The Chicago Syndicate: Jimmy Hoffa
Showing posts with label Jimmy Hoffa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jimmy Hoffa. Show all posts

Friday, August 01, 2014

Record Producer for Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Elton John, the Who and Marvin Gaye, Faces Charges on Mob Gambling Operation

A record producer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he helped run a gambling operation with mob ties.

Joe Isgro, 66, of Woodland Hills, Calif., was released on a $250,000 bond after being arraigned on gambling, conspiracy and money laundering charges in Manhattan Criminal Court.

The Manhattan DA’s office says Isgro and six others have participated in a conspiracy since 2005 to promote and profit from the use of illegal online gambling software.

The software was licensed to the Gambino crime family by an Arizona couple and various mob soldiers, operating both in the U.S. and in wire rooms in Costa Rica, the indictment says. Isgro was identified as one of those soldiers.

Isgro — who helped launch the careers of Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Elton John, the Who and Marvin Gaye — was also an executive producer of 1992’s “Hoffa,”starring Jack Nicholson as Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa.

Thanks to Barbara Ross.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Was Jimmy Hoffa Killed by Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran

It all started, and ended, on this day nearly four decades ago.

It was a hot July afternoon, nearly 92 degrees, when Teamsters president and labor icon Jimmy Hoffa is said to have opened the rear door of a 1975 maroon Mercury in the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox restaurant, in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and climbed in.

He was never seen again.

The FBI has expended countless resources in the ensuing decades in the hopes of finally solving this enduring American mystery with no success. But I believe, based on my 2004 investigation, that Frank Sheeran did it.

"Suspects Outside of Michigan: Francis Joseph "Frank" Sheeran, age 43, president local 326, Wilmington, Delaware. Resides in Philadelphia and is known associate of Russel Bufalino, La Cosa Nostra Chief, Eastern Pennsylvania," reads the 1976 HOFFEX memo, the compilation of everything investigators knew about Hoffa's disappearance that was prepared for a high level, secret conference at FBI headquarters six months after he vanished.

Sheeran, known as "The Irishman," told me that he drove with Hoffa to a nearby house where he shot him twice in the back of the head. Our investigation subsequently yielded the corroboration, the suspected blood evidence on the hardwood floor and down the hallway of that house, that supports Frank's story.

No one who has ever boasted about knowing what really happened to Jimmy Hoffa has had their claims tested, scrutinized, and then corroborated by independently discovered evidence... except Frank.

He is also the only one of the FBI's dozen suspects who has ever come forward and talked publicly about the killing, let alone admit involvement.

Every other claim that you have ever heard about, from Hoffa being buried in the end zone of Giants Stadium to being entombed under a strip of highway asphalt somewhere, came from people who were never on the bureau's list of people suspected of actual involvement.

For that reason, Frank stands alone.

Six weeks after Hoffa disappeared, Frank, along with the other suspects, was summoned before the Detroit grand jury investigating the case. He took the Fifth.

When I met him in the spring of 2001, Frank freely talked.

My meeting with Frank was arranged so that I could take his measure, and he mine, for a possible in-depth investigation, interview and news story about his claims. He was accompanied by his former lawyer Charlie Brandt, the author of Frank’s then-proposed biography, which tells the Hoffa story. Charlie had been able to spring Frank from a Mafia-related federal racketeering prison sentence, and for that reason was taken into Frank's confidence.

It would be three years before the book, ""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" would be published by Steerforth Press, and before the first of my many news stories about Frank, and our investigation, would air on television.

His story is this: He and others were ordered by the Mafia to kill Hoffa to prevent him from trying to run again for the presidency of the Teamsters union. Hoffa had resigned after serving prison time for jury tampering, attempted bribery and fraud convictions. Frank picked Hoffa up at the restaurant, accompanied by two others, to supposedly drive Hoffa to a mob meeting. When they walked into the empty house together, with Frank a step behind Hoffa, he raised his pistol at point-blank range and fired two fatal shots into his unsuspecting target, turned around and left. He said the body was then dragged down the hall by two awaiting accomplices, and that he was later told Hoffa was cremated at a mob-connected funeral home.

Frank had an imposing, old-school mobster way about him that even his advanced years -- he was 80-- did not betray. His menacing aura was not diminished by a severe case of arthritis that crippled him so badly that he was hunched over when he slowly walked with two canes, struggling to put one foot in front of the other.

I found Frank tough, determined, steely.

As I listened to his matter-of-fact recounting of what he said went down at that house, and giving such detail, I remember thinking what he was saying could actually be true.

Here's why:

There is no doubt that Frank was a close confidant of Hoffa, someone who Hoffa trusted. And Hoffa didn't trust very many.

Frank was both a long-time top Teamsters Union official in Delaware as well as an admitted Bufalino crime family hit-man and top aide to the boss himself.

The FBI admits that Frank was "known to be in Detroit area at the time of JRH disappearance, and considered to be a close friend of JRH," as the HOFFEX memo states.

Hoffa's son, current Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, told me in September 2001 that his father would have gotten into the car with Frank. He said that his father would not have taken that ride with some of the other FBI suspects whom I mentioned.

Frank, in the book, says that he sat in the front passenger seat of the car as a subtle warning to Hoffa, who habitually sat there. He felt a deep friendship and loyalty to Hoffa, yet knew what his own fate would be if he failed to carry out the lethal order from his mob masters. So he sat in the front seat hoping Hoffa would realize something was wrong. He did not.

The FBI did find "a single three-inch brown hair...in the rear seat back rest" of that car that matches Hoffa, and three dogs picked up "a strong indication of JRH scents in the rear right seat."

During my interview, I asked Frank if he remembered how to get to the house. I thought finding where Hoffa was killed, and investigating everything about the house, could be key to the case. Frank rattled off the driving directions from the restaurant and described the house's interior layout.

Killers may not remember an exact address of a murder scene, but they never forget how they got there and what they did when they arrived.

"Sheeran gave us the directions," Charlie wrote in the book. "This was the first time he had ever revealed the directions to me. His deepened voice and hard demeanor was chilling, when, for the first time ever, he stated publicly to someone other than me that he had shot Jimmy Hoffa."

A year after our meeting, Charlie and Frank drove to Detroit to try to find the house, and when they did Frank pointed it out to Charlie. They did not go in.

Three years later, in 2004, I, along with producer Ed Barnes and Charlie, first stepped foot into the foyer where Frank said he shot Hoffa, looked around the first floor and as it turned out, Frank's description fit the interior to a tee.

Ed and I arranged with the homeowners to actually take up the foyer and hallway floorboards and remove the press-on vinyl floor tiles that they had put down over the original hardwood floors when they bought the house in 1989.

We hired a forensic team of retired Michigan state police investigators to try to find any blood evidence. They sprayed the chemical luminol on the floors, which homicide detectives routinely use to discover the presence of blood.

We found it.

The testing revealed a specific pattern of blood evidence, laid out like a map of clues to the nation's most infamous unsolved murder. Little yellow numbered tags were placed throughout the first floor foyer and hallway, to mark each spot where the investigators' testing yielded positive hits.

The pattern certainly told the story of how Hoffa was killed.

The greatest amount of positive hits were found right next to the front door, where Hoffa's bleeding head would have hit the floor.

Seven more tags lined the narrow hallway toward the rear kitchen, marking the drops that perfectly mimic Frank's story of Hoffa’s lifeless body being dragged to the kitchen by the two waiting accomplices, who then stuffed it into a body bag and carried it out the back kitchen door.

We arranged for the Oakland County prosecutor's office to remove the floorboards for DNA testing by the FBI, though Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca cautioned that it would be "a miracle" if Hoffa's DNA was recovered.

I knew those odds. A DNA hit was beyond a long shot.

Experts told me that such tiny samples of genetic material, degraded by the passage of 29 years and exposure to air and the elements under a homeowner's heavily trafficked floor, would likely not provide enough material to result in a DNA match.

The FBI lab report says that chemical tests were conducted on 50 specimens; 28 tested positive for the possible presence of blood, and DNA was only recovered from two samples.

The FBI compared what was recovered to the DNA from a known strand of Hoffa's hair. One sample was found to be "of male origin," but it was not determined from whom. The other result was "largely inconclusive."

Was I disappointed that a DNA match was not possible? Yes. Was I surprised? No. Did I think this disproved Frank's claim? No.

Think about it.

What are the chances of any random house in America testing positive for blood traces from more than two dozen samples, in the exact pattern that corroborates a man's murder confession?

What would luminol reveal under your home's floor?

There are other reasons to believe why Frank's scenario fits.

The house was most likely empty on that fateful summer day. It was built in the 1920's and owned for five decades by a single woman, Martha Sellers, a teacher and department store employee. By the summer of 1975, Sellers was in her 80s, and not even living there full time. Her family told The Detroit News and Free Press that she had bought another home in Plymouth, Mich., where she would move permanently the next year.

