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Jimmy Hoffa

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For other uses, see Hoffa (disambiguation).
Jimmy Hoffa

Born: February 14, 1913
Brazil, Indiana, USA
Died: Unknown (disappeared July 30, 1975); Body never found.
Occupation: Trade union leader

James Riddle "Jimmy" Hoffa (February 14, 1913 - July 30, 1975?) was a noted American labor leader with ties to the Mafia. As the President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, Hoffa wielded considerable influence. He is also well-known in popular culture for the mysterious circumstances surrounding his still-unexplained disappearance and presumed death.


[edit] Early life

Hoffa was born in Brazil, Indiana, the son of a poor coal miner. His father died when he was young and Hoffa could not stay in school. Hoffa moved to Lake Orion, Michigan to work in a warehouse. He developed a reputation as a tough street fighter who always stood up for his fellow workers against management. Because of this, Hoffa was fired from his warehouse job and hired as an organizer for Local 299 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). He and other IBT organizers conflicted with management in their organizing efforts throughout Detroit. Hoffa additionally used organized crime connections to shake down an association of small grocery stores, leading to his first criminal conviction, for which he paid a fine. After he rose to a leadership position in Local 299, Hoffa continued to work with crime syndicates in Detroit, using the threat of labor trouble to induce business to use a mobster controlled clothier (Friedman and Schwarz, 1988).

He was a natural leader who was upset at the mistreatment of workers. In 1933, age twenty, he helped organize his first strike of "swampers", the workers who loaded and unloaded strawberries and other produce on and off delivery trucks.

[edit] Union activities

The Teamsters union organized truckers, first throughout the Midwest and then nationwide. It skillfully used quickie strikes, secondary boycotts and other means of leveraging union strength at one company to organize workers and win contract demands at others. The union also used less lawful means to bring some employers into line.

Hoffa took over the presidency of the Teamsters in 1957, when his predecessor, Dave Beck, was convicted on bribery charges and imprisoned. Hoffa worked tirelessly to expand the union and in 1964 succeeded in bringing virtually all North American over-the-road truck drivers under a single national master freight agreement. Hoffa then pushed to try to bring the airlines and other transport employees into the union. This was of great concern to the United States government and business as a strike involving all transportation systems would be devastating for the national economy.

For all the benefits that Hoffa and some Teamsters delivered for over-the-road drivers, other Teamsters locals did little more than sign sweetheart deals that made union officers rich and left workers poor. In industries such as garment delivery, organized crime took over locals, and then used their power to strike, bringing the entire industry either under the Mafia's control or at least vulnerable to blackmail.

Hoffa had a working relationship with these racketeers, some of whom had played an important part in his election as General President of the Teamsters. Several Teamster chapter presidents were convicted for mob related crimes but often would continue serving as union leaders, such as Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano in New Jersey. Cleveland Corn-Sugar War survivor Moe Dalitz and Allen Dorfman bankrolled many mob casinos, hotels and other construction projects from the Teamsters pension fund.

Democratic President John F. Kennedy and his successor Lyndon B. Johnson both put pressure on Hoffa through John's brother Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General, attempting to investigate his activities and disrupt his ever-growing union. The Kennedys in particular were sure that Hoffa had pocketed a great deal of union money. Having expelled the Teamsters in the 1950s, the AFL-CIO also disliked Hoffa and aided the Democrats in their investigations.

Ultimately, Hoffa was not nearly as beholden to the Mob as to his successor and longtime crony Frank Fitzsimmons, who avoided imprisonment because of death due to cancer. While Hoffa was a brilliant tactician who knew how to play one employer off against another and who used the union's power to rationalize the industry by driving out weaker employers, "Fitz" was content to gather the other benefits of high office. The deregulation of the trucking industry pushed by Edward Kennedy and others during Fitzsimmons' tenure eventually destroyed much of what Hoffa had won for his members under the National Master Freight Agreement by making it much harder to maintain the high standards that Hoffa had achieved.

