Many American crime experts and former and current members of federal law enforcement believe slain Teamsters titan Jimmy Hoffa had his corpse incinerated at Central Sanitation in Hamtramck, Michigan, a Detroit mob-owned trash company. Central Sanitation was a business that belonged to deceased Motor City mafia lieutenants Peter (Bozzi) Vitale and Raffaele (Jimmy Q) Quasarano, the closest of friends and both longtime Hoffa associates and high-ranking organized crime figures connected to homicides in the past.
Hoffa was kidnapped and killed 40 years ago this week. He vanished from a Metro Detroit restaurant parking lot the afternoon of July 30, 1975 en route to a gangland sit down with Detroit mob street boss Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone and Genovese crime family capo Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano. His body has never been found and no charges were ever filed in the case, though it’s still an open investigation. Some sociologists have dubbed the Hoffa mystery the most iconic unsolved crime in U.S. history. Four decades later, never-ending debates related to the whereabouts of Hoffa’s remains have turned the ongoing search and surrounding hysteria whenever a new tip arises every couple years or so into modern mythology.
But what if there’s nothing to find? What if any and all remnants of his body cease to exist and have since the very hour he breathed his last breath? That’s where Vitale and Quasarano allegedly come in.
“Within a half hour of taking two in the head, Jimmy Hoffa was ashes,” says a Detroit mob insider and respected wiseguy. “All this running around looking for a body is laughable, there ain’t nothing to find. And he wasn’t the first either. Bozzi Vitale and Jimmy Q got rid of a bunch of bodies the exact same way. Abracadabra, you’re corpse is suddenly gone, no evidence, no nothing. It’s not that complicated.”
Hardly ever seen apart, Bozzi and Jimmy Q were both raised in Sicily and known to be partners in narcotics, gambling and loansharking operations. They were each a prime suspect in the Hoffa investigation from the jump and dominated the area’s trash-hauling trade with their co-ownership of Central Sanitation at that time.
The FBI was tracking their movements in the days leading up to and after Hoffa went missing and saw them have dinner with Tony Giacalone and Detroit mob Godfather Joseph (Joe Uno) Zerilli at Larco’s, a favorite mafia haunt in Motown on July 28 and then break bread with Genovese crime family street boss Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno on August 1 in New York’s Little Italy.
Zerilli’s son, Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli, the syndicate’s imprisoned “acting” underboss the summer Hoffa got clipped, came forth to the FBI in the final years of his life in 2012 and fingered Bozzi Vitale and Jimmy Quasarano in the actual hit, along with current reputed Detroit mafia heavyweight Anthony (Tony Pal) Palazzolo. Zerilli told investigators that Tony Giacalone informed him Hoffa was driven to property owned by his cousin and the Family’s then “acting” boss Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco in Oakland Township, Michigan by the trio of wiseguys and once they arrived in a farmhouse at the property, smacked in the head by Palazzolo with a shovel and buried there, possibly alive.
The FBI looked into the Zerilli tip and searched the property to no avail. Tony Z died in the spring, no longer part of the mob’s hierarchy in Detroit. He was No. 2 in charge from 1974 until he was jailed in 2002. His dad passed in 1977, turning over the reins of the crime family to Tocco despite Tony Z being the original heir apparent to the throne. Tocco preceded him to the grave though, succumbing to heart failure last July, the city’s sitting don for the previous three and a half decades. Tony Jack and Tony Pro died of natural causes in 2001 and 1988, respectively.
Bozzi Vitale and his older brother Paul (the Pope) Vitale – another Central Sanitation co-owner – were captains in the Michigan mafia responsible for overseeing the city’s Greektown neighborhood, downtown Detroit’s central entertainment district, for years.The Vitales were stationed out of the Grecian Gardens restaurant, a mob hangout in the heart of Greektown at the east end of Monroe Street, the neighborhood’s main drag. Coming up in the rough-and-rugged rustbelt underworld of the 1930s and 40s, they were groomed by fearsome Detroit mafia capo Pietro (Machine Gun Pete) Corrado, the original gangland “Pope” of Greektown.
As a young hood, Bozzi Vitale was Machine Gun Pete’s driver and bodyguard. When Machine Gun Pete and his top crew boss Salvatore (Tootie) Buffa both died of sudden heart attacks a few years a part in the 1950s, the Vitales inherited Buffa’s rackets and were appointed capo of his crew, while Corrado’s two sons Dominic and Anthony took over their dad’s regime. Binding the families even tighter, Dominic (Fats) Corrado and Anthony (Tony the Bull) Corrado married Paul Vitale’s two daughters.
