Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa

The Usual Suspects

In January 1976 and February 1977 the government issued internal reports based on interviews with an informer who claimed to know the whole story of what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. The informer, Ralph Picardo, was serving a murder sentence at the time in Trenton State Prison in New Jersey's capital. Picardo had been a business agent for Local 84 in New Jersey and a driver for "Tony Pro" Provenzano. As reported in The Hoffa Wars by Dan E. Moldea, Picardo claimed that Hoffa had been invited to the Machus Red Fox restaurant by Detroit mobster Anthony Giacalone for a "sit-down" with Provenzano, so that the two men could iron out their differences. Chuckie O'Brien, whose alibi included spending time carving a large fish that day, picked up Hoffa at the restaurant and took him to a nearby house where O'Brien had been staying with friends. Teamster business agent Thomas Andretta, Salvatore Briguglio and his brother Gabriel were in the house, waiting to ambush Hoffa. A man named Frank Sheeran, who had been president of Local 326 in Delaware, was also in the house. Sheeran was a close associate of Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino and had driven Bufalino to Detroit that day. According to Picardo, the hit on Hoffa was ordered by Bufalino who gave the contract to Provenzano. Bufalino's cousin William, president of the Teamsters' jukebox local in Detroit, had had a serious falling out with Hoffa in 1967.

Russell Bufalino
Russell Bufalino

Picardo did not say whether Russell Bufalino was actually present for Hoffa's execution, but it is curious that on a day when others involved in the conspiracy made sure that they were nowhere in the vicinity, Bufalino traveled from his base in Pittston, Pennsylvania, to be in the same city. Perhaps Bufalino wanted to make sure that the pesky Hoffa was taken care of once and for all. Or perhaps it was personal, and he wanted to witness the event himself. Bufalino's exact whereabouts on July 30, 1975, are unknown, but there is little doubt that Hoffa was murdered that day in that house.

*****

Without a body or circumstantial evidence that will hold up in court, there will probably never be a conviction in the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa. But the conspirators did not get off scot-free. Over the years the government made sure these men were prosecuted to the full extent of the law on other charges.

Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano's pocket local, Local 560, eventually came under government oversight, putting a major crimp in Provenzano's illegal operations. In 1978 he was prosecuted and found guilty of the 1961 murder of Anthony Castellito. Seventeen years after Castellito's body was allegedly put through a tree shredder, Tony Pro was sent to prison where he died 10 years later at the age of 81.

Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone, who allegedly set up Hoffa, was tried and convicted on tax evasion charges and spent 10 years in prison. He was charged with racketeering violations in 1996, but died before the case could be tried.

Despite numerous holes in Chuckie O'Brien's alibi, the man who allegedly drove Hoffa to his execution was never charged with anything relating to Hoffa's disappearance. He moved to Florida where he was given a job by Teamster president Frank Fitzsimmons, but in 1990 O'Brien was banished from the union for his mob connections. He served a short time in prison in the late '70s for accepting a free car from an auto dealership and for lying on a loan application. Plagued with ill-health, O'Brien has survived cancer and four heart bypass operations and now lives in Boca Raton, Florida, where he maintains that the government, not the mob, killed Jimmy Hoffa.

Tony Pro associate Salvatore Briguglio was murdered gangland-style on Mulberry Street in New York's Little Italy. Two gunman pumped several shots into his chest and head. At the time he had been talking with prosecutors and was about to make a deal in exchange for his testimony against Provenzano in the Castellito murder case.

 

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