In his book, Frank says that a man he called "a real estater" lived in the house. The Sellers family remembered that boarder, who they recalled resided in an upstairs bedroom. He was described as "a shadowy figure...who would disappear. He never said more than a few words and they know nothing about him, not even his name."

It is quite possible that "the real estater," was the link between the house and the Detroit mob, providing an empty house as needed, when Sellers was absent, for whatever purpose...including using it as a Mafia hit house to murder Jimmy Hoffa.

The FBI clearly believed Sheeran had credibility.  Agents visited him in his final years, in an unsuccessful attempt to secure his cooperation.

While we were conducting our investigation in Detroit in 2004, the FBI, I was told, tried to find the house even before we aired our story.

And the views of those closest to Jimmy Hoffa, his son and daughter seem especially relevant when assessing Frank's credibility.

Not only did James P. Hoffa confirm that his father would have driven off with Frank, but his sister, Hoffa's daughter, Barbara Crancer, wrote Frank a poignant letter begging him to come clean about their father's fate.

The one-page heartfelt note, handwritten to Frank on March 5, 1995, is detailed in the book.

"It is my personal belief that there are many people who called themselves loyal friends who know what happened to James R. Hoffa, who did it and why. The fact that not one of them has ever told his family -- even under a vow of secrecy, is painful to me..." Hoffa's daughter wrote.

She then underlined: "I believe you are one of those people."

Crancer confirmed to me that she wrote that letter.

Sadly for the Hoffa family, Frank never directly honored her request. When I sat with him, he said that his No. 1 priority was not to go back to "college," meaning prison. He decided that the best way to avoid that possibility, while also revealing his story, was to cooperate with Charlie for the book and to share his secrets with me for my investigation and reporting.

Frank died on Dec. 14, 2003. He was 83.

While authorities no doubt will continue to respond to more tips, as they should, I believe that we already know what happened to Jimmy Hoffa.

Frank described the most precise and credible scenario yet to be recounted, and the evidence that we found from the floor backs up his confession.

Thanks to Eric Shawn.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

"The Quiet Don: The Untold Story of Russell Bufalino, the Mob's Most Fearsome Kingpin" Investigates Former Gov. Ed Rendell's Involvement with Awarding Lucrative Casino Licenses in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania state police ran a top-secret investigation into whether then-Gov. Ed Rendell and his administration rigged the outcome of the casino licensing process to benefit favored applicants, including a wealthy and politically connected businessman suspected of having mob ties, a new book asserts. But the probe failed to lead to criminal charges against anyone in the administration or on the state gambling board, and prosecutors blamed the state Supreme Court for thwarting the investigation, according to "The Quiet Don," a forthcoming book by Matt Birkbeck that also serves as the first full-length biography of reclusive northeastern Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino.

Birkbeck covered the troubled beginnings of Pennsylvania's casino industry as a newspaper reporter, and here he pieces together the yearslong effort by state police and local prosecutors to probe whether corruption was involved in the awarding of the lucrative casino licenses.

The narrative emerges from interviews with dozens of participants, including now-retired Lt. Col. Ralph Periandi, the No. 2 official in the Pennsylvania State Police.

Periandi initiated the probe in 2005 because he suspected that "Rendell, members of his administration and others in state government might be trying to control the new gaming industry in Pennsylvania," Birkbeck writes.

Rendell did not return a call for comment. He has long denied any impropriety.

The book follows Periandi and his small, secret "Black Ops" team of covert investigators as they dig into the gambling board, the Rendell administration and Louis DeNaples, a powerful northeastern Pennsylvania businessman who'd been awarded a casino license despite questions about his suitability.

DeNaples was eventually charged with perjury in January 2008 for allegedly lying to state gambling regulators about whether he had connections to Bufalino - the titular "quiet don" - and other mob figures. Prosecutors later dropped the charges in an agreement that required DeNaples to turn over Mount Airy Casino Resort to his daughter. DeNaples has long denied any ties to the mob.

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico agreed to the DeNaples deal because "the Supreme Court had interfered in his case twice already, and he feared that no matter what he did, the court would see to it that the DeNaples prosecution would never move forward," Birkbeck writes.

The author said investigators "basically stepped on a bee's nest" when they went after DeNaples.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille did not return a call placed to his office. He has rejected similar allegations about Supreme Court interference in the gambling industry as ludicrous, slanderous and irresponsible.

"The Quiet Don" traces Bufalino's ascent to mob boss, including his role in organizing the infamous 1957 meeting of Mafia leaders in Apalachin, N.Y., his control of the garment industry in New York and Philadelphia, and his control of the Teamsters union and its leader, Jimmy Hoffa.

The book asserts that it was Bufalino who ordered a hit on Hoffa, a claim also made in the 2004 Mafia memoir "I Heard You Paint Houses," in which confessed mob hitman Frank Sheeran said he killed Hoffa on Bufalino's say-so. Hoffa disappeared in 1975; his body has never been found.

What's new here is the reason: Birkbeck writes Bufalino was upset by a 1975 Time magazine article that linked him, for the first time, to the CIA's attempts to enlist the Mafia to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and he feared Hoffa would tell Senate investigators what he knew about the failed plot.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Top Ten Signs You Have A Bad Summer Job

Top Ten Signs You Have A Bad Summer Job by David Letterman

10. Each day begins with the North Korean pledge of allegiance

9. You spend ten hours a day digging for Jimmy Hoffa

8. They make you share a whistle

7. Sign in restroom reads "Employees Must Wash Each Other"

6. Your parents lie and tell people you're a stripper

5. A big part of your day involves dodging Federales

4. Even the interns address you with "Out of the way, loser!"

3. To go home at the end of the day you have to escape

2. You work alongside this guy (VT: Chinese baggage handler)

1. You greet people with, "Welcome aboard Carnival Cruise Lines"

Monday, June 17, 2013

#JimmyHoffa Remains to be Found in Shallow Michigan Grave Today?

The FBI is planning to dig in a Detroit-area field Monday in a hunt for the remains of former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, according to a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the investigation.

Agents on Monday morning were executing a search warrant for a field in Oakland Township, north of Detroit, based in part on information provided by Tony Zerilli, a man alleged to have been a mobster.

Earlier this year, Zerilli told New York's NBC 4 that Hoffa was buried in a Michigan field about 20 miles north of where he was last seen in 1975.

The FBI has spent months looking into Zerilli's claims before seeking court authorization to excavate the field and look for evidence of a shallow grave, according to the source.

Hoffa, then 62, was last seen on July 30, 1975, outside a Detroit-area restaurant. The FBI said at the time that the disappearance could have been linked to Hoffa's efforts to regain power in the Teamsters and to the mob's influence over the union's pension funds.

Hoffa's disappearance and presumed death has vexed investigators for almost four decades. As recently as October, soil samples were taken from a home in the suburban Detroit community after a tipster claimed he saw a body buried in the yard a day after Hoffa disappeared in 1975.

The soil samples were tested, and showed no evidence of human remains or decomposition.

Zerilli, freed in 2008 after his last prison sentence, was convicted of crimes in connection with organized crime in Detroit. Keith Corbett, a former U.S. attorney, told CNN earlier this year that Zerilli headed a Detroit organized crime family from 1970 to 1975, but was in prison when Hoffa disappeared.

Zerilli told CNN affiliate WDIV-TV that a "Mafia enforcer" informed him that Hoffa was buried in the Oakland Township field as a temporary measure, and that the remains were to be moved to another spot near a hunting lodge after the heat died down from a massive police attempt to find Hoffa.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jimmy Hoffa Buried in Detroit Suburbs According to Reputed Mafia Capo Tony Zerilli

A man convicted of crimes as a reputed Mafia captain is claiming missing Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa was buried in suburban Detroit.

Tony Zerilli was in prison when Hoffa disappeared from a Detroit-area restaurant in 1975, but tells New York TV station WNBC he was informed about Hoffa's whereabouts after his release. The ailing 85-year-old took a reporter to a field near Rochester, north of Detroit, but no exact location was disclosed. The report was also aired on Detroit's WDIV.

"The master plan was ... they were going to put him in a shallow grave here," Zerilli said. "Then, they were going to take him from here to Rogers City upstate. There was a hunting lodge and they were going to bury in a shallow grave, then take him up there for final burial. Then, I understand, that it just fell through."

Zerilli did not say during the aired interview why he chose to make his claims now. WNBC reported he is promoting an upcoming book titled "Hoffa Found," the website for which promises to reveal details about Hoffa's death.

No listed phone number for Zerilli could be found Monday by The Associated Press.

The FBI declined to comment when asked if Zerilli's claims were credible. Former Detroit FBI head Andrew Arena said the remarks deserve serious consideration."Anthony Zerilli was reputed to be the underboss of the Detroit organized crime family, so he would have been in the know," Arena said.

Zerilli's criminal record includes a 2002 conviction for conspiracy and extortion. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

Hoffa, Teamsters president from 1957-71, was an acquaintance of mobsters and adversary to federal officials. The day he disappeared, he was supposed to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain.

