The Jimmy Hoffa disappearance haunts the FBI.
So much so, that it will go to extremes in its quest to crack the near-40 year old kidnap-murder case that is probably the most notorious and iconic unsolved crime in the annals of American history.
According to exclusive Gangster Report sources, one of those extremes was bugging the assisted-living quarters of aging Detroit mob power Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone in the final years of his life, hoping that the dementia-ravished Giacalone’s senile-laced ramblings might offer them clues in the still-on-going Hoffa investigation.
Or that’s what Gangster Report’s source believe, at least.
“They (the FBI) exhaust every possible measure, why wouldn’t they?, the Hoffa case is the Bureau’s biggest embarrassment, both internally and externally,” said one source. “The old man didn’t know his own name by the end, let alone where the body was. But you never know who comes into that room and pays their respects, so that was part of it, too. Nothing came of it. It was probably a hail mary. They took a shot and it didn’t pan out.”
FBI tech experts allegedly entered Giacalone’s room while he lunched at a nearby restaurant with his close friend and fellow grizzled Michigan Mafiosi Frank (Frankie the Bomb) Bommarito, and planted a recording device inside a lamp that rested near his recliner, per the sources. The feature image for this story is of Billy Jack and Frankie the Bomb in the 1990s, when Billy Jack (left) served as the Bomb’s best-man at his wedding to the sister of Giacalone crew member Vito Parisi.
Giacalone, a one-time capo and underboss of the mafia in the Motor City, passed away in 2012 at 88 years of age. He had stepped down from his underboss post in 2009 and was living in an assisted-living residence in suburban Macomb County at the time of his death – the last couple years of his life his health had declined rapidly.
When Giacalone died he was considered by authorities as one of the top suspects, if not the No. 1 suspect, in the famed Hoffa hit. The day Hoffa disappeared Giacalone was the only member of the local mob hierarchy unaccounted for by the FBI, having ditched his normal surveillance unit mid-morning, and had always refused to offer an alibi. There are certain factions of law enforcement that are convinced that Billy Jack was the “trigger man” in maybe the most-storied mafia hit of all-time.
Hoffa vanished from a Bloomfield Township, Michigan eatery parking lot on the afternoon of July 30, 1975, after he was stood up for a sit-down with Giacalone’s older brother, Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone, the Detroit mob’s street boss and New Jersey gangster Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano, at the Machus Red Fox Restaurant. Tony Pro (at his union hall in New Jersey when Hoffa was clipped) and the Giacalone brothers were related by marriage.
On the surface, the sit-down was being held to settle a beef between Hoffa, the former Teamsters union president who was desperately trying to rally support for a reelection bid the following year and Provenzano, an ally-turned-enemy of his and east coast labor leader he needed to make amends with due to Provenzano’s sway in the union. Hoffa himself was a well-known mafia associate, using his connections in the underworld to rise to epic heights in union politics. Tony Jack was seen frequently throughout the day Hoffa went missing at his Southfield Athletic Club headquarters, some five miles away.
The Giacalone brothers were Hoffa’s liaison with the mob and suspected in taking part in or ordering literally dozens of gangland slayings in their collective half-century reign as the Detroit mafia’s “junkyard dogs.”
A protégé of legendary syndicate Godfather Joseph (Joe Uno) Zerilli, Tony Giacalone oversaw the crime family’s day-to-day affairs from that late 1950s until his death of kidney failure in 2001.
Baby bro Billy Jack was no slouch himself, far from content to ride on his sibling’s coattails.
Inducted into the mob alongside future syndicate numbers czar Dominic (Fats) Corrado in a 1951 ceremony conducted by Zerilli and Corrado’s dad and Zerilli’s brother-in-law and most-trusted capo, Pietro (Machine Gun Pete) Corrado, it didn’t take long for Billy Jack to climb through the ranks. By 1955, he was a capo, just like his brother, and tapped by Zerilli to look after the Detroit mob’s interests in Toledo, Ohio, doing so by way of emissaries like Anthony (Whitey) Besase, as well as most of the crime family’s juice loan and sports gambling action.
Convicted in a series of racketeering cases throughout his criminal career (1968, 1983, 1992, 1998), the younger Giacalone spent more than two decades behinds bars in total, his final stint in the can concluding in 2004. During his last stretch behind bars spent in a federal prison – six years after copping a plea and agreeing to an open-court allocution where he admitted the existence of the mafia aka La Cosa Nostra and his membership within stemming from the March 1996 Operation Gametax bust –, Billy Jack had his prosthetic leg confiscated mid-sentence for smuggling contraband into the Ashland, Kentucky correctional facility he was at. The last two years of his time was served in a wheelchair. Giacalone lost his leg as a boy when it was run over by a milk truck.
Upon his release on July 30, 2004 (ironically the 29-year anniversary of the Hoffa kidnapping and execution), Billy Jack was immediately named underboss, No. 2 in charge to then-Detroit Don Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco. He replaced Vincent (Little Vince) Meli, who stepped down.
Meli of died of cancer in 2008. Tocco passed away from natural causes last July, also a prime suspect in the Hoffa investigation. At Tocco’s inauguration ceremony as Godfather in the summer of 1979, he was pictured next to Giacalone on the sun deck of the Timberland Game Ranch in Dexter, Michigan, less than 10 miles outside of Ann Arbor, in an FBI surveillance photo that would be used to convict both of them in the Operation Gametax case 20 years later.
