wages took off; the Teamsters role of moving goods from factory to warehouse and warehouse to store (among other things) was integral to the rapidly expanding American economy. Jimmy Hoffa moved up fast in the Teamster management hierarchy and quickly became a power broker in Michigan politics. In the early fifties he became a national vice-president for the organization and immediately began machinating behind the scenes to usurp the current Teamster president Dave Beck, who was himself the target of Federal investigations into his corruption. The late 1950’s were the high-water mark for the American union movement and the American middle-class; labor, corporate, and government were in a delicate power balance that resulted in the lowest income inequality in US history, though not all Americans were beneficiaries of the American Dream; in 1949 in Detroit 43 percent of African-Americans were employed in the generally higher paying industrial jobs, compared to 67 percent of white workers. The union movement had generally racist policies toward black workers and the Teamsters were no different, though it didn’t stop Hoffa from using Joe Louis as a prop during his corruption trial in Washington D.C., when faced with an all-black jury.
Hoffa and the Kennedys
While the 1950’s saw more and more Americans rise out of poverty and the creation of a broad-based middle class, thanks largely to the union movement, not everyone was happy. Reactionary forces from the business community and the political right wing didn’t like to see their power dissipated and the seemingly odd team of Senator Joe McCarthy and the Kennedy family would become central to the fight against unions. McCarthy was a fixture at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, schmoozing with father Joe Kennedy, one of America’s wealthiest men thanks largely to his involvement in Wall Street swindles and the liquor business. Ronald Kessler’s excellent book “Sins of the Father”, recounts the history of the Kennedy clan and Joe’s influence on the political careers of JFK and RFK in depth.
RFK and Joe McCarthy
Bobby Kennedy got his first big break in politics when McCarthy tapped him to work on his anti-(phantom) Communist crusade, and Kennedy parlayed that into the role of chief counsel in the McClellan committe hearings on Labor corruption, which focused primarily on the Teamsters. These hearings certainly uncovered real wrongdoing, and Teamster president Dave Beck ultimately went to prison because of them, but they were also fueled by melodrama and ridiculous factoids. “Experts” estimated 30 million Americans betting 50 billion a year with bookies, a sum larger than the national defense budget! 400,000 decks of marked cards in use around the country, and they were used in one of five games with stakes of $10 or greater, and they were used in one of five games with stakes of $10 or greater! These sort of statistics strike on today as the same sort of post-war use of manufactured “facts” that fueled the tobacco industry and the various foreign policy disasters that led to Vietnam and the radicalization of the Middle East.
Easily discernible beneath the surface of the hearings was the vast social gulf between RFK and his mostly Ivy League staff and the tough guys and gangsters they grilled during the hearings. Two America’s were at battle here: the union officials and gangsters who had clawed their way to power by any means necessary versus the strange team of Southern Dixiecrats and Kennedy with his technocrat aides.
History is written by the winners, and while Hoffa and the union movement was guilty of being rife with corruption and organized crime influence, they also had wrestled a larger share of the American economic pie away from the business elites than ever before in US history. The McClellan hearings represented the opening salvo in the war against unions that continues, quite successfully, today.
The Last Days of Jimmy Hoffa
During the McClellan hearings Bobby Kennedy created a “Get Hoffa” squad that was funded with the sole purpose of sending America’s most powerful labor leader to prison, the leader of the Squad was Walter Sheridan, who recounts his adventures chasing Jimmy Hoffa in this book.
Eventually, with the help of a Baton Rouge Teamster official who was out on bail for various crimes including kidnapping, Hoffa was convicted of jury tampering and sent off to Federal prison. On December 23rd, 1971, President Richard Nixon pardoned Hoffa and he found himself a free man. But from the minute he left prison, the former Teamster president’s days were numbered. Despite his many flaws, Hoffa had always been effective in getting higher wages for the Teamster rank and file, but by the early 70’s the American political, business, and media elite no longer wanted a powerful union movement in the country and keeping Jimmy Hoffa, who was still loved by millions of rank-and-file Teamsters, was key to this plan. Watch “Killing Jimmy Hoffa” to see how it all played out.
The Decline of Unions in the United States
The history of unions in America is long and complex subject and Jimmy Hoffa is certainly one of the most important and certainly the most iconic leader in US history.
Hoffa’s America was a very different place when he was born than when he disappeared in 1975 and his name had became synonymous with union corruption and Mafia influence. Hoffa left behind an America with a huge middle-class living in shiny new suburbs filled with fancy gadgets that had replaced the tenements of Lower Manhattan and the desolated first wave industrial burgs like the very ones Hoffa himself had grown up in- thanks, at least in some small but significant way, by Jimmy Hoffa’s work as a union organizer and negotiator. Whether Jimmy Hoffa was “corrupt” (whatever that means in America) or not, its certainly no coincidence that with out men like him on the side of the working man, America has reverted back to a land of haves and have-nots, with a rapidly shrinking middle class.
Important Books Concerning Jimmy Hoffa
“Out of the Jungle” by Dr. Thaddeus Russell
“The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa” by Walter Sheridan
“Fatal Hour” by Richard Billings and G. Robert Blakey
“Sins of the Father” by Ronald Kessler