In September, police took soil from a suburban backyard after a tip Hoffa had been buried there. It was just one of many fruitless searches. Previous tips led police to a horse farm northwest of Detroit in 2006, a Detroit home in 2004 and a backyard pool two hours north of the city in 2003.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jimmy Hoffa Buried Under Driveway in Roseville, Michigan?

Investigators will take soil samples from the ground beneath a suburban Detroit driveway after a man told police he believes he witnessed the burial of missing Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa about 35 years ago, police said Wednesday.

Roseville Police Chief James Berlin said his department received a tip from a man who said he saw a body buried approximately 35 years ago and "thinks it may have been Jimmy he saw interred."

"We are not claiming it's Jimmy Hoffa, the timeline doesn't add up," Berlin said. "We're investigating a body that may be at the location."

Hoffa was last seen on July 30, 1975, outside a suburban Detroit restaurant where he was supposed to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain. His body has not been found despite a number of searches over the years.

Innumerable theories about the demise of the union boss have surfaced over time. Among them: He was entombed in concrete at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, ground up and thrown in a Florida swamp or obliterated in a mob-owned fat-rendering plant. The search has continued under a backyard pool north of Detroit in 2003, under the floor of a Detroit home in 2004 and at a horse farm northwest of Detroit in 2006.

After Roseville police received the most recent tip, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality used ground penetrating radar on a 12-foot-by-12-foot patch beneath the driveway, said agency spokesman Brad Wurfel. It found "that the earth had been disturbed at some point in time," Berlin said.

The environmental quality department on Friday will take soil samples that will be sent to a forensic anthropologist at Michigan State University to "have it tested for human decomposition," Berlin said.

Results are not expected until next week.

The FBI had no immediate comment on the new effort in Roseville. Andrew Arena, who recently retired as head of the FBI in Michigan, told Detroit TV station WDIV that all leads must be followed, but he would be surprised if Hoffa is buried there.

Thanks to Corey Williams.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Peter Bart's "Infamous Players: A Tale of Movies, the Mob (and Sex)"

He was a tall, silver-haired man, square-jawed with a military bearing, always impeccably attired in a dark blue suit. It was only a few weeks into my Paramount job when I came to understand that His visits were a daily occurrence, but did not linger or chat with anyone other than (Paramount head of production) Bob Evans, nor did anyone on staff ever refer to him or acknowledge his visits. Korshak was the ghost who was always there but never there.

Evans had talked earlier about him once or twice, always in a manner that betrayed not only respect but near-reverence. Sidney Korshak was not so much his personal attorney (he never paid him) or even his mentor as he was his consigliere. And when Korshak arrived for an Evans audience, all other plans would be set aside. Whoever happened to be in the reception room would have to wait until the big man had come and gone from Evans' sanctum sanctorum. And this procedure was replicated by other power players at other offices in town, as I was to learn.

Sidney Korshak, it seemed to me, was the man who knew everything -- the big corporate deals as well as the personal peccadilloes. It was some time before I also realized that Korshak was the man who knew too much.

It was Korshak's role in life to dwell simultaneously in two separate and distinct worlds which, in his grand design, would remain hermetically sealed against each other. There was his celebrity world -- he liked to drop names like Kirk Douglas or Dinah Shore or Debbie Reynolds, or to casually mention that he'd just had dinner with Sinatra in Las Vegas, or with Nancy and Ronnie Reagan in Beverly Hills. But he would never mention his other friends, like Tony Accardo or Sam Giancana from the Chicago mob or Jimmy Hoffa from the Teamsters or Moe Dalitz from Vegas.

Korshak would allude to the corporate deals he made on behalf of Lew Wasserman or Howard Hughes, but he never confided what he knew about Bugsy Siegel's murder or Hoffa's disappearance.

Korshak's life was built around a web of secrecy, and he was convinced that he would always be able to move effortlessly from one world to the next. It was only later in his life that he, too, found himself trapped. As the dangers in his nether life became more ominous, Korshak was unable to extricate himself from his underworld bonds. The celebrities would continue to decorate his life, like glitzy toys, but the bad boys would always be hovering out there with their furtive demands and threats. …

Over the years my relationship with Korshak remained distanced but cordial. He never directly asked anything from me nor subjected me to his power games. When his son, Harry, began to produce movies at Paramount -- I never figured out precisely how this deal came about -- Korshak said to me he would "appreciate it" if I were to "look out" for Harry and provide advice if he began to stray. But when young Harry's career did not go well, Korshak was the first to inform his son that he would do well to pursue other career possibilities.In observing Korshak's superbly surreptitious maneuverings over time, I began to accept a reality none of us wanted to openly address. Sidney Korshak was a gangster, albeit a very civil and well-groomed gangster. The bad boys had achieved major clout in the entertainment industry, and Korshak, despite all his secrecy, represented the embodiment of that clout.

Ironically, while Korshak yearned for the trappings of "respectability," his pals in Hollywood venerated him, not for his cool or his great wardrobe or even for his lawyering skills, but rather for his fabled underworld ties. …Bob Evans, for one, had always romanticized the lore of the gangster -- hence his lifelong ambition to make the movie about the mythic, mobster-owned Cotton Club, which ultimately came to haunt him. Charlie Bluhdorn,founder of Gulf + Western, which owned Par, had a longstanding flirtation with the shadow world out of fringe financiers in Europe and ended up doing deals that resulted in prison sentences for his partners and almost for himself. (Paramount president) Frank Yablans subscribed to mobster mythology to such a degree that he even agreed to play the role of an underworld thug in a movie titled "Mikey and Nicky." He was in rehearsal on the film before an apoplectic Bluhdorn vetoed his participation (even the often reckless Bluhdhorn realized the potential jeopardy to his corporate image).

Thanks to Peter Bart

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese Team Up on New Mob Movie "The Irishman"

Fresh from his box office disappointment with "Little Fockers,” Robert De Niro will team up with Martin Scorsese in yet another Irish-themed movie for the acclaimed director.

Scorsese’s recent films have included “The Departed” about Irish cops and corruption in Boston, “Gangs of New York” about the Irish in Civil War-era New York City, and now “the Irishman” about an Irish mafia hit man.

The film is based on the book “I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa” by former prosecutor and Chief Deputy Attorney General of the State of Delaware Charles Brandt, which told of the exploits of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a mob hitman who confessed to Brandt that he killed Jimmy Hoffa. The story will be adapted for the screen by Steve Zallian, who also worked with Scorsese on “Gangs of New York.”

“The Irishman” will mark the ninth time Scorsese and De Niro have teamed up. The two have worked together in such films as “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” and “Goodfellas.”


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Plans to Dig Up the Old Giants Stadium to Search for Jimmy Hoffa's Body?

What do the New York Giants and Jets have in common with Jimmy Hoffa? Not much, unless you buy into the long-festering urban legend that they all shared the same residence in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

But now, the two football teams are headed to a new $1.6 billion facility nearby dubbed the New Meadowlands. And their departure may be the best opportunity to finally put to rest the endless stories that Hoffa is not "swimming with the fishes" in the swamps of New Jersey. Or is it?

The old stadium, which opened in 1976 and is often referred to as Giants Stadium, is being razed, with demolition beginning Thursday.

Urban lore has it that Hoffa, Plans to Dig Up the Old Giants Stadium to Search for Jimmy Hoffa's Body?the long-missing Teamsters leader, was killed by members of organized crime and buried in the end zone, or thereabouts, in Giants Stadium.

Representatives for the New Meadowlands stadium said that the field won't be dug up, but that the stadium will be torn down in large pieces and the land eventually will be a parking lot.

Is it possible that football and soccer players -- not to mention the hundreds of thousands of fans who have visited the stadium for concerts over the years -- have trod near the former union leader?

Few urban legends continue to capture the imagination like the disappearance of a union boss with a murky past. The story is now a traditional butt of comedians' jokes, and one shouldn't be surprised that in 2004, the show "Mythbusters" devoted a segment searching for Hoffa. Several areas of the field were tested, but nothing was found. Conclusive? Perhaps not. If you listen closely, you can hear Geraldo Rivera kicking himself for not doing an hourlong special.

A Google search of "Jimmy Hoffa" reveals many theories and opinions on the whereabouts of the controversial union leader, who was reportedly last seen in a suburban Detroit restaurant.

Hoffa skipped off to Brazil with a "go-go dancer" one union official swore. The Weekly World News claims NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has revealed Hoffa's body in a large hidden compartment with a special concrete block. "Crushed in automobile compactor" and "Ground up at a meat processing plant and dumped in Florida" are some of the other theories. Director Quentin Tarantino must be excited about the possibilities.

So just how did Hoffa supposedly end up in the end zone of a football stadium in New Jersey? According to one account, his body was mixed into concrete that was later used to construct the stadium. But why does this story seem to resonate and remain one of the top theories?

Jeff Hansen, an author and former Detroit police officer, says the rumors probably linger because the stadium is a well-known landmark. "It's the NFL," he said. "It's construction, organized crime and cement. Everyone wants to play on that."

