This week is the 40-year anniversary of iconic Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance and murder. Hoffa’s high-profile kidnapping and slaying has never been solved, firmly embedding itself as the most notorious unsolved crime in American history. He was a lifelong mafia associate and those deep underworld connections are undoubtedly what got him killed at 62 in the midst of his golden-years resurgence in the enormously-powerful and at that moment immensely corrupt and mob-ridden labor union on July 30, 1975.
That afternoon, Hoffa was on his way to what he presumed to be a critically-important mob sitdown with a pair of dangerous Mafiosi scheduled to take place at a suburban Detroit restaurant. The sitdown, which Hoffa sought for months, was to quell tensions with a rival in the union he needed to win back support from if he was going to grab victory in a 1976 election to become Teamsters president again, a position he had held previously for 14 years before voluntarily surrendering it during a prison term.
February 14, 1913 – James Riddle Hoffa is born in Brazil, Indiana
1924 – Hoffa and his family move to Detroit, Michigan
1927 – Weeks short of his 15th birthday, Hoffa goes to work on the loading docks at Kroger’s, a leading grocery-store chain in the Detroit area to this very day, eventually making his reputation as a young force to be reckoned with in the burgeoning organized labor community by spearheading the now-famous “Strawberry Strike,” where he led his fellow “unloaders” on the dock in a work-stoppage to force a wage increase.
1932 – Hoffa is recruited by the Teamsters to become a organizer at Local 299, the truckers and cartage-workers union’s main Detroit hub, located down by the old Tigers Stadium
1935 – Hoffa cements relationship with Detroit mafia, using an introduction by international gangster extraordinaire Frank (Frankie Three Fingers) Coppola to syndicate labor racketeering experts like Angelo (The Chairman) Meli, Santo (Cockeyed Sam) Perrone and Peter (Horseface Pete) Licavoli, who he uses his ties to as a means of building a staggering powerbase in the decades to come
September 1936 – Hoffa marries his wife, Josephine, buys a house in Northwest Detroit and starts a family, a son Jimmy, Jr. and a daughter Barbara
1952 – Hoffa becomes International Vice President of the Teamsters
1958 – Hoffa becomes International President of the Teamsters, well on its way to being the most powerful single labor union in the world, and catapulting himself into the spotlight, where he’d go on to also become one of the most recognized people in the nation.
1964 – Hoffa is convicted in federal court twice in the same year, first for bribery and jury tampering and second for fraud, sentences to eight years in prison
March 1967 – Hoffa is incarcerated at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary following appeals on his criminal convictions being rejected, housed in the prison’s infamous “Mafia Manor” wing, holding many of the country’s most fearsome Italian organized crime figures
1969 – Hoffa and New Jersey Teamster Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano, a convicted murderer and Genovese crime family capo, get into a heated verbal altercation that turned physical at the Lewisburg chow hall, regarding union benefits Hoffa and his family were still receiving while he was behind bars, but Tony Pro and his family were not – originally, Hoffa and Tony Pro were close friends dating back years, however the falling out in the can would cause serious issues for Hoffa going forward
February 1971 – Hoffa officially surrenders duties as Teamsters President, handing over the reins to the union empire to his VP and one-time protégé Frank Fitzsimmons
December 1971 – Hoffa is granted a Presidential Pardon by Richard Nixon (looking to secure the Teamsters backing in his ’72 election)
1972 – Hoffa announces his intention of unseating Fitzsimmons as president in the 1976 Teamsters election, news unsettling to his former allies in the mob, who had in no uncertain terms instructed him to retire and not seek reelection, quite content with “Big Fitzy” in the union boss’ chair
Winter of 1974 – Hoffa has his parole restrictions removed and embarks on a media blitz, campaigning to take back the Teamsters while blasting the mafia and promising to rid the entire union rank-and-file of mob influence if and when he gets back in office
Summer of 1974 – At the mob’s behest, the Teamsters tap legendary labor-union goon Rolland (Big Mac) McMaster, once a Hoffa confidant and his No. 1 enforcer in the union, to form an “Anti-Hoffa squad” intended to disrupt Hoffa’s campaign to reclaim the president’s post by any means necessary, specifically by employing intimidation tactics.