Hoffa's son, James P. Hoffa, is the Teamsters' current leader; his daughter, Barbara Ann Crancer, currently serves as an Associate Circuit Court Judge in St. Louis, Missouri.

[edit] Conviction and disappearance

In 1964, Hoffa was convicted of attempted bribery of a grand juror and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. On December 23, 1971[1], however, he was released when Republican President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence to time served on the condition he not participate in union activities for ten years (allegations exist that an illegal $300,000 payment made this possible). Hoffa was planning to sue to invalidate that restriction in order to reassert his power over the Teamsters when he disappeared at around 2:30pm on July 30, 1975 from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. He had been due to meet two Mafia leaders, Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone from Detroit and Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano from Union City, New Jersey and New York City.

His fate is a mystery that continues to this day and there are many guesses as to what became of him.

Former Mafioso Bill Bonanno claimed in his book, "Bound by Honor," that Hoffa was shot and placed in the trunk of a car that was then run through a car compactor.

Mob hitman Richard Kuklinski also claimed in one of his televised interviews that Hoffa was now a "car bumper." He claims that Hoffa was stabbed in the back of the head and placed in a steel barrel. The barrel was later buried, but dug up because of police suspicion. The barrel was later placed in a compactor and sold to the Japanese to make cars with.

No theory has been proven and his body has never been found. Hoffa was declared legally dead and a death certificate issued on 30 July 1982, seven years after his disappearance. Rumors of sightings have persisted for years.

[edit] Investigations

DNA evidence examined in 2001 placed Hoffa in the car of longtime Teamster associate Charles O'Brien, despite O'Brien's claims Hoffa had never been in his car. Police interviews later that year failed to produce any indictments.

In July 2003, after the convicted killer Richard Powell told authorities that a briefcase containing a syringe used to subdue Hoffa was buried at a house in Hampton Township, Michigan, another backyard was examined and excavated. Again, nothing was found [2] [3].

[edit] Frank Sheeran

In 2003, the FBI searched the backyard of a home in Munger Township, Michigan formerly frequented by Frank Sheeran, World War II veteran, Mafia hitman, truck driver, Teamsters official and close friend of Hoffa. Nothing significant was found.

In 2004, Charles Brandt, a former prosecutor and Chief Deputy Attorney General of Delaware, published the book I Heard You Paint Houses. The title is based on a euphemistic exchange apparently used by hitmen and their would-be employers. "I heard you paint houses." "Yes, and I do my own carpentry, too." House painting alludes to the splatter of blood on walls, and "doing my own carpentry" to the task of disposing of the body. Brandt recounted a series of confessions by Sheeran regarding Hoffa's murder, and claimed that Sheeran had begun contacting him because he wished to assuage feelings of guilt. Over the course of several years, he spoke numerous times by phone to Brandt (which Brandt recorded) during which he acknowledged his role as Hoffa's killer, acting on orders from the Mafia. He claimed to have used his friendship with Hoffa to lure him to a bogus meeting in Bloomfield Hills and drive him to a house in northwestern Detroit, where he shot him twice before fleeing and leaving Hoffa's body behind. An updated version of Brandt's book claims that Hoffa's body was cremated within an hour of Sheeran's departure.

[edit] Events Since February 14, 2006

On February 14, 2006, Lynda Milito, wife of Gambino crime family member Louie Milito, claimed that her husband had told her during an argument in 1988 that he had killed Hoffa and dumped his body near Staten Island's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City.

FBI Agents digging for Hoffa's remains in a open field -- which is part of a farmhouse in Milford Township, Michigan on May 17, 2006. As reported by ABC station WXYZ-TV in Detroit.
FBI Agents digging for Hoffa's remains in a open field -- which is part of a farmhouse in Milford Township, Michigan on May 17, 2006. As reported by ABC station WXYZ-TV in Detroit.