Hansen did his own research, and in his recently released book "Digging for the Truth: The Final Resting Place of Jimmy Hoffa," he says the union leader was probably killed closer to home in Michigan and disposed of in a crematorium.

John Samerjan is vice president of public affairs at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which oversees the Meadowlands Sports Complex. He says he's heard it all before, and he dismisses the story by saying, "It's a complete urban myth."

"There was this mob lore that the mob dumped bodies in the weeds before the stadium was built. The meadowlands region was 'the weeds.' No one has taken this seriously," he said. "It would often come up because every so often, a mobster would write a book or a magazine article. I was here eight years ago when the calls came flooding in."

The rumor mill was so out of control then that a former publicity official recalled recently that the stadium posted a "He's not here" message on its electronic billboard outside the stadium.

The FBI office in Detroit says the investigation of Hoffa's disappearance is ongoing. "We follow up on leads," Detroit FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.

The FBI office in Newark, New Jersey, doesn't plan to send anyone to the stadium when it's torn down. "Nope" was the response from Newark FBI spokesman Brian Travers, who says he's fielded several recent calls from the media about the matter.

"My question to you," Travers replied about the seemingly lunacy of the question, "is why would anyone think we would wait this long. We would have dug up the 50 yard line during the Super Bowl a long time ago if there was any credence to the rumor."

The issue of digging is very sensitive for New York sports fans. During the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, a construction worker, and Red Sox fan, buried a Red Sox jersey in wet concrete, hoping to hex the Yankees. The Yankees spent thousands of dollars to dig up the jersey and, in doing so, perhaps averted a future curse and urban legend.

Superstitious? The Yankees won the 2009 World Series.

Thanks to Chris Kokenes

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Prosecutorial Misconduct in the Hoffa Conviction?

The government's hard-won conviction of Jimmy Hoffa on jury-tampering charges is under assault 45 years later.

A retired law professor has persuaded a federal judge to consider unsealing secret grand jury records to set the historical record straight. William L. Tabac wants to prove his theory that the Justice Department - then led by Hoffa's nemesis, Robert Kennedy - used illegal wiretaps and improper testimony to indict the Teamsters leader.

"I think there is prosecutorial misconduct in the case, which included the prosecutors who prosecuted it and the top investigator for the Kennedy Department of Justice," Tabac said.

James Neal, the special prosecutor who convicted Hoffa in 1964 in Chattanooga, calls the claim "baloney." But the petition from Tabac, who taught at Cleveland State University and has been gripped by the Hoffa case since his days as a law clerk, will be heard Monday in a Nashville courtroom.

To prepare for the hearing, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Todd J. Campbell ordered the Justice Department, FBI and other agencies to turn over any sealed records from the Hoffa grand jury related to testimony by investigator Walter Sheridan, wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping.

It's yet another post-mortem look into the affairs of the controversial trade union leader, whose career, disappearance and presumed death continue to spawn conspiracy theories decades later.

The special grand jury convened in 1963 after the federal government had failed for the fourth time to convict Hoffa of corruption charges while he led the Teamsters. The grand jury indicted Hoffa on charges of jury tampering in a Nashville case that accused Hoffa of taking payoffs from trucking companies but ended in mistrial.

A jury in Chattanooga found Hoffa and three co-defendants guilty. Hoffa, later convicted in Chicago of fraud and conspiracy, continued as Teamsters president even as he served four years in prison until stepping aside and getting his sentence commuted by President Richard Nixon in 1971.

Multiple reports describe open animosity between Hoffa and Kennedy, who investigated Hoffa while in the Senate and as attorney general.

Tabac contends the indictment may have been based only or in part on the testimony of Walter Sheridan, a Kennedy special assistant who headed the investigation. Sheridan's testimony "was, in effect, Kennedy's," said Tabac.

"Even during the Cuban missile crisis he (Kennedy) was in touch with Nashville all the time," Tabac said. "I believe he testified to the grand jury through his top aide and I believe it was wrong, especially if that is the basis on which he (Hoffa) was indicted."

Tabac (TAY'-bak) also thinks Edward Grady Partin, a Teamsters official and Hoffa confidant who testified for the prosecution, may have worn a concealed microphone to record conversations with Hoffa and those were heard by the grand jurors.

Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, Partin died in 1990 and Sheridan, who wrote the 1972 book The Hoffa Wars: The Rise and Fall of Jimmy Hoffa, died in 1995. Tabac says only the grand jury records can reveal what happened.

Federal prosecutors oppose Tabac's petition, saying it doesn't meet Supreme Court standards for lifting grand jury secrecy.

Hoffa was last seen in July 1975 in suburban Detroit, where he was supposed to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain.

Hoffa was declared legally dead but his body has never been found, spawning innumerable theories about his demise. Among them: He was entombed in concrete at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, ground up and thrown in a Florida swamp or obliterated in a mob-owned fat-rendering plant. The search has continued into this decade, under a backyard pool north of Detroit in 2003, under the floor of a Detroit home in 2004 and at a horse farm in 2006.

Neal, a fledgling lawyer when Kennedy chose him to prosecute Hoffa, said the government did nothing illegal. "Apparently, he (Tabac) thinks if he got the grand jury material he would see that we obtained evidence by wiretaps. It's baloney," Neal said.

Even if Tabac can prove his theory, it's unclear if that would lead to overturning the conviction. "The problem is just that everyone is dead, so it is pretty hard to do," Tabac said. "If there is perjured testimony, I think the relatives may have standing to bring some kind of ... name-clearing procedure."

Thanks to Bill Poovey

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Keith Corbett, Federal Prosecutor Who Helped Break the Detroit Mafia, to Retire

The federal prosecutor who helped break the Detroit Mafia is calling it quits.

Keith Corbett, 59, the cigar-chomping assistant U.S. Attorney who ran the office's Organized Crime Strike Force, said he plans to retire on Jan. 3 because of shifting priorities in the Justice Department and because, well, he's worn out.

"I don't want to be one of those old guys sitting around talking about the good old days and telling people how we used to do it," Corbett told the Free Press. He said he hasn't decided what he'll do next.

Coworkers -- as well as criminal lawyers who've matched wits with Corbett -- said they'll be sorry to see him go.

"He's as good on his feet as any lawyer who ever walked into a courtroom," said Detroit criminal lawyer Robert Morgan, a former federal prosecutor.

Morgan and others say Corbett can try cases with little preparation, yet recall key evidence with lethal precision.

Corbett is a cocky, street-smart Irish kid from Brooklyn, the son of a New York City cop.

After graduating in 1967 from a seminary with plans to become a priest, Corbett enrolled at Canisius College in Buffalo, where his plans changed. After getting a political science degree in 1971, he enrolled at Notre Dame University and got his law degree in 1974.

Corbett, who by then had married, landed a job at the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office.

In 1977, he joined a Pontiac law firm to boost his income, but didn't like civil law. The next year, he joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit and eventually was assigned to the strike force.

In 1980, he won racketeering convictions against Detroit Mafia captains Peter Vitale and Rafaelle Quassarano for extorting money from a western Michigan cheese company. The FBI has long suspected that the body of former Teamsters' boss Jimmy Hoffa was incinerated at their garbage disposal facility in Hamtramck.

In the mid-1980s, Corbett helped convict mayoral associate Darralyn Bowers and then-Detroit Water and Sewer Director Charles Beckham in the Vista Disposal bribery scandal.

Corbett went back to private practice in 1989, but quickly returned to his prosecutor job and was put in charge of the strike force a year later.

His biggest victory came in the late 1990s when he helped convict the top leaders of the Detroit Mafia of racketeering and other charges spanning three decades. The case demolished the Detroit mob. But he got in trouble in 2003 by helping a subordinate, then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino, prosecute the first terrorism trial to result from the federal 9/11 probe.

Though two North African immigrants were convicted of aiding terrorism, the case imploded when the U.S. Attorney's Office learned that the prosecutors had withheld key evidence from the defendants.

Convertino resigned. He was indicted on a charge of obstruction of justice, but was later acquitted. He sued his former bosses.

Corbett told investigators he joined the case at the last minute and didn't know evidence was being withheld. Though he wasn't charged, Corbett did suffer the indignity of having his strike force merged with another unit and was demoted.

Defense lawyers said they don't hold Corbett responsible for hiding evidence, but added that he should have done a better job of supervising Convertino.

Earlier this year, Corbett's bosses considered putting him on the trial team that pursued prominent Southfield lawyer Geoffrey Fieger on campaign-finance charges, knowing that Corbett wouldn't be intimidated by the outspoken Fieger or his legendary criminal lawyer, Gerry Spence. Corbett ultimately was not assigned to the case, which Fieger won.

"I don't know if it would have had any impact, but it would have been a lot of fun," Corbett said mischievously.

