'The Irishman': The real story of Jimmy Hoffa, his sudden disappearance and America's most infamous unsolved mystery

The events of July 30, 1975, and the disappearance of American labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries today


                            'The Irishman': The real story of Jimmy Hoffa, his sudden disappearance and America's most infamous unsolved mystery

Martin Scorsese returns with another compelling and epic drama, 'The Irishman', which is based on the bestselling novel 'I Heard You Paint Houses' by Charles Brandt.

We are presented with the dubious 20th Century world, where the lines between truth and lies are indistinguishable. The film's narrator is Frank Sheeran (Robert DeNiro), a man who knows how to play his cards very close to his heart.

The film traces Sheeran's tumultuous journey through the Philadelphia mob underworld and the Teamsters union, led by leader Jimmy Hoffa (played by Al Pacino) in the film.



 

Apart from making waves during his life, Hoffa made quite a noise even after his mysterious disappearance and death in 1975.

This remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries. Yet, shortly before Sheeran's death in 2003, he claimed to Brandt that he had killed Hoffa.  This claim serves as the foundation of the film 'The Irishman'.

Who was Jimmy Hoffa?

Some saw him as a rescuer and a savior. Others saw him as a brash villain. Hoffa was one of the most powerful labor leaders in the US. He was the president of the International Brotherhood Of the Teamsters, a trucking union, which Hoffa made into one of the biggest unions of the country. 

However, he forged ties with organised crime bosses while making his way to power, leading to long congressional probes, conducted by chief counsel Robert Kennedy in 1957.

He was convicted of jury tampering, fraud and attempted bribery and began to serve a 13-year prison sentence from 1967 onwards.  He received a presidential pardon from Richard Nixon in 1971, with the condition that he was to stay clear of any union activity until 1980.

Just as Hoffa was desperately looking for ways to regain power, he abruptly vanished.

Events of July 30, 1975

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa vanished without a trace after going out to a meeting with Mafia honchos Anthony Provenzano and Anthony Giacalone.

The meeting was meant to take place at 2 pm at the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, which is in a suburb of Detroit. Hoffa was familiar with the site, as it was the venue of his son, James. He wrote the date in his calendar as TG—2PM, Red Fox.

He left home in his Pontiac Grand Ville at 1.15 pm. Before reaching the restaurant, he stopped by the office of his close friend Louis Linteau. The two had earlier been enemies at the beginning of their careers, but had reconciled their differences. 

After Hoffa left prison, Linteau had become an unofficial secretary to Hoffa, and he had arranged a dinner between Hoffa and the Giacalone brothers on July 26, where they had informed him about the July 30 meeting.

American labour leader Jimmy Hoffa (1913 - 1975), President of the Teamster's Union, testifying at a hearing investigating labour rackets (Getty Images)

At 2.15 pm, Hoffa called his wife from a payphone and angrily said, "Where the hell is Tony Giacalone? I'm being stood up." His wife answered that he had not heard from anyone.

Hoffa told her that he would be home by 4 pm. Eyewitnesses saw Hoffa walking up and down restlessly.

At 3.27 pm, Hoffa called Linteau and told him that Anthony Giacalone was late. Linteau calmed him down and asked him to stop by his office on the way home.

This was Hoffa’s last known communication. His car was found in the Machus Red Fox parking lot, the next morning. Giacalone and Provenzano denied having scheduled a meeting with Hoffa, and were found not to have been near the restaurant that afternoon.

The missing person report was filed that evening and so began one of the country's most infamously unsolved myseries.

Investigations

Three weeks after the investigations began, there was a little hope when the FBI had a lead as their police dogs discovered Hoffa’s scent in the backseat of a Mercury Marquis Brougham.

The car belonged to Joey Giacalone, the son of Anthony Giacalone, and had been borrowed by Hoffa's mentee Chuckie O' Brien, who denied any involvement in the case.

There was a grand jury in September, and a series of Teamsters officials and mob associates were called to testify. None offered any proper information.

In 1976, the FBI put out a report of its findings and there were several suspects including Vito "Billy Jack" Giacalone and Salvatore "Sally Bugs" Briguglio. However, no one was willing to admit that Hoffa’s disappearance was associated with any sort of mob movement.

In 1982, seven years after he was last seen, Hoffa was declared legally dead.

Frank Sheeran's confession

For years, there were theories about where Hoffa’s remains could be found. In 2001, the case regained steam when new DNA technology revealed that the hair strand found in the Mercury Marquis Brougham was indeed a match for Hoffa.

However, when the matter was referred to the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office in Michigan, it returned with the verdict that it wasn’t enough evidence to charge anyone.

Three years later,  there were new revelations unveiled in the book 'I Heard You Paint Houses',  written by Charles Brandt, the lawyer of Hoffa's close friend Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran.

Sheeran said that Hoffa had made people nervous by threatening to expose the behind-the-scenes of Teamster mob dealings. Sheeran had been ordered to kill Hoffa by the powerful mafia boss Russell Buffalino.

On July 30, 1975, Sheeran had headed to Machus Red Fox to tell Hoffa that the meeting spot had been shifted. They headed to an empty house in North-west Detroit, where Sheeran shot Hoffa.

"If he saw the piece in my hand, he had to think I had it out to protect him," Sheeran told Brandt.

"He took a quick step to go around me and get to the door. He reached for the knob and Jimmy Hoffa got shot twice at a decent range — not too close or the paint splatters back at you — in the back of the head behind his right ear. My friend didn’t suffer." After Sheeran left, Hoffa's body was taken to a crematorium. 

Detectives ripped up the floorboards of the house. They discovered promising bloodstains, but the lab analysis failed to match Hoffa.

Sheeran stood by his confession, but others didn't. Fellow Irishman John Carlyle Berkery said, "Frank Sheeran never killed a fly. The only things he ever killed were jugs of red wine."

As it stands today, there has been no other concrete evidence that Sheeran killed Hoffa.

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