In April 2006, news reports surfaced that hitman Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski had confessed to author Philip Carlo that he was part of a group of five men who had kidnapped and murdered Hoffa. The claim's credibility is questionable, as Kuklinski has become somewhat notorious for repeatedly claiming to have killed people--including Roy DeMeo--that concrete evidence has proven he could not have killed. The story forms part of the book The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer, which was released on July 1, 2006.

On May 17, 2006, acting on a tip, the FBI began digging for Hoffa's remains outside of a barn on what is now the Hidden Dreams Farm (satellite photo) in Milford Township, Michigan where they surveyed the land and began to dig up parts of the 85-acre parcel, according to federal officials. Over 40 agents have sectioned off a piece of the property where they believe the bones of the Teamster leader might be. Federal agents would not release the name of the person or persons who gave them the tip, but they did say that the tip included information on a group of people that used to meet on the same piece of land 30 years ago. The FBI has made contact with Hoffa's daughter who resides in Saint Louis and works as a judge, but no other information has been released. [4] It is unknown if the FBI have found anything, although from helicopter images they appeared to be digging something out of the ground. The FBI has told the press the search may take several weeks. The investigation team includes forensic experts from the bureau's Washington laboratory and a team of scientists that includes anthropologists, archaeologists, engineers and architects who will accompany local police and cadaver dogs for the next two weeks.

On May 18, 2006, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Hoffa search was prompted by information supplied by Donovan Wells, 75, a prisoner at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, KY. The newspaper said Wells, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in January 2004 for using his Detroit-area trucking company and drivers to ship large quantities of marijuana from Texas to Detroit from 1998-2001, was trying to parlay his knowledge about Hoffa's disappearance to get out of prison early. On May 20, 2006, the Free Press, quoting anonymous sources, said that one of Wells' lawyers had threatened to go to the news media during the previous year unless the U.S. Attorney's Office acted on Wells' information and followed through on a pledge to seek his release from prison. The next day, the newspaper quoted Wells' lawyer from a 1976 criminal case, James Elsman of Birmingham, who said the FBI in 1976 had ignored Wells' offer to tell them where Hoffa was buried. The lawyer said the FBI ignored him again on May 18, after he learned that the FBI was digging in Milford Township and called the bureau to offer the information. Outraged, Elsman said he then offered the information to the Bloomfield Township Police Department. On May 22, an FBI agent and township police detective visited Elsman's office, but Elsman declined to offer much information, saying he first wanted them to provide him with a signed release from Wells. Elsman also offered to visit the horse farm to help agents pinpoint where to dig. The FBI didn't take him up on his offer.

On May 24, 2006 the FBI removed a large barn on the farm to look under it for Hoffa.

On May 30, 2006 the FBI ended the search for Hoffa's body without any remains found at the Hidden Dreams Farm in Milford Township, Michigan.

On June 16, 2006, the Detroit Free Press published in its entirety the so-called Hoffex Memo, a 56-page report the FBI prepared for a January 1976 briefing on the case at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The report, which the FBI has called the definitive account of what agents believe happened to Hoffa, can be found online.

In November of 2006 KLAS TV Channel 8 Las Vegas interviewed author Charles Brandt about the latest news regarding Hoffa's murder and disappearance. It was revealed for the first time that Hoffa's body was taken from the murder scene and driven 2 minutes away to the Grand Lawn Cemetery where he was cremated. KLAS TV has the interview on their website.