Thanks to David Ashenfelter

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Martin Scorsese to Direct Robert DeNiro as Mob Assassin Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran

Paramount Pictures is plotting a return to organized crime for Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Studio has set Steve Zaillian to adapt "I Heard You Paint Houses," the book about the mob assassin who many believe was involved in the death of Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa.

Scorsese is attached to direct. De Niro will play Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran, who is reputed to have carried out more than 25 mob murders. Pic will be produced by Scorsese and Tribeca partners De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. Project landed at Paramount through the overall deal that the studio has with Scorsese’s Sikelia Prods.

Pic’s title refers to mob slang for contract killings, and the resulting blood splatter on walls and floors. Book was written by Charles Brandt, who befriended Sheeran shortly before the latter’s death in 2003. Among the crimes Sheeran confessed to Brandt, according to the 2004 book, was the killing and dismemberment of Hoffa, carried out on orders from mob boss Russell Bufalino.

Zaillian most recently scripted the Frank Lucas crime saga "American Gangster" and was a co-writer of the Scorsese-directed "Gangs of New York." Scorsese also brought in Zaillian to script "Schindler’s List," before turning over the project to Steven Spielberg and instead directing De Niro in "Cape Fear." Zaillian won an Oscar for his "Schindler’s List" script.

Scorsese just completed a screen adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel "Shutter Island" for Paramount with Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s in the midst of settling on his next directing project, with "Silence," "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "The Long Play" at the top of his list.

De Niro has wrapped the Kirk Jones-directed "Everybody’s Fine" with Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale and Drew Barrymore. He’s also plotting a re-team with "Heat" director Michael Mann on "Frankie Machine," an adaptation of the Don Winslow novel that is also at Paramount.

Thanks to Michael Flemming

Friday, September 12, 2008

Chicago Outfit and New York Families Stretch their Connections Beyond Las Vegas to San Diego

On August 31, the Union-Tribune printed an obituary on the death of Allard Roen, one of the original developers of Carlsbad’s La Costa Resort and Spa. He was living there when he died August 28 at age 87.

The U-T’s obituary was a typical, dutiful encomium. It did not mention the background of one of Roen’s major partners in La Costa and other projects, Moe Dalitz. He was among the 20th Century’s most notorious gangsters, as the Senate Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, known as the Kefauver Committee, pointed out in 1950 and 1951. In fact, a book that is now a best seller, T.J. English’s Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution, notes that Dalitz, then 47, attended the famed Havana Conference at Cuba’s Hotel Nacional in late December 1946. According to English, a select group of 22 dignitaries caucused to strategize the American mob’s plan to make Cuba a Western Hemisphere vice haven. The group included Giuseppe (Joe Bananas) Bonanno, Vito (Don Vito) Genovese, Meyer Lansky of Murder Inc. and the Bugs and Meyer Mob, Charles (Lucky) Luciano, Luciano’s sidekick and “Prime Minister of the Underworld” Frank Costello, Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante Jr., Joe Adonis, and Tony (Big Tuna) Accardo, former bodyguard for Al (Scarface) Capone and later head of the Chicago mob. The book points out that Dalitz had been a partner with Lansky in the Molaska Corporation.

Timothy L. O’Brien, author of Bad Bet : The Inside Story of the Glamour, Glitz, and Danger of America's Gambling Industry, writes that Dalitz had run “the Cleveland branch of Charlie ‘Lucky’ Luciano and Meyer Lansky’s nascent Mafia.” Decades later, Dalitz was known as the caretaker “of underworld investments in Las Vegas.”

A Federal Bureau of Investigation official said in 1978, “The individual who oversees the operations of the La Cosa Nostra families in Las Vegas is Moe Dalitz,” according to James Neff’s Mobbed Up: Jackie Presser's High-Wire Life in the Teamsters, the Mafia, and the FBI.

After Prohibition’s repeal knocked out his bootlegging business, Dalitz went into the illegal casino business in southern Ohio and Kentucky. He then became the Big Boss in Vegas, arranging casino financing from the mob-tainted Teamsters Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund and keeping track of the books at such spas as the Desert Inn, where Roen was also a key figure. In the late 1940s, Dalitz resurrected crooner Frank Sinatra’s sagging career by giving him gigs at the Desert Inn.

Roen, who in the 1960s pleaded guilty in the United Dye and Chemical securities fraud, joined with Dalitz, Irwin Molasky, and Merv Adelson to build Las Vegas’s Sunrise Hospital with Teamster funds. They tapped Teamster funds for other investments. That Central States fund was essentially a piggy bank controlled by Jimmy Hoffa.

The fund played a key role in San Diego. It loaned $100 million to San Diego’s Irvin J. Kahn, a mobbed-up financier who used the money to develop Peñasquitos. He also got a concealed loan of $800,000 from a tiny Swiss bank named the Cosmos Bank, which made other mob-related loans before being closed up by joint action of the United States and Switzerland in the 1970s.

But the Central States Teamster fund’s big investment was La Costa. The interim loans were made by U.S. National Bank, controlled by C. Arnholt Smith, named “Mr. San Diego” by the Downtown Rotary Club and “Mr. San Diego of the Century” by a reporter for the San Diego Union. Following the interim loans, the Teamster fund would assume the U.S. National loans. There was a cozy relationship. Frank Fitzsimmons, who became head of the Teamsters after Jimmy Hoffa was exterminated, used to come down to watch the Smith-owned minor-league Padres play. And Fitzsimmons would play golf in San Diego with politician Richard Nixon.

The Union-Tribune’s recent panegyric to Roen mentioned that in 1975 Penthouse magazine ran an article charging that La Costa was a hangout for mobsters, and the founders sued for libel. Here’s how the U-T summed up the result: “A 10-year court battled ensued until La Costa accepted a written apology from the magazine.” This is a rank distortion. A joke.

“San Diego leadership has a tendency to fall in love with people with big bucks who come into town,” says Mike Aguirre, city attorney. The La Costa founders “were one of the first big-bucks boys who rode into town, and the welcome wagon was driven by C. Arnholt Smith.” The U-T then, and to this day, protects the roughriders who bring their sacks of money to San Diego.

Aguirre was one attorney representing Penthouse in the suit. He and his colleagues parsed every sentence in the article. The Penthouse trial lawyer rattled off to the jury the names of those who had shown up at La Costa, including Hoffa, Dalitz, Lansky, and many other hoods. And here is the key: the jury exonerated the magazine, agreeing that it had proved that everything it said was true.

It turned out that the judge, Kenneth Gale, had formerly been a lawyer for Jimmy “the Weasel” Fratianno, a notorious mob hit man who had begun cooperating with the government. Fratianno was to testify for Penthouse about the mobsters who habituated La Costa. Gale wouldn’t let the magazine’s lawyer question Fratianno. Judge Gale had also previously represented an infamous union racketeer, as related by Matt Potter in a 1999 Reader story.

After Gale threw out Penthouse’s victory, the magazine thought it could win a retrial, but after ten years and $8 million in legal expenses, Penthouse issued an innocuous statement, saying that it “did not mean to imply nor did it intend for its readers to believe that Messrs. Adelson and Molasky are or were members of organized crime or criminals” (italics mine). Note that Dalitz and Roen were not included in that statement. The magazine praised Dalitz and Roen for their “civic and philanthropic activities.”

Then La Costa owners lauded Penthouse for its “personal and professional awards.” It was a détente sans sincerity.

Dalitz died in 1989 at age 89, leaving a daughter in Rancho Santa Fe. She is involved in many peace and politically progressive activities. Her attorney was once San Diego’s James T. Waring, who didn’t last long as Mayor Jerry Sanders’s real estate czar.

The information on Waring ran in detail in the Reader in early 2006. San Diego’s leaders, always friendly to moneybags, didn’t appreciate the story.

Thanks to Don Bauder

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Chicago's Crooked Chief of Detectives

On a gloomy winter day in 1983, two gunmen ambushed a businessman named Allen Dorfman as he walked across a hotel parking lot in suburban Chicago.

The city's infamous Outfit mob might as well have left a calling card. The killers pumped seven shots into Dorfman's head. It was a classic gangland whacking.

Dorfman, 60, had been a lieutenant of International Brotherhood of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. He got rich as proprietor of the union's murky pension funds but had been convicted of bribery a month before his murder. Facing life in prison, he was rumored to be cutting a deal to implicate both Teamsters and gangsters.

Chicago gumshoes stifled a yawn over the rubout. It was an occupational hazard murder, like a drug deal gone bad. But one detail stopped cops cold. In Dorfman's little black book, investigators found the name of Bill Hanhardt, chief of detectives of the Chicago Police Department.

Hanhardt was a Windy City legend for his devilish ability to think like a criminal. He had collared dozens of hard-to-find perps, including several cop killers.

A Chicago cop since 1953, Hanhardt was seen as a bridge between old-school, sap-carrying policing and more enlightened modern methods. By reputation, he was as brainy as Inspector Morse, as leathery as Kojak, as passionate as Detective Sipowicz.

But was he honest?