Spring 1975 – Hoffa puts out word that he was amiable to a squashing-of-the-beef with Tony Provenzano, who Hoffa realizes he needs on his side for a successful Teamsters presidential bid the following year, being that Tony Pro controlled all the east coast votes
July 10, 1975 – The car of Detroit Teamsters executive Richard (Little Fitz) Fitzsimmons is bombed in the parking lot of Nemo’s, a popular Local 299 watering hole, restaurant and after-work gathering spot, as he and his dad, Big Fitzy Frank Fitzsimmons, ate inside – rumors abounded, some saying that Hoffa put out murder contracts on both Fitzsimmons, others speculating that it was the work of McMaster’s Anti-Hoffa squad to make it appear that he had gone over the edge
July 10-July 12, 1975 – The decision to kill Hoffa is made, the murder contract officially issued and signed off on by mafia dignitaries in Michigan, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania.
July 12 & 26, 1975 – Hoffa takes meetings with Detroit mob street bosses Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone and Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone, brother mafia capos linked to literally dozens of gangland homicides and Hoffa’s longtime “contacts” in the Motor City underworld, at Hoffa’s lakeside suburban residence – the first was to discuss the Fitzsimmons car bombing incident at Nemo’s, the second to confirm a purported “sitdown” on the afternoon of July 30 at the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Twp, Michigan with Tony Jack,Tony Provenzano and labor consultant Leonard (Little Lenny) Schultz, the Giacalone brothers’ liaison to union affairs.
12:30 – Hoffa has a lunch meeting with Mayor of Detroit, Coleman A. Young at the historic Book Cadillac Hotel, then in need of refurbishing and the possibility of Teamsters help in that endeavor being the main topic of discussion at the meal
8:30 – A fully-vetted FBI informant places Tony Giacalone, Tony Provenzano and Rolland McMaster all having dinner in a group at Carl’s Chop House, a late-night Tony Jack hangout for years and Provenzano proclaiming loudly, “Tomorrow’s going to be a great day, gentlemen.”
The Day of The Hit – July 30, 1975
6:00 a.m. – Lenny Schultz opens the Southfield Athletic Club, the Giacalone brothers headquarters and Schultz’s family-owned business, located in the first floor of the Traveler’s Tower office building at the corner of Evergreen and 11 Mile Road, less than 5 miles outside of Detroit’s city limits
6:30 a.m. – Hoffa awakes at his Orion Township home, which rested on Square Lake, goes into his kitchen and reads the newspaper, before eating breakfast with his wife Jo on the deck outside
7:45 a.m. – Hoffa speaks on the telephone with New York Teamsters Local President for a half hour about strategy for his forthcoming sit down with Tony Pro
8:45 a.m. – Hoffa’s surrogate son Chuckie O’Brien, a Teamsters executive who he was feuding with, is dropped off at Local 299 on Trumbull Ave in Southwest Detroit.
9:00 a.m. – Hoffa chats with his 10-year old male neighbor as he is watering his grass
10:30 a.m.- Billy Giacalone leaves his eastside residence and quickly loses a pair of surveillance units (one federal, one state) assigned to keep tabs on his whereabouts – he’s not “picked up” again by either unit until dinner time
11:00 a.m. – Tony Giacalone arrives at the Southfield Athletic Club
12:00 p.m. – Chuckie O’Brien takes possession of Tony Jack’s son, Joseph (Joey Jack) Giacalone’s brand new 1975 maroon-colored Mercury Marquis in order to deliver a 40-pound freshwater salmon sent from a Seattle Teamsters president as a present to Local 299 VP and staunch Hoffa loyalist Bobby Holmes
12:30 p.m. – Tony Jack goes for massage at Southfield Athletic Club
12:45 p.m. – Hoffa, who has spent the late morning and early afternoon watching television and doung crossword puzzles with his wife at home, talks to a friend in a local painters union in Hazel Park on the phone hoping to arrange yardwork to be done at his residence that upcoming weekend
12:50 p.m. – O’Brien arrives at Holmes’ house in the Metro Detroit westside suburb of Novi and gives the giant fish to Holmes’ wife, helping her chop it up into individual salmon steaks before departing .