[edit] Hoffa in popular culture

[edit] Films

  • The 1978 movie F.I.S.T., starring Sylvester Stallone as warehouse worker Johnny Kovak rising through the ranks of the fictional Teamster-like "Federation of Interstate Truckers", is loosely based on Hoffa's life.
  • In the 1990 film Ghost there is a scene where Patrick Swayze makes a comment to one of the other characters: "They are gonna bury you right next to Jimmy Hoffa!"
  • In the 1991 movie, Nothing But Trouble, a small town's two police officers and reeve surreptitiously capture and execute out-of-towners for misdemeanors. During an escape attempt, the protagonists discover a room with hundreds of drivers licenses posted on the walls, Jimmy Hoffa's among them.
  • The 1991 movie Point Break has a one-liner in which a grizzled veteran asks his too-eager partner, while processing a car at a crime scene, "Are you through, Mr Wizard? Let me know if you find Jimmy Hoffa under the seat while you're at it!"
  • In 1992, the semi-factual motion picture Hoffa was released, starring Jack Nicholson in the title role and Danny DeVito (also the film's director) as Hoffa's fictional right-hand man.
  • Ace Ventura: Pet Detective from 1994, contains a scene where Ace seeks help from a computer geek. The computer geek is sending erroneous coordinates to some Norwegian whalers and states "...they will find Jimmy Hoffa before they find any whales!".
  • In Nutty Professor, released in 1996, professor Klump and his date go to a standup comedy show. Here they meet an insult comedian who, after seeing the obese professor claims "...they finally found where they hid Jimmy Hoffa" while referring to the professors bottom.
  • In the 2003 movie, Bruce Almighty, a police dog uncovers the body of Jimmy Hoffa along with his birth certificate and dental records, buried near a police training area in Buffalo, NY.

[edit] Television

  • The 1983 TV mini-series Blood Feud dramatized the conflict between Hoffa (portrayed by Robert Blake) and Robert F. Kennedy (portrayed by Cotter Smith).
  • During a witch hunt for a White House leak in the The West Wing episode Bad Moon Rising, Donna Moss leads C.J. Cregg to believe she is the source of the leak until she admits, jokingly, that "I'm a madwoman, CJ; and it doesn't stop with the leak... Call the authorities. Send them to my parents' house in Madison... They'll find the Lindbergh baby in the basement... Also some post-its reminding me where I put Jimmy Hoffa... I framed Roger Rabbit!".
  • The Simpsons parodied the myth that Hoffa was buried in a football stadium in the episode Last Exit to Springfield. Mr. Burns and Smithers comment on the strange disappearance of the power plant union president. Just then, in a brief cut-away scene, a football player is seen running to catch a ball, but he suddenly trips over a mound of dirt in the shape of a body.
  • Children's sitcom The Adventures of Pete & Pete included a scene where Little Pete tunneled beneath his lawn and discovered Hoffa's wallet stuffed with money (which he quickly appropriated).
  • A doctor operating on Tony Soprano in Episode 4 of Season 6 of The Sopranos feigned shock during the surgery, saying, "Oh my God... I just found Jimmy Hoffa."
  • The TV series MythBusters featured an episode where ground penetrating radar was used to search for Jimmy Hoffa's body at the Giants stadium.
  • On the Hit Show I Love the 80's, one of the scenes shows the opening of Al Capone's Secret Vault. Hal Sparks jokes they were going to find Jimmy Hoffa in an oil drum.
  • In episode #143 "I Coulda Been a Defendant" (1997) of the popular TV series Due South, Lt. Harding Welsh tells Stanley Kowalski, the second Ray Vecchio, to let a good samaritan go who had been taken in for questioning and, when Ray Vecchio insists on ID-ing the guy, replies: "All right, if he's Jimmy Hoffa, keep him. Anybody else, set him free."
  • In a special about Robert F. Kennedy on the Discovery Channel, a reporter claims he interviewed a mobster who claimed Hoffa's body was crushed, and then put into a smelter.
  • In episode 3x08 of Veronica Mars, "Lord of the Pis", Veronica interrogates a flakey sorority girl who gets frustrated with the line of questioning and comments, "God, what's with all the questions? What's next? You want to know where I buried Jimmy Hoffman?" Presumably meaning Jimmy Hoffa.