Questions about mob connections had dogged Hanhardt for much of his career, even as he was being promoted to sensitive command positions.

In 1979, Hanhardt was booted down to the traffic squad after he was accused of playing footsy with mobsters who ruled the city's corrupt downtown ward.

Yet, just months later, he was promoted to being chief of detectives by Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek after the election of Mayor Jane Byrne.

Even after his name turned up in Dorfman's black book, Hanhardt was allowed to enjoy the twilight of his police career as a district commander.

In 1986, while still on the job, he acted as a defense witness in the Nevada conspiracy trial of Anthony Spilotro, the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas. Hanhardt's testimony helped discredit one of the mobster's key accusers.

A few months later, he was feted by Byrne and hundreds of others at an elaborate retirement banquet. Hanhardt seemed to ride off into the sunset with a wink and a snicker. He was hired as a consultant to the TV drama "Crime Story."

In 1995, author Richard Lindberg asked him to ruminate on his career as a cop. His reply dripped with cynicism.

"You knew that you're going to get screwed over eventually, so you went into the game with that thought in mind," Hanhardt said. "You got a wife. You got kids. So you got to think about the future, right? But I never liked thinking about the future. I liked to live for the moment."

Hanhardt retired to a handsome home in the suburbs, but he stayed busy in his dotage.

In October 2000, he was indicted as the leader of a band of thieves who stole $5 million in jewelry over 12 years beginning in 1984, while he was still a top cop. Hanhardt fenced the goods through friends in the outfit.

His gang "surpasses in duration and sophistication just about any other jewelry theft ring we've seen," said prosecutor Scott Lassar.

It seemed Hanhardt was able to think like a criminal because he was one.

He used techniques he learned as commander of the police burglary squad to devise diabolically clever thefts.

He tapped active cop friends and private detectives for leads on potential victims, targeting gem salesmen traveling with valises of valuable samples.
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In some cases they simply tailed a salesman and broke into his vehicle: such jobs included a $300,000 gem theft in Wisconsin in 1984, $500,000 worth of Rolex watches in California in 1986, and jewelry thefts of $125,000 in Ohio in 1989, and $1 million in Michigan and $240,000 in Minnesota in 1993.

The gang sometimes used the old spy scam of swapping identical bags with a salesman - a trick that netted $1 million worth of diamonds in Dallas in 1992 from a representative of J. Schliff and Son, a W. 48th St. jeweler.

Hanhardt's biggest score came in 1994. For two months before a gem wholesalers show at a hotel in Columbus, Ohio, a gang member checked in under the name Sol Gold and asked to store valuables in the hotel's safe-deposit boxes, which were in a secure room behind the front desk.

He systematically copied the keys until Hanhardt was able to create a master passkey. One night during the gem show, a desk clerk allowed "Mrs. Sol Gold" unsupervised access to the room. The safe-deposit boxes of eight gem dealers were relieved of some $2 million in valuables.

The jig was up when the woman went from accomplice to spurned wife and informed on the gang to the FBI.

City officials stammered to explain how Hanhardt managed to prosper as a cop and crook.

"The only thing I ever heard about him was good things," ex-Mayor Byrne told reporters.

"I know that he had an illustrious career," said his ex-police boss Brzeczek. "A lot of people knew him. He knew a lot of people. But I don't have any evidence whatsoever of him being mob-connected."

But the federal government had plenty of evidence, including 1,307 incriminating phone calls collected during a yearlong wiretap on his home phone.

For two years, cops and mobsters wondered whether Hanhardt would go to trial and give a public airing to his double life. But he pleaded guilty in 2002. He was ordered to pay $5 million in restitution and packed away to a Minnesota prison for a 12-year sentence.

As they waved goodbye, Hanhardt's kin still viewed him as his good-cop mirage.

His son-in-law, Michael Kertez, called Hanhardt "probably the most wonderful detective in the history of Chicago."

Now 79, the disgraced top snoop faces a life behind bars until at least 2012

Thanks to David J. Krajicek

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Police Sergeant Recalls Battles with Mobsters

Friends of ours: Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Frankie "The German" Schweihs, Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio, Sam Giancana, Johnny Roselli, Jimmy Hoffa
Friends of mine: Richard Hauff

Among the observers paying close attention to the “Family Secrets” mob trial in Chicago is retired police officer John J. Flood who boasts about having one of the first law enforcement run-ins with two of the key defendants in the case.

“Joey Lombardo and Frankie Schweihs: in my lifetime and career as a police officer I have been fighting those guys in different matters of law enforcement over those years,” Flood told WBBM’s Steve Grzanich during a recent interview from his home in Las Vegas.

It is the first meeting with Lombardo and Schweihs that Flood remembers best back in 1964 when Sgt. Flood, with the Cook County Sheriff's Police, interrupted Schweihs and Lombardo and thwarted an attempted hit on mob associate Richard Hauff. “It was happening up on Mannheim Road and Lawrence Avenue at a hotel up there. I came upon it and almost got killed making the arrest,” Flood said.

That was back in the early days for Schweihs and Lombardo, before they hit police radar, said Flood. “I called into Chicago Intelligence and asked who is Frankie Schweihs and they didn’t know. I had to call a knowledgeable Chicago detective who told that’s Phil Alderisio’s bodyguard. He’s a bad guy. Find out who was in the car and who they were going to kill,” said Flood.

While the Family Secrets trial may close the books on 18 mob murders, Flood expects that other mysteries may go unsolved.

“The significant murders that Lombardo would know about would be the murders of Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli. They were supposed to testify before the Church Commission on the assassination plot against Fidel Castro but they turned up dead. If Lombardo was talking, which I doubt he ever would because he lives by his code, he could tell you who killed (Jimmy) Hoffa and what happened.”

Will guilty verdicts mean the end of the Chicago outfit? "Someone will replace Lombardo. All you have to do is look at the fabric of the American system – corporate crime, white collar crime, organized crime. There is no way in the world organized crime people are going to be leaving gambling, going to be leaving pornography, the lending of money, prostitution – it is not going to happen,” Flood said.

According to Flood, the “Family Secrets” trial will likely be the final chapter for the likes of Lombardo and Schweihs. The retired police officer said the trial also brings to a close his own 40 year career as an organized crime fighter.

Flood is the founder of the Combined Counties Police Association, one of the most well-known and respected independent law enforcement unions ever formed in the United States. He is also one of the foremost experts on organized crime and an authority on the Chicago Outfit.

Thanks to Steve Grzanich

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Did Bobby Kennedy Believe the Mob and Anti-Castro Backers Kill JFK?

One of the most intriguing mysteries about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, that darkest of American labyrinths, is why his brother Robert F. Kennedy apparently did nothing to investigate the crime. Bobby Kennedy was, after all, not just the attorney general of the United States at the time of the assassination -- he was his brother's devoted partner, the man who took on the administration's most grueling assignments, from civil rights to organized crime to Cuba, the hottest Cold War flash point of its day. But after the burst of gunfire in downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, ended this unique partnership, Bobby Kennedy seemed lost in a fog of grief, refusing to discuss the assassination with the Warren Commission and telling friends he had no heart for an aggressive investigation. "What difference does it make?" he would say. "It won't bring him back." But Bobby Kennedy was a complex manBrothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, and his years in Washington had taught him to keep his own counsel and proceed in a subterranean fashion. What he said in public about Dallas was not the full story. Privately, RFK -- who had made his name in the 1950s as a relentless investigator of the underside of American power -- was consumed by the need to know the real story about his brother's assassination. This fire seized him on the afternoon of Nov. 22, as soon as FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, a bitter political enemy, phoned to say -- almost with pleasure, thought Bobby -- that the president had been shot. And the question of who killed his brother continued to haunt Kennedy until the day he too was gunned down, on June 5, 1968.

Because of his proclivity for operating in secret, RFK did not leave behind a documentary record of his inquiries into his brother's assassination. But it is possible to retrace his investigative trail, beginning with the afternoon of Nov. 22, when he frantically worked the phones at Hickory Hill -- his Civil War-era mansion in McLean, Va. -- and summoned aides and government officials to his home. Lit up with the clarity of shock, the electricity of adrenaline, Bobby Kennedy constructed the outlines of the crime that day -- a crime, he immediately concluded, that went far beyond Lee Harvey Oswald, the 24-year-old ex-Marine arrested shortly after the assassination. Robert Kennedy was America's first assassination conspiracy theorist.

CIA sources began disseminating their own conspiratorial view of Kennedy's murder within hours of the crime, spotlighting Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union and his public support for Fidel Castro. In New Orleans, an anti-Castro news organization released a tape of Oswald defending the bearded dictator. In Miami, the Cuban Student Directorate -- an exile group funded secretly by a CIA program code-named AMSPELL -- told reporters about Oswald's connections to the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee. But Robert Kennedy never believed the assassination was a communist plot. Instead, he looked in the opposite direction, focusing his suspicions on the CIA's secretive anti-Castro operations, a murky underworld he had navigated as his brother's point man on Cuba. Ironically, RFK's suspicions were shared by Castro himself, whom he had sought to overthrow throughout the Kennedy presidency.

