November 29, 2019 — Despite publically pushing an anti-organized crime agenda in a bid to reclaim the top spot in his beloved Teamsters before his death, slain labor boss Jimmy Hoffa was politicking behind the scenes with “Suncoast” mafia dons Carlos Marcello of New Orleans, Santo Trafficante of Florida, Nick Licata of California and Joe Bonanno of Arizona in an attempt to get them to back him in his battle against Midwest and East Coast mob bosses for power in the mammoth trucker and cartage haulers union, per sources familiar with the situation and federal records related to Hoffa’s murder. Hoffa did a series of national media interviews in the early 1970s campaigning for a return to the Teamsters presidency where he promised to cleanse the union of mob influence if reelected. He never made it to the election.  

Hoffa’s ploy ultimately failed and he disappeared on the afternoon of July 30, 1975 in his hometown of Detroit, most likely murdered by a team of mob hit men representing crime families in Michigan and New York. His body has never been found and no arrests have ever been made in the case which has grown to be the most iconic and talked-about unsolved mystery in American history.

The Hoffa case is back in the headlines because of the new Martin Scorsese movie The Irishman, starring Robert DeNiro as Frank (The Irishman) Sheeran, a Delaware Teamster and gangland enforcer who claims responsibility for killing Hoffa. Al Pacino plays Hoffa in the Netflix production already generating Oscar buzz.

With the backing of mob bosses in Detroit, Hoffa rose to be president of the Teamsters union. He was sent to prison for fraud in 1967 and forced to relinquish control of the union to his vice president Frank Fitzsimmons. Hoffa expected loyalty from Fitzsimmons, his longtime right-hand, and an open invitation to return to the post after he got set free. Neither expectation was met. The mafia’s National Commission threw their support behind the easier-to-puppet Fitzsimmons and Hoffa was ordered to retire from union affairs upon his release from prison late 1971.

Hoffa and Fitzsimmons came up together at Teamsters Local 299 in southwest Detroit down by Tigers Stadium. They were under the thumb of Detroit’s Tocco-Zerilli crime family, led by Joe Zerilli, an old-school Godfather with strong ties to the New York underworld. Zerilli was on the Commission, one of a select few dons from outside New York allowed a seat on the governing body, and he kept tabs on Hoffa and Fitzsimmons through his hand-picked protégé and street boss Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone. It was the steely-eyed Giacalone who was tasked with telling Hoffa his services were no longer needed in Teamsters leadership, news that prompted Hoffa to launch into a public-relations offensive in the press and per FBI informants, start reaching out to his contacts in southern and west coast organized crime circles as a means of rallying support.

According to these informants, Hoffa’s overtures were met with “swift rebuttals.” Hoffa went missing on his way to rendezvous with Tony Giacalone and New Jersey mob figure Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano for a sit down to resolve a union-related beef between Hoffa and Tony Pro, the most juiced-in Teamster operating on the eastern seaboard. Provenzano was the New York Genovese crime family’s point man in the Garden State.  

During his reign as Teamsters president (1957-1970), Hoffa was linked to Big Easy mob boss Carlos Marcello and Tampa Godfather Santo Trafficante in conspiracy theories regarding mafia involvement in CIA affairs – Bay of Pigs, plot to kill Cuban dictator Fidel Castro – and the 1963 assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. FBI records from the Kennedy era allege that mob families in Detroit and Chicago made a backroom deal with Kennedy’s underworld-connected father Joe and rigged voting booths in Illinois, Indiana and West Virginia to propel JFK into the White House.

In 1973, Hoffa had dinner in Hollywood at Musso & Frank Grill with L.A. mafia chief Nick Licata and his underboss Dominic Brooklier and at the meal Hoffa pressed the pair of west coast mob luminaries for help in securing Teamster-delegate voting blocks in California, according to an FBI memo circulated that same year. Licata and Brooklier both had ties to Hoffa’s home base in Detroit – Licata got his start in Motown and his son Carlo was a soldier in the Tocco-Zerilli family, while Brooklier’s brother Joe was a button man in the Michigan crime syndicate.  

Hoffa met with Joe Bonanno at a Tucson golf club in 1974, per two FBI informants, to discuss Hoffa’s issues in the Teamsters and his problems with the mob’s National Commission. Bonanno was a founding member of the Commission until being deposed in the wake of a failed power play the previous decade and ran-off to the Arizona desert.

Bonanno allegedly sent word back to Hoffa via Carlo Licata in a message relayed at his dad’s October 1974 funeral that no aid would be forthcoming from the Bonanno camp in Tucson, according to an FBI debriefing document. Licata was in charge of arranging sit downs for Hoffa and Tony Giacalone to speak in private at his house in the years preceding Hoffa’s murder, per sources.

A number of current and retired FBI agents suspect Hoffa was executed at Licata’s Bloomfield Township home on July 30, 1975, lured to the residence under the pretense that his sit down with Tony Giacalone and Tony Provenzano at a nearby restaurant had been moved up the road to a place he was familiar meeting Giacalone at. Licata himself ended up dead under suspicious circumstances on the property six years to the day of Hoffa’s disappearance on July 30, 1981.

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