[edit] Music

  • Lord Infamous of Three 6 Mafia in the song Jealous Azz Bitch raps, "I'll be damned. It's Scarecrow and Gotti, Montana, and Hoffa. We choppin' off one on these f-cking ass bitches because they ain't got shit else to offer."
  • The hip-hop group Oddjobs mention Hoffa, rapping in Time Flies on their album Drums that "I even threw Jimmy Hoffa in the Minnehaha creek for sayin' Oddjobs was weak."
  • In his verse during the Notorious B.I.G.'s song Last Day, Jadakiss raps "...Lox and Poppa, turning niggaz into Jim Hoffa...".
  • In the song Buzz, Royce da 5'9" raps: "Silent, you're better all finding Hoffa. I've lost my mind. Sick man brought my nine".
  • The Hip-Hop Artist Jay-Z mentions Hoffa on His album "The Black Album" on the song "Allure" where he says: " I'm like a Russian mobster, drinking distilled Vodka; until i'm under the field with Hoffa; it's real"
  • Aimee Mann has a song Jimmy Hoffa Jokes.
  • In Lords of the Underground's song "Chief Rocka" there is a line stating "If you got beef then you can live with Jimmy Hoffa".
  • Snoop Dogg in the song "Bring it on" raps: "Old 'Blue Eyes,' Dogg Sinatra Make a nigga disappear like Jimmy Hoffa".

[edit] Books

  • Walter Sheridan's book The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa is noted as an account of Hoffa's trials in Tennessee. It is usually considered to be biased, however, as Sheridan was a lawyer working for Robert Kennedy.
  • Two other books are The Hoffa Wars by investigative reporter Dan Moldea, which details Hoffa's rise to power (see below); and Contract Killer by William Hoffman and Lake Headley, which attempts to examine Hoffa's murder in great detail.
  • Jimmy Hoffa is also a supporting character in the James Ellroy novel American Tabloid, where it is suggested that Jimmy enjoyed boating trips wherein he and friends would chum the waters and beat sharks to death with baseball bats. He also appears as a character in Ellroy's follow-up novel The Cold Six Thousand.

[edit] Other

  • In the computer game, World of Warcraft, a character fishing in the sewers of the Undercity has a chance of picking up an "Old Teamster's Skull", with the description of "Looks like someone didn't like this guy.", making reference to Jimmy Hoffa.
  • Hoffa is something of a recurring gag in the comic strip Piranha Club by Bud Grace. In one storyline, the lead character, Ernie, finds the frozen corpse of Jimmy Hoffa when he is stranded in Tibet. In another, an Amazon tribe kidnaps Sid's pet piranha, and replaces him with Jimmy Hoffa's shrunken head. Ernie and Arnold also finds Jimmy Hoffa frozen inside a glacier while scaling Mount Bayonne.
  • In the game Grand Theft Auto: III, the mission "Dead Skunk in The Trunk" is rumored to be based on Hoffa's death / disposal.
  • In the game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, a dead character is laying out of a bridge pillar, an allusion to Jimmy Hoffa's death.
  • In another video game, Destroy All Humans!, a rather humorous mention of Hoffa can be heard if a player scans a Union worker's mind.
  • Also, in the Microsoft game Close Combat III: Eastern Front, the player can right click on the terrain to receive relative information. In one of the Stalingrad "Red October" factory maps, there are many gasoline drums, one of which is listed as containing "Hoffa's Body".
  • Also in the N64 game Gex 64: Enter The Gecko, sometimes in the Toonland level (Second one), Gex will say "Phone call for Mr. Hoffa."
  • In Jim Bakker's heyday, it was popularly joked if one scraped off his wife Tammy Faye's makeup, one would find Jimmy Hoffa.

[edit] Bibliography

  • Charles Brandt, I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran and the inside story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the last ride of Jimmy Hoffa, Steerforth Press, Hanover (NH, USA) 2004 (ISBN 1-58642-077-1).
  • Dan E. Moldea, The Hoffa Wars, Charter Books, New York: 1978 (ISBN 0-441-34010-5).

[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Dave Beck
President of Teamsters Union (IBT)
Succeeded by:
Frank Fitzsimmons
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