The attorney general was supposed to be in charge of the clandestine war on Castro -- another daunting assignment JFK gave him, after the spy agency's disastrous performance at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. But as he tried to establish control over CIA operations and to herd the rambunctious Cuban exile groups into a unified progressive front, Bobby learned what a swamp of intrigue the anti-Castro world was. Working out of a sprawling Miami station code-named JM/WAVE that was second in size only to the CIA's Langley, Va., headquarters, the agency had recruited an unruly army of Cuban militants to launch raids on the island and even contracted Mafia henchmen to kill Castro -- including mob bosses Johnny Rosselli, Santo Trafficante and Sam Giancana, whom Kennedy, as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee in the late 1950s, had targeted. It was an overheated ecosystem that was united not just by its fevered opposition to the Castro regime, but by its hatred for the Kennedys, who were regarded as traitors for failing to use the full military might of the United States against the communist outpost in the Caribbean.

This Miami netherworld of spies, gangsters and Cuban militants is where Robert Kennedy immediately cast his suspicions on Nov. 22. In the years since RFK's own assassination, an impressive body of evidence has accumulated that suggests why Kennedy felt compelled to look in that direction. The evidence -- congressional testimony, declassified government documents, even veiled confessions -- continues to emerge at this late date, although largely unnoticed. The most recent revelation came from legendary spy E. Howard Hunt before his death in January. Hunt offered what might be the last will and testament on the JFK assassination by someone with direct knowledge about the crime. In his recent posthumously published memoir, American Spy, Hunt speculates that the CIA might have been involved in Kennedy's murder. And in handwritten notes and an audiotape he left behind, the spy went further, revealing that he was invited to a 1963 meeting at a CIA safe house in Miami where an assassination plot was discussed.

Bobby Kennedy knew that he and his brother had made more than their share of political enemies. But none were more virulent than the men who worked on the Bay of Pigs operation and believed the president had stabbed them in the back, refusing to rescue their doomed operation by sending in the U.S. Air Force and Marines. Later, when President Kennedy ended the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 without invading Cuba, these men saw not statesmanship but another failure of nerve. In Cuban Miami, they spoke of la seconda derrota, the second defeat. These anti-Kennedy sentiments, at times voiced heatedly to Bobby's face, resonated among the CIA's partners in the secret war on Castro -- the Mafia bosses who longed to reclaim their lucrative gambling and prostitution franchises in Havana that had been shut down by the revolution, and who were deeply aggrieved by the Kennedy Justice Department's all-out war on organized crime. But Bobby, the hard-liner who covered his brother's right flank on the Cuba issue, thought that he had turned himself into the main lightning rod for all this anti-Kennedy static.

"I thought they would get me, instead of the president," he told his Justice Department press aide, Edwin Guthman, as they walked back and forth on the backyard lawn at Hickory Hill on the afternoon of Nov. 22. Guthman and others around Bobby that day thought "they" might be coming for the younger Kennedy next. So apparently did Bobby. Normally opposed to tight security measures -- "Kennedys don't need bodyguards," he had said with typical brashness -- he allowed his aides to summon federal marshals, who quickly surrounded his estate.

Meanwhile, as Lyndon Johnson -- a man with whom he had a storied antagonistic relationship -- flew east from Dallas to assume the powers of the presidency, Bobby Kennedy used his fleeting authority to ferret out the truth. After hearing his brother had died at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Kennedy phoned CIA headquarters, just down the road in Langley, where he often began his day, stopping there to work on Cuba-related business. Bobby's phone call to Langley on the afternoon of Nov. 22 was a stunning outburst. Getting a ranking official on the phone -- whose identity is still unknown -- Kennedy confronted him in a voice vibrating with fury and pain. "Did your outfit have anything to do with this horror?" Kennedy erupted.

Later that day, RFK summoned the CIA director himself, John McCone, to ask him the same question. McCone, who had replaced the legendary Allen Dulles after the old spymaster had walked the plank for the Bay of Pigs, swore that his agency was not involved. But Bobby Kennedy knew that McCone, a wealthy Republican businessman from California with no intelligence background, did not have a firm grasp on all aspects of the agency's work. Real control over the clandestine service revolved around the No. 2 man, Richard Helms, the shrewd bureaucrat whose intelligence career went back to the agency's OSS origins in World War II. "It was clear that McCone was out of the loop -- Dick Helms was running the agency," recently commented RFK aide John Seigenthaler -- another crusading newspaper reporter, like Guthman, whom Bobby had recruited for his Justice Department team. "Anything McCone found out was by accident."

Kennedy had another revealing phone conversation on the afternoon of Nov. 22. Speaking with Enrique "Harry" Ruiz-Williams, a Bay of Pigs veteran who was his most trusted ally among exiled political leaders, Bobby shocked his friend by telling him point-blank, "One of your guys did it." Who did Kennedy mean? By then Oswald had been arrested in Dallas. The CIA and its anti-Castro client groups were already trying to connect the alleged assassin to the Havana regime. But as Kennedy's blunt remark to Williams makes clear, the attorney general wasn't buying it. Recent evidence suggests that Bobby Kennedy had heard the name Lee Harvey Oswald long before it exploded in news bulletins around the world, and he connected it with the government's underground war on Castro. With Oswald's arrest in Dallas, Kennedy apparently realized that the government's clandestine campaign against Castro had boomeranged at his brother.

That evening, Kennedy zeroed in on the Mafia. He phoned Julius Draznin in Chicago, an expert on union corruption for the National Labor Relations Board, asking him to look into a possible mob angle on Dallas. More important, the attorney general activated Walter Sheridan, his ace Justice Department investigator, locating him in Nashville, where Sheridan was awaiting the trial of their longtime nemesis, Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa.

If Kennedy had any doubts about Mafia involvement in his brother's murder, they were immediately dispelled when, two days after JFK was shot down, burly nightclub owner Jack Ruby shouldered his way through press onlookers in the basement of the Dallas police station and fired his fatal bullet into Lee Harvey Oswald. Sheridan quickly turned up evidence that Ruby had been paid off in Chicago by a close associate of Hoffa. Sheridan reported that Ruby had "picked up a bundle of money from Allen M. Dorfman," Hoffa's chief adviser on Teamster pension fund loans and the stepson of Paul Dorfman, the labor boss' main link to the Chicago mob. A few days later, Draznin, Kennedy's man in Chicago, provided further evidence about Ruby's background as a mob enforcer, submitting a detailed report on Ruby's labor racketeering activities and his penchant for armed violence. Jack Ruby's phone records further clinched it for Kennedy. The list of men whom Ruby phoned around the time of the assassination, RFK later told aide Frank Mankiewicz, was "almost a duplicate of the people I called to testify before the Rackets Committee."

As family members and close friends gathered in the White House on the weekend after the assassination for the president's funeral, a raucous mood of Irish mourning gripped the executive mansion. But Bobby didn't participate in the family's doleful antics. Coiled and sleepless throughout the weekend, he brooded alone about his brother's murder. According to an account by Peter Lawford, the actor and Kennedy in-law who was there that weekend, Bobby told family members that JFK had been killed by a powerful plot that grew out of one of the government's secret anti-Castro operations. There was nothing they could do at that point, Bobby added, since they were facing a formidable enemy and they no longer controlled the government. Justice would have to wait until the Kennedys could regain the White House -- this would become RFK's mantra in the years after Dallas, whenever associates urged him to speak out about the mysterious crime.

A week after the assassination, Bobby and his brother's widow, Jacqueline Kennedy -- who shared his suspicions about Dallas -- sent a startling secret message to Moscow through a trusted family emissary named William Walton. The discreet and loyal Walton "was exactly the person that you would pick for a mission like this," his friend Gore Vidal later observed. Walton, a Time magazine war correspondent who had reinvented himself as a gay Georgetown bohemian, had grown close to both JFK and Jackie in their carefree days before they moved into the White House. Later, the first couple gave him an unpaid role in the administration, appointing him chairman of the Fine Arts Commission, but it was mainly an excuse to make him a frequent White House guest and confidant.

After JFK's assassination, the president's brother and widow asked Walton to go ahead as planned with a cultural exchange trip to Russia, where he was to meet with artists and government ministers, and convey an urgent message to the Kremlin. Soon after arriving in frigid Moscow, fighting a cold and dabbing at his nose with a red handkerchief, Walton met at the ornate Sovietskaya restaurant with Georgi Bolshakov -- an ebullient, roly-poly Soviet agent with whom Bobby had established a back-channel relationship in Washington. Walton stunned the Russian by telling him that the Kennedys believed Oswald was part of a conspiracy. They didn't think either Moscow or Havana was behind the plot, Walton assured Bolshakov -- it was a large domestic conspiracy. The president's brother was determined to enter the political arena and eventually make a run for the White House. If RFK succeeded, Walton confided, he would resume his brother's quest for detente with the Soviets.

