Ferocious and dangerously-stubborn Teamsters union chieftain Jimmy Hoffa was killed at deceased Detroit mafia soldier Carlo Licata’s house, not where famous mob turncoats Frank (the Irishman) Sheeran or Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli – both dead– assert the notorious gangland assassination went down 40 years ago this week in their respective confessions, according to exclusive Gangster Report sources. Licata’s house was at 680 W. Long Lake Road in Bloomfield Township, less than a five minute drive from where Hoffa disappeared from, as opposed to Sheeran’s and Zerilli’s claims that place his murder occurring at locations at least 20 minutes away. Licata, mob royalty in Detroit and California, died an untimely death at 680 W. Long Lake Road as well.
“The Outfit (slang for the Detroit mafia) banged Hoffa out at Carlo Licata’s place in Bloomfield and did Licata there a few years later,” said one key mafia insider in Motown. “People called that place the “house on the hill.” It holds a lot of secrets. Those walls could tell stories that would make a fucking movie screenwriter jealous.”
Sheeran, a Teamsters enforcer from Delaware and decades-long Hoffa confidant, declared in the 2004 book , I Heard You Paint Houses, that he was the man that shot Hoffa in the back of the head in a house in Northwest Detroit – the Irishman died prior to his book making it onto shelves. Zerilli, the deposed underboss of the Detroit mob and one of the men that helped put the popular and magnetic Hoffa into power in the truckers union the 1950s, went to the FBI in 2012 and told them Hoffa was bludgeoned to death with a shovel and buried on a piece of farm property in Northern Oakland County (the cluster of suburbs directly north of Detroit’s city limits) owned by his first cousin, then Michigan crime lord Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco. The FBI investigated both allegations but came up empty on each occasion.
An understated, immensely-respected and incredibly rich Godfather, Black Jack Tocco ruled over his Midwest mob kingdom for almost four decades and was Carlo Licata’s brother-in-law. Licata’s residence was two miles away from the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Michigan where Hoffa was last spotted and was supposed to meet high-ranking Mafiosi Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone of Detroit and Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano of New Jersey on the afternoon of July 30, 1975. Giacalone and Provenzano were no-shows and Hoffa was witnessed getting into a car with three unidentified men and driving off.
Hoffa was never been seen again and his infamous kidnapping and execution remains an open case. He was killed for his refusal to relinquish his quest to retain his Teamsters presidency at the mob’s behest. Part of his campaign to get his office back included an all-out media assault against his former allies in the mafia. After Hoffa went to prison in 1967, he voluntarily forfeited his post as Teamsters boss. The mafia didn’t want him to return. Despite repeated warnings to “give it up, or else,” the strong-minded Hoffa, a spitfire with a relentless spirit and passion for his cause, continued to tempt fate and forced the mob’s hand – they, in turn, decided to wack him.
None of Hoffa’s remains were ever recovered, no arrests were ever made and no charges have ever been brought in his slaying. It’s without question the American underworld’s most iconic unsolved murder of all-time and commemorating it’s 40th anniversary on Thursday.
Eerily and probably not by mere coincidence, it’s also the anniversary of Licata’s suspicious death, which happened 34 years ago this week on July 30, 1981. When he died, Licata was on shaky terms with his brother-in-law Jack Tocco. The two of them had a tumultuous relationship dating back years, from practically the moment Carlo was assigned to Black Jack’s crew when they were both still young men. Tocco became a capo in 1954, according to testimony in front of a U.S. Congressional Committee in the 1960s.
“Carlo could never make Jack happy, he’d bring Jack an envelope with 1,000 bucks in it and Jack would ask why ain’t there 2,000 in here?, he was always busting balls and a lot of people think Carlo finally snapped and tried sticking it to him,” said once elite street source.
How did he stick it to him? At least one way, says another source, was leveraging the details he knew regarding the Hoffa assassination against his brother-in-law.
“As soon as Jack got the power in the Family, Carlo thought he had something coming to him. He felt passed over for a captain’s post and would start vaguely referencing the Hoffa thing to Jack in conversations out in public,” the source remembered. “You could tell Jack didn’t like it.”
Tocco was anointed don in 1979, leapfrogging Tony Zerilli, the previous heir apparent who had just served four and a half years in the joint for the skimming of and holding hidden ownership in the Frontier Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas Licata never rose above the rank of solider in his 35-year underworld career.
Tony Jack was street boss in Motown for almost a half-century and Tony Pro a capo in New York’s Genovese crime family based out of his Teamsters local in New Jersey. Jack Tocco, Tony Giacalone and Tony Provenzano are considered the top suspects in the Hoffa homicide even though they are all dead. Also no longer with us are the other two prime suspects in the investigation, Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone, Tony Jack’s younger brother and fellow Michigan mob titan and Salvatore (Sally Bugs) Briguglio, Tony Pro’s right-hand man and No. 1 “hitter.” All died of natural causes, except Sally Bugs, who was murdered in New York in 1978 facing unrelated murder and racketeering charges alongside Provenzano.
