Underneath a four-lane bridge linking two industrial New Jersey cities lies a former landfill. There, a theory holds, a worker may have once buried the body of union leader Jimmy Hoffa in a steel drum 15 feet below the surface.
Mara Schneider, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Detroit field office, confirmed that the agency had gotten a search warrant to survey what is now a plot of dirt below the heavily trafficked Pulaski Skyway connecting Newark and Jersey City. Agents completed the survey Oct. 25 and 26 and are analyzing the data, she said.
While Schneider did not confirm the search’s target, reports of the investigation suggest a renewed effort to solve a case that has become a cultural touchpoint and befuddled officials for nearly half-a-century. The quest for Hoffa, once the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, has led investigators to a field outside Detroit, a banquet hall, a garbage-incinerating company and a California poker club, among other sites.
The mystery began July 30, 1975, when Hoffa donned a navy sports shirt and matching pants and left his modest lakeside home, which was about an hour car drive north of Detroit. He was meeting some men for lunch and would be home by 4 p.m., he told his wife, Josephine.
On his way to Machus Red Fox Restaurant, Hoffa stopped at a friend’s office and named the men he was meeting. They were Anthony Giacalone, a Mafia member, and Anthony Provenzano, a part of the Genovese crime family, office workers later told investigators.
The meeting may have been an attempt to resolve a conflict over who would run the Teamsters. Hoffa had presided over the group until 1971, including while he was imprisoned on a jury-tampering conviction. President Richard M. Nixon later commuted Hoffa’s sentence on the condition that he not participate in union activities until 1980 — but Hoffa made clear that he did not intend to listen.
So Hoffa stood that day in the fashionable restaurant’s parking lot, apparently waiting for someone, two witnesses later told police. Around 2:30 p.m., Hoffa called his wife to ask whether Giacalone had called the house, and he placed another call to a friend to say that Giacalone and Provenzano had stood him up.
Hoffa never returned home. Police found his dark green Pontiac in the restaurant’s parking lot the next morning. The vehicle was empty except for a pair of white gloves.
A federal grand jury heard from 70 witnesses but returned no indictments. In 1982, Hoffa was declared legally dead.
As decades have passed, various people have claimed to know where Hoffa is buried. In 1989, a self-described hit man said the union boss was buried between the 20-yard line and the west end zone of the former Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. “In football terminology, that’s the coffin corner,” New York Giants spokesman Ed Croke joked at the time.
Frank Sheeran, who reported to Hoffa in the union, supposedly confessed to killing him while on his deathbed in 2003 — a theory featured in the 2019 Netflix film “The Irishman.” But Sheeran had changed his story many times, at one point suggesting that Sicilian war orphans or Vietnamese mercenaries had killed his former boss.
The most recent leg of the search began after a man told journalist Dan Moldea, who has long written about Hoffa, that his father was a worker at the landfill and had confessed on his deathbed to burying the body, the Times reported. Moldea then told the FBI, which had previously received tips about that site but had found nothing, the Times report says.
Many people have claimed to know who was responsible for Hoffa’s demise. Before he ended a nearly quarter-century career with the FBI, Kenneth Walton joined the chorus of voices saying he had the answer — but he added that he could never pursue the case for confidentiality reasons. Some of the suspects were also dead, Walton said.
“I’m comfortable I know who did it, but it’s never going to be prosecuted because … we would have to divulge informants, confidential sources,” he told the Detroit News in 1989. “There was more than one person who killed Jimmy Hoffa or was involved in the efforts.”
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