Robert Kennedy's remarkable secret communication to Moscow shows how emotionally wracked he must have been in the days following his brother's assassination. The calamity transformed him instantly from a cocky, abrasive insider -- the second most powerful man in Washington -- to a grief-stricken, deeply wary outsider who put more trust in the Russian government than he did in his own. The Walton mission has been all but lost to history. But it is one more revealing tale that sheds light on Bobby Kennedy's subterranean life between his brother's assassination and his own violent demise less than five years later.

Over the years, Kennedy would offer bland and routine endorsements of the Warren Report and its lone gunman theory. But privately he derided the report as nothing more than a public relations exercise designed to reassure the public. And behind the scenes, he continued to work assiduously to figure out his brother's murder, in preparation for reopening the case if he ever won the power to do so.

Bobby held onto medical evidence from his brother's autopsy, including JFK's brain and tissue samples, which might have proved important in a future investigation. He also considered taking possession of the gore-spattered, bullet-riddled presidential limousine that had carried his brother in Dallas, before the black Lincoln could be scrubbed clean of evidence and repaired. He enlisted his top investigator, Walt Sheridan, in his secret quest -- the former FBI agent and fellow Irish Catholic whom Bobby called his "avenging angel." Even after leaving the Justice Department in 1964, when he was elected to the Senate from New York, Kennedy and Sheridan would slip back into the building now and then to pore over files on the case. And soon after his election, Kennedy traveled to Mexico City, where he gathered information on Oswald's mysterious trip there in September 1963.

In 1967, Sheridan went to New Orleans to check into the Jim Garrison investigation, to see whether the flamboyant prosecutor really had cracked the JFK case. (Sheridan was working as an NBC news producer at the time, but he reported back to RFK, telling him that Garrison was a fraud.) And Kennedy asked his press secretary, Frank Mankiewicz, to begin gathering information about the assassination for the day when they could reopen the investigation. (Mankiewicz later told Bobby that his research led him to conclude it was probably a plot involving the Mafia, Cuban exiles and rogue CIA agents.) Kennedy himself found it painful to discuss conspiracy theories with the ardent researchers who sought him out. But he met in his Senate office with at least one -- a feisty small-town Texas newspaper publisher named Penn Jones Jr., who believed JFK was the victim of a CIA-Pentagon plot. Bobby heard him out and then had his driver take Jones to Arlington Cemetery, where the newspaperman wanted to pay his respects at his brother's grave.

At times, this drive to know the truth would sputter, as Robert Kennedy wrestled with debilitating grief and a haunting guilt that he -- his brother's constant watchman -- should have protected him. And, ever cautious, Bobby continued to deflect the subject whenever he was confronted with it by the press. But as time went by, it became increasingly difficult for Kennedy to avoid wrestling with the specter of his brother's death in public.

In late March 1968, during his doomed and heroic run for the presidency, Kennedy was addressing a tumultuous outdoor campus rally in Northridge, Calif., when some boisterous students shouted out the question he always dreaded. "We want to know who killed President Kennedy!" yelled one girl, while others took up the cry: "Open the archives!"

Kennedy's response that day was a tightrope walk. He knew that if he fully revealed his thinking about the assassination, the ensuing media uproar would have dominated his campaign, instead of burning issues like ending the Vietnam War and healing the country's racial divisions. For a man like Robert Kennedy, you did not talk about something as dark as the president's assassination in public -- you explored the crime your own way.

But Kennedy respected college students and their passions -- and he was in the habit of addressing campus audiences with surprising honesty. He did not want to simply deflect the question that day with his standard line. So, while dutifully endorsing the Warren Report as usual, he went further. "You wanted to ask me something about the archives," he responded. "I'm sure, as I've said before, the archives will be open." The crowd cheered and applauded. "Can I just say," continued Kennedy, "and I have answered this question before, but there is no one who would be more interested in all of these matters as to who was responsible for uh . . . the uh, uh, the death of President Kennedy than I would." Kennedy's press secretary Frank Mankiewicz, long used to Kennedy ducking the question, was "stunned" by the reply. "It was either like he was suddenly blurting out the truth, or it was a way to shut down any further questioning. You know, 'Yes, I will reopen the case. Now let's move on.' "

Robert Kennedy did not live long enough to solve his brother's assassination. But nearly 40 years after his own murder, a growing body of evidence suggests that Kennedy was on the right trail before he too was cut down. Despite his verbal contortions in public, Bobby Kennedy always knew that the truth about Dallas mattered. It still does.

Excerpt from David Talbot's Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hoffa's Hitman Comes Forward?

Do we finally know the identity of who killed Jimmy Hoffa? The Hoffa Files believes it does in reviewing how the tough guy helped make Las Vegas. The beginning of the end started for Hoffa when he asked "I heard you paint houses."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hoffa Challenged for Boss

Friends of mine: Jimmy Hoffa

James Hoffa, son of Jimmy Hoffa and leader of the TeamstersFrom a remote Oregon base, Tom Leedham is trying again to unseat the heir to the best-known name in American labor, James Hoffa, for the leadership of the 1.4-million-member Teamsters Union.

Academics, labor lawyers and other specialists say that while there are issues to discuss, it might take a major scandal to rile up enough of the membership to trounce Hoffa, and that hasn't happened.

Leedham, who got 35 percent of the vote against Hoffa five years ago, disagrees. "Everything is different now because Hoffa has a record to run on and it is a record of very weak contracts, the first pension cuts in the history of our union and the biggest dues increase in the history of our union that happened without a membership vote," he said at Oregon's Labor Day picnic, a brief respite from his nationwide campaign.

When Hoffa took over in 1998, he said the union was bordering on bankruptcy with only about $3-million in assets and virtually no strike fund. He put through a 25 percent dues increase that he said revived the fund and put the union on a sound footing. Leedham said it violated campaign promises.

Pension accrual issues have cut benefits or extended retirement ages for tens of thousands of Teamster drivers, mostly in the central region extending from Nebraska though Pennsylvania, to make up for diminished pension funds.

Leedham, 55, is a low-key man who doesn't fit the usual image of a Teamster official. A top officer of Oregon's statewide Local 206 since 1984, Leedham started as a warehouse worker after one year of college. He wound up running the union's 400,000-member warehouse division under Ron Carey, who defeated Hoffa for the union presidency in 1996 and was kicked out of the union for using $800,000 in union funds for his own campaign.

Leedham has the support of the feisty, dissident Detroit-based Teamsters Democratic Union. Whether he is tilting at a well-entrenched windmill or can actually oust Hoffa will be known in November. Ballots go out in early October.

Hoffa spokesman Rich Leebove said their campaign takes all challenges seriously but sees Leedham's effort as "more of a vanity campaign." "He has no record to run on, so he is attacking the Hoffa administration," he said in a telephone interview. Leedham, Leebove said, "is just part of the old guard trying to come back in a new guise."

Hoffa is the son of the famously absent Jimmy Hoffa, who ran the union from 1957 to 1971, served prison time for jury tampering and pension fund irregularities, and was presumed murdered by the mob in 1975. He was declared dead in 1982, but his body was never found.

Under the incumbent Hoffa, the Teamsters paid millions of dollars for an investigation led by former federal prosecutor Edwin Stier into any remaining links of the union to organized crime.

Stier and his team all quit the same day in April 2004, with Stier saying Hoffa was blocking investigation efforts "under pressure from a few self-interested individuals." Hoffa called the statement "reckless and false." But overall, the younger Hoffa has a pretty good record, said Gary Chaison, who teaches labor relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. "Many of the problems the Teamsters face are being faced by all unions, such as globalization and outsourcing," he said.

Robert Bruno, associate professor at the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said there are issues Leedham can run on but wondered if they would mobilize a union with often-low voter turnouts.

Bruno said signs are that union members are becoming more defensive, concentrating on protecting what they have and worrying less about union growth. Most recent Teamster growth has come from taking in other unions, not from expanding the ranks of truck drivers, he said.

Chaison said defeating any incumbent union leader is difficult. "He has the patronage, he's the one who shakes the hands."

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Jimmy Hoffa

Jimmy Hoffa, one of the most controversial labor leaders of his time, helped make the Teamsters the largest labor union in the U.S., and was also known for his ties to organized crime. His son, James P. Hoffa, has been a general president of the Teamsters since 1999.

• 1913: Born February 14 in Brazil, Indiana
• 1928: Leaves school to work as a stock boy
• 1940: Becomes chairman of the Central States Drivers Council
• 1942: Elected president of the Michigan Conference of Teamsters
• 1952: Becomes international vice president of the Teamsters
• 1957-1971: Elected international president of the Teamsters
• 1967: Starts 13-year sentence for jury tampering, fraud and conspiracy
• 1971: President Richard Nixon commutes Hoffa's sentence
• 1975: Disappears on July 30 from a restaurant in suburban Detroit, Michigan
• 1982: Legally declared "presumed dead"

Source: Encyclopedia Brittanica

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