One-time close friends, Hoffa was fighting with Tony Pro towards the end of his life – a heated feud that sprouted while they were locked up together over union insurance benefits Hoffa was still receiving in prison and Tony Pro wasn’t. More than once, they had threatened to kill each other’s families and twice in the years after they got out of jail clothes they physically scuffled in face-to-face meetings in Miami and New York, respectively. Regardless of the bitterness, Hoffa understood it was necessary to make amends with Provenzano if he wanted to win the upcoming Teamsters election, being that Provenzano controlled large chunks of votes from his east coast union stronghold spanning over a half-dozen states on the Atlantic seaboard.
Tony Jack, who was related to Provenzano through marriage and Hoffa’s contact in the mafia since the 1950s, offered to broker a “sit-down.” He arranged a setup instead.
Licata would often host mafia sit-downs at his home, a two-story brick estate perched on a leafy hill across the street from an elementary school. Hoffa and Giacalone had met there in the past, in the years leading up to Hoffa vanishing, meaning Hoffa wouldn’t have been suspicious if he was informed the sit-down at the Red Fox was diverted to the Licata residence up the road .
A longtime button man and mob prince, Licata was discovered dead there on July 30, 1981, the six-year anniversary of the Hoffa hit, shot twice in the chest, the gun resting 10 feet away on a dresser minus his fingerprints. His death at 57 was officially ruled a suicide, however some people (law enforcement, mobsters and others) view it more likely as a homicide.
Carlo Licata’s dad was Los Angeles mob boss Nick Licata, a Detroiter during Prohibition who fled Michigan in the early 1930s and relocated to Southern California after having a murder contract placed on his head as a result of feuding with Motor City mob “founding fathers,” Joseph (Joe Uno) Zerilli – Tony’s dad – and his brother-in-law William (Black Bill) Tocco – Black Jack’s dad.Taking refuge in the California crime family led by L.A. don Jack Dragna, Nick Licata climbed the latter in the west coast rackets quickly and proved a valuable enough of an earner that Dragna reached out to Zerilli and Tocco in Detroit and got the contract lifted. Licata operated out of the Five O’Clock Tavern in Burbank and forged close relationships with Dragna’s brother and consigliere Tom and fellow up-and-comer and future Godfather, Frank (Frankie One Eye) DeSimone.
By the time Licata reached captain status in the 1950s and it became clear that he was destined for a spot in the L.A. mob’s hierarchy, any lingering animosity from his quarrel with Zerilli and Tocco had to be quelled for the sake of good business – the California and Detroit crime families did quite of bit of business together and it couldn’t be jeopardized by past ill will cutting into either syndicates’ bottom line. So, a truce was arranged: via the marriage of Nick Licata’s only son Carlo, already a “made” man in the L.A. Borgata to Black Bill Tocco’s daughter, “Babe,” in 1953.
The Tocco-Licata wedding was a giant, lavish affair held at downtown Detroit’s beautiful Book Cadillac Hotel and attended by American mob luminaries from around the entire country. Babe Tocco’s brothers, Jack, a future boss of the Detroit vice syndicate and Tony, a future consigliere, were groomsmen for Carlo Licata. Following the nuptials and honeymoon, Carlo officially transferred from the California mafia to the Detroit mafia. State police documents reveal Licata’s involvement in an array of business endeavors, legal and illegal, over the years. He was partnered with his brother-in-laws and other local organized crime figures in gambling, loansharking and shakedown rackets as well as a series of legitimate enterprises, per these documents.
Black Bill Tocco and Joe Zerilli ran the mob in Michigan side-by-side for 41 years. Zerilli, the front boss for most of that time, earned a seat on the National Commission, the U.S. Mafia’s board of directors and overall ruling body and was widely beloved, often acting as the Commission’s unofficial consigliere, called on to mediate disputes between different “LCN” factions.
With his son keeping busy in Detroit, Nick Licata climbed the ranks of the SoCal mob out west, going from consigliere to underboss to finally boss in 1967 upon the death of Frank DeSimone (Jack Dragna’s successor as don) from a heart attack. He died in 1974, two years after Black Bill passed away because of a bad ticker, too. Joe Uno Zerilli followed in 1977. However, Zerilli was alive in the summer of 1975 when it was decided Jimmy Hoffa had become more headache than he was worth. In other words: expendable.