Jimmy Quasarano was a suave, savvy and reputedly lethal Motown drug czar who would rise to the crime family’s consigliere slot or No. 3 in charge in the late 1970s. Besides being thought to have taken part in Hoffa’s slaying, Quasarano is suspected to have participated in the planning or carrying out of at least a dozen other mob murders. Married to the daughter of a Sicilian mafia don, Jimmy Q (sometimes referred to by his men as “Jimmy the Goon”) cut his teeth as the driver, bodyguard and all-around right-hand man of beloved longtime Detroit mob consigliere Giovanni (Papa John) Priziola. He replaced Priziola as consigliere following Priziola’s death due to natural causes in April 1979 – he’d been serving in the post on an “acting” basis for several years before that. Although he kept an office at Central Sanitation, Quasarano could be found most days at his Motor City Barber Supply, the Motor City Boxing Gym (where he staked fighters) or cavorting with his buddy Bozzi at the Grecian Gardens.
Jimmy Q and the Vitales had been linked to Hoffa by federal authorities in various (mostly) illegal capacities dating back to the days right after Prohibition when Hoffa was establishing himself as a presence in the local Detroit labor community with fire-and-brimstone speeches, a charismatic swagger and savvy, bulldog-tough leadership backed with fierce knuckle-dragging firepower supplied by his friends in the mob. Men like the Vitale brothers and Quasarano.
The fiery one-time Teamsters President locked horns with his former allies in the mafia over his desire to take back his presidency after serving a prison sentence in the early 1970s. Throughout the mid-to-late 20th Century, organized crime dominated the ranks of the Teamsters labor union underlying Hoffa’s meteoric ascent to being one of the country’s the most recognized and powerful men in both industrial and political terms. He was incarcerated in 1967 for bribery, fraud and jury tampering and in 1971 relinquished his role as president of the union to his VP and protégé, the more controllable and oafish Frank Fitzsimmons, in hopes of getting an early release, which was granted by a pardon that came straight from the White House and sitting Commander and Chief Richard M. Nixon, by the end of that same calendar year .
Upon hitting the streets, Hoffa made it clear publically he intended on seeking reelection to the great dismay of the very same mafia bosses he used as muscle to take office in the first place and who were ordering him to retire because they preferred Fitzsimmons8217; more easy going and persuadable style as
Teamsters boss than his fearless, harder to control, bull-in-a-china shop-approach. Hoffa neglected the demand to forgo his bid to reclaim the presidency and threatened to expose the ties between the union and organized crime if the mob didn’t stop blocking his path. The mob decided to nip the problem in the bud – they solved it by murdering him.
Tony Giacalone lured Hoffa out in the open to be killed with the promise of a critical “burying of the hatchet” meeting with Tony Provenzano, Tony Jack’s cousin via marriage and an east coast Teamsters powerbroker with whom Hoffa was feuding with but needed on his side for the sake of his reelection bid. The supposed sit down was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on July 30, 1975 at the Machus Red Fox in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, a ritzy suburb less than 10 miles north of Detroit city limits and home to auto executives, judges, lawyers, doctors and professional athletes. Tony Jack and Tony Pro intentionally didn’t show. Giacalone, the man put in charge of arranging Hoffa’s assassination, sent a hit squad in their place, to pick him up under the guise of taking him to another location where he’d be meeting with the “Two Tonys,” and executed him at a nearby residence instead.
Many FBI and Gangster Report sources say within 45 minutes of Hoffa being murdered, his body was driven in the trunk of Tony Jack’s son’s car to Jimmy Q and the Vitales’ Central Sanitation in Hamtramck and promptly torched in the trash company’s incinerator. Suspiciously, Central Sanitation itself burned to the ground in a suspected, but never indicted arson fire that occurred in the months after Hoffa disappeared.
Hamtramck is a city within a city, resting on Detroit’s near northwest side and holding a rich gangland history as well as a reputation for being home to the most culturally diverse set of neighborhoods in the whole state of Michigan. The municipality was so corrupt during Prohibition that the city was put under Martial Law and taken over by the state to rid it of the dirty politicians that existed from top-to-bottom in Hamtramck city hall at that time. In other words, it was a perfect city for wiseguys like Jimmy Q and the Vitale brothers to set up shop.
Central Sanitation was an offspring of Tri-County Sanitation, another FBI search destination in the Hoffa investigation and equally notorious in the annals of the Detroit underworld. Tri County was formed in 1962 by the Vitale brothers and Bozzi Vitale’s soon-to-be son-in-law, mob prince, Joe Barbara, Jr., who was young (30), ambitious and according to numerous federal informants, extremely deadly, having already been named a suspect in more than one gangland homicide. Barbara, Jr., known on the streets then as “Joe the Clipper,” was the son of rural Pennsylvania mob don Joseph (Joe the Barber) Barbara, Sr., the famous host of the ill-fated 1957 Apalachin, New York mafia summit.