Timberland Game Ranch belonged to the Ruggirello brothers (Louie the Bulldog & Tony the Exterminator), Tocco confidants and the crime family’s crew leaders in charge of the Ann Arbor and Flint regions of the state. The Ruggirello brothers were looked at as suspects in the Hoffa case as well. Their property hosted the gathering of capos to officially elect and anoint Jack Tocco his uncle Joe Zerilli’s successor. Zerilli died 18 months prior.
A terminally-ill Antonino (Big Tony) Ruggirello, Sr., the Ruggirello brothers’ father and a longtime bodyguard and aide-de-camp to Tocco’s dad, William (Black Bill) Tocco, presided over the ceremony and called for the official vote to name Black Jack the new boss, according to state police files. Black Bill Tocco (died of cancer in 1972) and Joe Zerilli were brother-in-laws and best friends and founded La Cosa Nostra in Detroit together by winning the bloody Crosstown Mob War in 1931.
According to law enforcement records and sources close to the Giacalone camp, Billy Jack’s final years on top of the Motor City mob landscape in the mid-to-late 2000s were spent mediating local gangland disputes in place of semi-retired consigliere Antony (Tony T) Tocco and taking advantage of his status as a golden-aged mafia dignitary by glad-handing his way around the area’s underworld.
Federal surveillance logs noted Giacalone’s weekly routine, which would see him maneuver across town as the day wore on, moving west to east:
Morning manicures at Bellissimo Salon (Farmington Hills) and lunches at the Stage Deli (West Bloomfield), Beau Jacks (Bloomfield Twp.), the Beverly Hills Grill (Beverly Hills) and the Capital Grille (Troy) with his son Jack (Jackie the Kid) Giacalone, the crime family’s gambling chief Allen (The General) Hilf, and his then-driver James (Jimmy the Golfer) Nehra were followed by dinners at the Beach Grill (St. Claire Shores), Captain Jack’s Tavern (St. Claire Shores), Andiamo Trattoria (Grosse Pointe), Eastpointe Manor (East Pointe/East Detroit) and the Travis Restaurant (Chesterfield Twp) with his right-hand man Frankie the Bomb Bommarito and acting consigliere Dominic (Uncle Dom) Bommarito. In between lunch and dinner, Billy Jack would often stop by Bommarito’s Danny Boy’s Social Club off 8 Mile in Warren, ran by Frankie the Bomb’s surrogate son and bodyguard Daniel (Danny Boy) Moore, a widely-renowned local tattoo artist.
Beau Jacks – today known simply as ‘Beau’s – is located across the street from the former Machus Red Fox, where Jimmy Hoffa made his “last stand” and was last seen. The building the Machus Red Fox used to sit in is now the westside flagship of the Andiamo franchise (more than a dozen in southeast Michigan and Las Vegas), a restaurant chain owned by Joe Vicari, son-in-law of Tony Tocco (died in 2011). Vicari’s father, Dominic, was a reputed bookie and close associate of the Tocco brothers.
Since Hoffa was done away with in 1975 the FBI has received literally tens of thousands of tips and undergone what seems like an endless amount of fruitless digs and excavations, most recently in 2013 after deposed syndicate underboss Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli, Joe Uno’s son and Black Jack’s first cousin, went to the FBI and pointed them to rural property in Oakland Township – 25 miles north of Detroit – once owned by Jack & Tony Tocco, telling them Hoffa’s body was buried there. Tony Z, who was in prison at the time of Hoffa’s execution following being convicted of stealing six million dollars as hidden owner of the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, insisted that Tony Giacalone and the Toccos had informed him of Hoffa’s whereabouts upon his release from behind bars in 1978. Both Tocco brothers were considered suspects in the Hoffa case at the time of their deaths.
The passing of Billy Giacalone didn’t just most-likely eliminate the only person left with any first-hand knowledge of the Hoffa hit itself, it’s also had a modern-day ripple effect. From practically the moment Billy Jack was put into the ground, his son, current reputed Detroit mafia Don Jackie the Kid Giacalone is said to have taken aim at those in his father’s inner-circle he had quarreled with while his dad was alive. He immediately demoted Frank Bommarito, 85, from his capo post (over his dad’s old crew, a job he had held for 15 years) and put Dominic (Big Dom) Vivio, Billy Jack’s one-time bodyguard on the shelf, banishing him to Pittsburgh, in his capacity as then-street boss.
Interestingly, Jackie the Kid’s recent alleged inauguration as newly-minted mob boss of Detroit might have taken place at Vivio’s Bar in downtown’s Eastern Market district, Big Dom’s former base of operations and an establishment still owned by Vivio family members. Informants have told the FBI that Jackie Giacalone was elected Godfather in “the basement of a a mob-connected bar in Eastern Market” some time in early 2014.
In the 1970s and 80s, Billy Giacalone headquartered his crew out of Eastern Market at Farm Fresh Produce and famously held meetings in the business’ many meat lockers to avoid audio surveillance.
“Back when Billy Jack was down at Eastern Market and you got called in for a chat so to say, I don’t care if it was the hottest fucking day of the summer, you brought your winter jacket cause you knew he’d be in that god dam freezer chewing your fucking ear off for a good half hour,” said one former Giacalone crew associate.