Zerilli was the person who signed off on both Hoffa’s ascent to the presidency of the colossal-sized Teamsters union and ultimately his execution. Per federal informants, Joe Uno assigned Jack Tocco and Tony Giacalone to coordinate the assassination. According to numerous Gangster Rerport sources, they decided to use Black Jack’s brother-in-law Carlo Licata’s house as the kill spot. These sources say Sally Bugs Briguglio, Billy Giacalone and a fast-rising Detroit mobster named Anthony (Tony Pal) Palazzolo picked up Hoffa in the Red Fox parking lot in Tony Giacalone’s son’s car – a 1975 Mercury Marquis –, informed him that the sitdown he had with Tony Jack and Tony Pro was being moved to Licata’s house a couple minutes away and then drove him there and killed him in the garage.
The fateful head-shot was fired by either Sally Bugs or Billy Jack as Hoffa got out of the car being driven by Tony Pal, per two of these sources. Early that morning, Billy Jack intentionally lost the FBI and state police surveillance squads trailing his customized Cadillac, outfitted with secret weapon compartments, and they didn’t’ pick him back up until after dinner.
Neither Licata, nor Black Jack’s baby sis Babe Tocco were at home when the hit went down, per these sources, but a pair of Tony Pro’s guys from Jersey, the Andretta brothers (Stevie and Tommy) were and, along with Tony Pal, they placed Hoffa’s body in the trunk of the Mercury Marquis and took it to Central Sanitation, a trash company owned by Detroit mafia capos Peter (Bozzi) Vitale and Raffaele (Jimmy Q) Quasarano, where it was incinerated. Vitale and Quasarano were best friends, well-known wholesale narcotics traffickers and labor-union racketeers connected to Hoffa from his earliest days organizing truck drivers in the 1930s and 40s.
“We’d hear from informants that Hoffa could have got taken out at Carlo Licata’s house,” said retired FBI agent Mike Carone. “Like every legitimate tip, you had to look into it. That lead proved more promising than others. We never had the ammo to bring charges, though. It seems logical, knowing all the factors that played into Hoffa’s disappearance and death. Things just didn’t pan. Nothing panned the whole case. That’s why we’re still here today 40 years later talking about it.”
FBI surveillance logs note Vitale and Quasarano presence at a dinner held at the Detroit Italian eatery, Larco’s, two nights before Hoffa’s slaying with Giacalone and Joe Zerilli and then another dinner two nights after he was murdered in New York with high-ranking members of the Genovese crime family, the Borgata Tony Pro belonged to. Tony Giacalone and Jack Tocco, far from friends or social companions, were observed by FBI agents meeting behind closed doors at Tony Jack’s headquarters, the Southfield Athletic Club, late the afternoon Hoffa went missing. The Mercury Marquis used in the hit was confirmed to be at the Southfield Athletic Club at 2:15 p.m. on July 30, 1975, only a half hour before Hoffa was nabbed at the Red Fox restaurant five miles away by the hit team.
The Burgundy-colored car is the lone piece of physical evidence recovered in the Hoffa case. Hoffa’s DNA was placed in the vehicle via a hair extracted from the backseat and his scent was found in the trunk by police-trained canines in the weeks after he disappeared. Early the day of the hit, Tony Jack’s son Joey turned over possession of the Mercury Marquis to Hoffa’s surrogate son Chuckie O’Brien, a Teamster executive and Giacalone family associate.
Tony Giacalone went to prison in 1979 for tax evasion and extortion, leaving Tocco in charge all by himself until he was slated to return to town in the mid-1980s. Black Jack Tocco was voted into the boss’ chair of the Detroit mafia in June 1979 at an inauguration ceremony hosted at a mob-owned hunting lodge near Ann Arbor drawing all the crime families administrators and capos (or their representatives) as well as camera-toting FBI agents tipped off by Tocco’s driver, bodyguard and cousin, Anthony (Fat Tony) Zito, a confidential federal informant for decades.
Jimmy Quasarano, sometimes referred to by the more ominous nickname, “Jimmy the Goon,” and tied to Sicilian mafia sects from his marriage to Vittorio (Don Vito) Vitale’s daughter, was appointed Jack Tocco’s consigliere. He died in 2002 at 92 years old. Pete Vitale was the Motor City’s overlord of Greektown (Detroit’s main downtown entertainment district) until he passed in 1997. Palazzolo, per FBI records and inside sources, stepped into Vitale’s capo slot.
It wasn’t a secret in area gangland circles that Jack Tocco and his little brother and aid-de-camp Anthony (Tony T) Tocco, didn’t always get along with their brother-in-law. They were frequently at odds over family and business matters. At some point in the early 1980s, tensions were boiling and Carlo Licata wound up dead in his own house, the house many speculate was used to kill Jimmy Hoffa at and six years to the very date it happened. Sources tell the Gangster Report, that Licata might have tried to use his knowledge of the Hoffa hit and where it took place to blackmail his brother-in-laws in some form or used the information to hold over their heads in the years after Hoffa was wiped off the face of the earth.