About three years after the Apalachin summit was raided by the police, making huge headlines around the world, Barbara, Jr. moved to Detroit and began dating Bozzi Vitale’s daughter, finally marrying her in 1963 in an extravagant ceremony attended by a who’s who of mob dignitaries from across the country. With Barbara, Jr. at the helm and the Vitales providing the capital, connections and back-up artillery (not that he needed much), Tri-County quickly became the biggest sanitation company in Southeastern Michigan. It also might have doubled as a gangland graveyard. An FBI memo from 1978 cites confidential informants claiming “at least 10 bodies were disposed of on Tri-County Sanitation property.”
Before he was indicted in 1968 for racketeering and extortion revolving around activities related to Tri-County, Barbara, Jr. had expanded his and the Vitales’ interests in the trash biz into Ohio, teaming with the legendary Toledo underworld character Leonard (Chalky Red) Yaranowsky to open the King Road Dump Truck Company. But his 1968 bust eventually got him booted from the sanitation industry all together and forced Barbara, Jr. to sell his stakes in both Tri-County and King Road. In 1972, Barbara, Jr. sold his interests in the two businesses to Nick Micelli, Bozzi Vitale’s other son-in-law and attorney. Then Micelli and the Vitales’ made a five million-dollar stock deal (1.5 million cash) orchestrated by Barbara, Jr. to sell Tri-County to a Boston-based trash-hauling company while keeping their workers employed and hidden points on the backend of the sale.
The Vitales partnered with Jimmy Q, went to a bank and got a loan to start Central Sanitation. Barbara, Jr.’s racketeering case stemmed from his alleged rape of Delores Lazaros, the wife of an imprisoned Greek Detroit mafia associate, Peter (Birmingham Pete) Lazaros, the syndicate’s payoff king and primary bagman in the 1950s and a majority of the 1960s. After Pete Lazaros failed killing Barbara, Jr. in an unsuccessful hit attempt that took place in the parking lot of a suburban hotel (The Kingsley Inn in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan), he joined Team USA and testified against Joe the Clipper at trial, helping convict him and send him to the pen for six years. During a recces at the highly-publicized trial, Lazaros and Barbara, Jr. got into a shouting match in the court hallway and Lazaros accused Joe the Clipper of stuffing the wife of another mobster down a drain pipe.
Central Sanitation was only in operation for less than five years and shut down after a March 1976 fire that gutted the place, possibly erasing any evidence of Hoffa’s remains.
“Probably the best intelligence we received regarding how Hoffa’s body was done away with was the Central Sanitation angle,” retired U.S. Prosecutor Keith Corbett recalled. “We were being told a lot of bodies were disposed of, incinerated there in the 1970s. Vitale and Quasarano were running out of there at that point in time and both those two fellas were pegged pretty early on as being involved in this murder in some capacity or another, so it wasn’t a leap on our part to put two and two together, plus the information we were getting fed was leading us to that conclusion. Betting odds would dictate, the fact that the place mysteriously burnt to the ground shortly thereafter wasn’t a coincidence.”
Corbett was at the helm of the federal government’s courtroom assault on Jimmy Q and Bozzi Vitale when they were convicted of racketeering offenses in 1981 spawning from the “bustout” and extortion of a Wisconsin-based Italian cheese company with outlets in Michigan, Illinois, California and Connecticut and financed by a Teamster-backed pension-fund loan. The racketeering case was rolled into a tax fraud indictment tied to the sale of Tri-County Sanitation that the pair incurred the same month in 1979.
The government was aided tremendously in both cases by Nick Micelli, who heavily in debt to Jimmy Q and others from his gambling habit and threatened with prison time, gave up his father-in-law and Quasarano to the feds and testified against them in court. On the stand he recalled Jimmy Q informing the cheese company’s owner, “The big fish is swallowing the little fish and frankly you’re lucky we didn’t break your legs.”
Micelli, his wife and kids moved to the west coast in the wake of the trial. He continued practicing law in Beverly Hills, dodging a retaliatory hit only because he was married to Bozzi’s daughter. A heated conversation about whether or not Micelli should live or die between Vitale and Quasarano was intercepted by FBI audio surveillance. “I don’t care how mad we are at him (Micelli), we’re not going to make my little girl a widow and let my grandkids grow up without a dad, that’s not happening on my watch,” Bozzi pointedly told Jimmy Q.
Later on in the same snippet of the wiretap feed, Quasarano was heard telling another associate immediately after Vitale left his office at Motor City Barber Supply, a different story. “That rat bastard owes me 150 large and five years,” Jimmy Q hissed, referencing Micelli’s gambling debt and the ensuing five-year prison term he had in front of him. “He’s going to get it (get killed), it’s just a matter of when.”
Micelli would be felled by a heart attack at the age of 50 in 1994, not on Quasarano’s order as he had predicted. Paul Vitale died in 1990, Bozzi Vitale in 1998. Jimmy Q held on to 2002, passing away at the ripe old age of 92. Joe Barbara, Jr. is 84 today and did another 5-piece in the can because of a racketeering pinch in the 1980s.