1:00 p.m. – Hoffa leaves his home for the Red Fox sitdown, tells his wife he’ll return by 4:00 p.m. and will cook her a steak dinner on the grill
1:15 p.m. – O’Brien takes Joey Jack’s Mercury Marquis to a car wash in Farmington, Michigan, to clean it of the fish blood that had dripped on the backseat interior of the vehicle in the process of delivering it
1:30 p.m. – Hoffa stops at a limousine-rental business Airport Service Lines in Pontiac on his way to the Red Fox to see ASI’s owner Louis (Louie the Pope) Linteau, a longtime Hoffa ally and former Teamsters Local chief in Pontiac, a hardscrabble, working-class community directly north of glitzy Bloomfield Hills and Bloomfield Twp – Linteau is away at lunch and Hoffa leaves a message with his secretary telling him he’s going to meet Tony Jack, Tony Pro and Lenny Schultz at Red Fox in Bloomfield Twp at 2:00
1:45 p.m. – Tony Provenzano is seen playing cards at his Teamsters union hall in New Jersey
2:00 p.m. – Hoffa arrives at the Machus Red Fox, located at the forefront of a shopping mall bordering Telegraph Rd, one of the area’s busiest thoroughfares – he speaks to numerous people, a hostess, a waitress and several patrons and well-wishers.
2:15 p.m. – O’Brien arrives at the Southfield Athletic Club with a freshly-cleaned Mercury Marqus, deliveringTony Jack a present for his grandkid’s communion
2:25 p.m. – Tony Jack goes to the barber shop at the Southfield Athletic Club for a haircut and manicure
2:30 p.m. – A visibly-frustrated Hoffa leaves the Red Fox, realizing he’s been stood up and heads towards a nearby hardware store, right behind the Red Fox in the shopping plaza, to use the pay phone, where he calls Linteau first and then his wife to inform them that Tony Jack, Tony Pro and Schultz were no-shows and that he was going home
2:45 p.m. – En route to his green-colored Pontiac sedan from the hardware store pay phone – roughly a 30 yard walk, Hoffa is witnessed speaking to three unidentified males in a car matching the description of Joey Jack’s Mercury Marquis and then getting into the car with them and driving off onto Telegraph Rd.
2:50 p.m. – Tony Jack leaves the Southfield Athletic club for a meeting with his attorney Bernie Humphrey on the 4th floor of the Traveler’s Tower, meaning he just had to go out the athletic club’s frontdoor and up four floors in the elevator
2:55 p.m. – The 62-year old Hoffa is killed, the common theory being with two bullets to the back of the head, at a secured private residence nearby the Red Fox (most likely at Detroit mobster Carlo Licata’s house at 680 W. Long Lake Rd., a spot two miles away and somewhere Hoffa had met at with Tony Jack to talk business prior)
3:30 p.m. – Hoffa’s body is probably incinerated at Central Sanitation, a trash company owned by Detroit mafia lieutenants and Hoffa pals Peter (Bozzi) Vitale and Raffaele (Jimmy Q) Quasarano and suspiciously burnt to the ground in the aftermath of the Hoffa disappearance
3:50 p.m. – Tony Jack returns to the Southfield Athletic Club and sets up shop at his favorite table at the club’s grille.
4:30 p.m. – An FBI surveillance unit follows Detroit mob “acting” boss, Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco from his Melrose Linen Co. office to Southfield Athletic Club where he meets behind closed doors with Tony Jack and Little Lenny Schultz – Tocco, who would be upped to official don in 1979, and Tony Jack, the day-to-day overseer of syndicate activities from the early 1960s into the start of the New Millennium, are thought by the FBI to have been the two men assigned to plan and coordinate Hoffa’s murder
5:30 p.m. – Billy Jack is “back on the grid,” seen scooping his brother Tony at the Southfield Athletic Club and going to dinner
7:00 p.m. – Hoffa’s wife Joe calls Louie Linteau worried because Hoffa hadn’t returned from his meeting at the Red Fox
9:30 – Linteau phones Tony Jack at his home and asks what happened at the meeting, to which Tony Jack responded by saying he had no such meeting and had been at the Southfield Athletic Club all day, per usual
The Post-Assassination Days
July 31, 1975
6:45 a.m. – Louie Linteau calls Tony Jack to tell him Hoffa never came home, Tony Jack comments “Maybe he took a little trip.”