In the end, these sources say, it got him wiped out.
“Within some circles, Carlo Licata showing up dead wasn’t a surprise,” one source said. “The last thing Jack Tocco wanted was loose ends, any way to link him to Hoffa he would do anything to remove if he felt it becoming a threat. I think he saw Carlo as a threat starting at a certain point. Once he became boss and his dad, Carlo’s dad and uncle Joe Z were gone and he had nobody to answer to but himself, he did something about it.”
On the afternoon of July 30, 1981, the six-year anniversary of the Hoffa hit, Licata and his wife were at home and Jack and Tony Tocco were at a college graduation party. Licata’s son came over his parents’ house around dinner time and discovered his dad dead in his bedroom (two bullet wounds in the chest) and his mom, asleep in the study. Babe Tocco’s statement to responding police was that she heard two loud bangs while in the midst of napping, but assumed it was her husband opening and slamming the front door. There were no reports of Licata behaving depressed or suicidal in the days and weeks leading up to his being found dead.
The Detroit mob is historically known for often veiling its’ murders as suicides and/or drug overdoses in attempts to thwart off investigators. Fat Tony Zito allegedly committed suicide in the years following Licata’s death. The day Zito is alleged to have shot himself his family unearthed FBI pay slips hidden in his attic.
“This particular group of Goodfellas in Detroit for a variety of reasons are in the Hall of Fame for their ability to manipulate their murders in ways that not only distance themselves from the hits, but creates all this other confusion and misdirection that can and does prove bothersome to those of us that are or who have been responsible for building cases against them,” retired undercover FBI agent Bill Randall recalled. “To some it might sound like a cliché, these individuals (the Detroit mob) are operating at a higher plane than most organized crime groups of their ilk. Over the years, there were countless mob hits or suspected mob hits in Michigan the FBI could never crack. There would just be too many dead ends, too many questions, never enough answers. The consensus amongst us in the Bureau would be this guy did this, or these people were involved in this, we never stacked up enough to feel confident in taking it in front of a jury, or at least the DOJ (Dept of Justice) didn’t. You just did your work, even when it was frustrating and you knew in some cases, these guys were getting away with murder.”
Tony Giacalone died of kidney failure in 2001, facing a 1996 racketeering case that concluded in convictions for his brother Billy and Jack Tocco. Billy Giacalone and Tocco both did prison time in the case and when they came out, Billy Jack was promoted to syndicate underboss, replacing Jack Tocco’s deposed No. 2 and first cousin, Tony Zerilli, Joe Uno’s only son.
Jack Tocco died of heart failure last summer. His brother Tony T and Billy Jack both passed away from natural causes in 2012. His cousin, Tony Zerilli, died back in the spring. Experts contend that Zerilli’s motive for alerting the government of where he believed Jimmy Hoffa was buried in his final years was undermined by the bad blood he had with Jack Tocco: simmering animosity lied just under the surface for years with the pair and they fell out for good following the ’96 bust, a pinch Black Jack saddled Tony Z with responsibility for.
Tony Palazzolo, 75, is reputed to be the Detroit mafia’s consigliere today. He once bragged to an undercover cop in his office at his Detroit Sausage Company headquarters that he personally put Jimmy Hoffa through his sausage auger.
In his debriefing with the FBI and U.S. Attorneys Office,Tony Zerilli, imprisoned in a federal correctional institute in Minnesota at the time Hoffa was killed but still the Detroit mob’s acting underboss and day-to-day No. 2 in charge, told agents and lawyers present that Tony Pal was the man wielding the shovel that beat Hoffa to death at Jack Tocco’s farm property in Oakland Township and that Palazollo and Pete Vitale picked Hoffa up at the Red Fox the afternoon of his assassination and drove him there to be slain. Zerilli said he was let in on the specifics of the hit by Tony Giacalone after he was released from prison in 1978.
Tony Provenzano dropped dead of a heart attack in prison in December 1988. Provenzano was jailed for racketeering and ordering Briguglio to anchor a hit squad he dispatched in 1961 to murder a gangster and union rival of his named Anthony (Tony Three Fingers) Castellito. Retired from the mob, 75-year old Tommy Andretta resides in Las Vegas. His older brother Stevie died years ago of cancer. The Andretta brothers were groomed in the ways of the mafia by Tony Pro and Sally Bugs and were indicted and convicted in the same landmark late-1970s RICO case, the first ever prosecuted against an Italian mob regime.