DETROIT (WWJ) – One of Detroit’s — and arguably America’s — most fascinating missing persons cases unfolded 40 years ago today: The disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.
On July 30th, 1975, the former Teamsters boss was supposed to meet at the Machus Red Fox in Bloomfield Hills with reputed mobsters Tony Provenzano and Tony Giacalone. Hoffa was never seen again.
Over the years, rumors have placed Hoffa’s body in the end zone of Giants Stadium, underneath the RenCen, beneath a Roseville driveway, and at a Milford barn. But FBI officials believe Hoffa was killed by the mafia, and that we’ll never find his body.
“It’s something that has … imbedded itself in Americana. It is without question, one of the most talked about, infamous, unsolved murder, at least American history in the twentieth century and the fact that he was never found — add all those things together and it’s the ultimate murder mystery,” said Scott Bernstein, author and journalist from Detroit, previously told WWJ’s Zahra Huber.
The federal government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hunt for Hoffa, according to sources talking to CBS Detroit.
The 2006 Milford farm dig alone cost $250,000, sources said, and before that, in 2003, the feds excavated a swimming pool and the surrounding area a few hours north of Detroit. They subsequently tore apart a home where Hoffa’s blood reportedly stained the floorboards.
In September of 2012, radar equipment was brought in by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to scan a driveway on near 12 Mile and Gratiot in Roseville. But soil tests showed no signs of human DNA.
It’s believed that Hoffa was making an attempt to regain control of the Teamsters union following his release from federal prison in 1971, and organized crime figures from around the country ordered Hoffa’s death to stop that from happening.
Hoffa rose to power in the Teamsters through the 1940s-50s — reportedly with help from the mafia. According to sources, his relationship with organized crime resulted in Hoffa being elected international president in 1957 around the same time he opened up the labor union’s pension fund for access by his mob buddies, used primarily to build and then skim Las Vegas casinos.
Imprisoned on bribery and jury tampering charges in the late 1960s, Hoffa gave up the union presidency to his vice-president and protegé Frank Fitzsimmons, who arranged a White House pardon by Richard Nixon in late 1971.
Hoffa’s pardon held in it a clause that he could not run for the Teamsters presidency again until 1980. Upon his release from incarceration, Hoffa decided to fight the ban on him running, a move that is not welcomed by his former allies in the mob, happy with Fitzsimmons in the slot, since he is considerably easier to deal with.
Approaching the mob for their support, Hoffa was rebuffed. Instead, he went on a two-year media campaign and according to some, began working with the FBI, to try and convince the public and the government that he’s a changed man and if allowed to run in ’76 intends to rid the union of its longstanding and widespread mafia influence.
Obviously, this didn’t sit well with the mob. Sending a series of emissaries, Hoffa was reportedly told to “quiet down” and relent in his quest to reclaim power in the Teamsters. According to mob insiders, he refused, threatening the mob’s hold on the union and through it, its control over Las Vegas/the union pension fund.
Sources talking Burnstein say a murder contract was placed on Hoffa’s life in early 1975. The crime families in Detroit, Chicago, Pennsylvania and New York City allegedly coordinated efforts to lure Hoffa out in the open at a meeting with east coach mafia leader Tony Provenzano, which was supposed to take place the day Hoffa went missing. The pair had once been close friends and were fighting, but Hoffa needed Provenzano’s support — since he controlled large amounts of delegates in the election — if he wanted to win in ’76.
What happened next remains a mystery.