7:45 a.m. – Linteau goes to Red Fox to find Hoffa’s abandoned car, his registered firearm left inside.
10:00 a.m.- Linteau and Jo Hoffa go to Bloomfield Twp. Police Department and file a missing persons report
12:00 p.m. – Linteau gets into fight with O’Brien on the phone when he informs him of Hoffa’s disappearance
9:00 p.m. – Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. kicks O’Brien out of the Hoffa family home, accusing him of being somehow involved in his dad’s kidnapping
August 5, 1975 -The FBI assumes command of the Hoffa investigation from the Bloomfield Twp. authorities
Aug 19, 1975 – Feds seize Joey Jack’s Mercury Marquis, successfully fights state appellate court’s ruling that the seizure is unconstitutional at the state supreme court level in the coming months
Aug 21, 1975 – Police dogs find Hoffa’s scent in the trunk of Joey Jack’s car
Sep 2, 1975 – A federal grand jury is convened in Detroit, calling 16 people to testify, but not resulting in any charges or indictments being filed
June 1976 – Tony Giacalone is convicted of federal tax evasion at trial – along with a soon-to-be-levied extortion indictment he’d plead guilty to in 1978, he was sent away to prison in Atlanta for seven years
1978 – East coast Mafioso Salvatore (Sally Bugs) Briguglio, Tony Provenzano’s right-hand man and a suspected trigger man in the Hoffa hit, is killed gangland style in New York about to go on trial with Tony Pro on murder and racketeering charges (Tony Pro was convicted)
July 30, 1981 – Michigan wiseguy Carlo Licata, Detroit Godfather Jack Tocco’s brother-in-law, is discovered dead at his home in Bloomfiekd Twp., the house many suspect was used to kill Hoffa, on the 6-year anniversary of the Hoffa slaying – Licata is found shot twice in the chest, the gun on a dresser on the other side of the room, yet despite mass suspicion of foul play, the death remains ruled a suicide
July 30, 1982 – Jimmy Hoffa legally declared dead by the U.S. government
December 1988 – Tony Provenzano dies of a heart attack in prison
January 2001 – Tony Giacalone dies of kidney failure, under indictment in a racketeering case from the 1990s
March 2001 – U.S. Department of Justice announces it has made a DNA match between Hoffa and a hair found in Joey Jack’s Mercury Marquis back in 1975
May 2004 – The FBI examines a claim by dying east coast Teamsters goon, former Hoffa enforcer and well-known mob associate Frank (The Irishman) Sheeran that he personally killed Hoffa at a house in Northwest Detroit on Beaverland near the 7 Mile Road and Evergreen intersection – investigators never found any evidence to validate Sheeran’s assertions
May 2006 – The FBI examines a claim by a one-time Rolland McMaster associate named Don Wells, incarcerated on drug dealing charges, that Hoffa’s remains were buried at McMaster’s formerly-owned Hidden Dreams Ranch search in suburban Detroit – a multi-million dollar dig and excavation is fruitless
2012 – Billy Giacalone dies of natural causes at 89, still suspected of possibly being the trigger man in the Hoffa hit and having risen to underboss of the Detroit mob in his latter years
June 2013 – The FBI examines a claim by deposed Detroit mafia underboss Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli that Hoffa was killed and buried at a farm once owned by his cousin and longtime Michigan don, Black Jack Tocco – a short search and dig at the property at the corner of Buell and Adams Roads in Oakland Twp., about 25 miles north of Detroit proved another dead end and experts chalk up, at least part of, his motivation for coming forward was his bitterness towards Tocco, with whom he was haggling over money, power and respect for years.
July 2014 – Jack Tocco dies of heart failure
March 2015 – Tony Zerilli dies of natural causes