In what has turned into a somewhat of a wild goose chase, federal agents are searching a field in suburban Detroit after a key source said remains of former Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa might be found there.
While the FBI has declined immediate comment on the search in Oakland Township, about 25 miles north of Detroit, Tony Zerilli, a former mobster with ties to the Detroit area, told local station WDIV in February that the FBI had enough information for a search warrant to dig at the site.
Zerilli, who was in prison in 1975 when Hoffa disappeared from a Detroit-area restaurant, told WNBC New York in January that the union leader's final resting place is about 20 miles north of the restaurant where he was last seen. According to the former mob boss, Hoffa was buried in a shallow grave and the plan was to move the body at another time, but that never happened.
"Once he was buried here, he was buried, and they let it go,” Zerilli said.
Despite multiple sources claiming in past years to know the whereabouts of Hoffa’s remains, none have proven to be correct. But when notified back in January of Zerilli’s willingness to come forward, former U.S. Attorney Keith Corbett, who prosecuted organized crime in Detroit for 20 years, suggested to NBC that Zerilli might just be the person who could lead authorities to the body.
“The bureau had a short list of people they wanted to talk to about that, and I can’t think of anybody on that list who was more highly placed than Anthony Zerilli,” Corbett said in an earlier interview with NBC 4.
"This is certainly the most interesting and attractive lead that has come up since I’ve been involved with this -- and I think the bureau would react the same way,” he added.
Federal agents said that while Zerilli has been unwilling to give up any names that might lead to an arrest in the case, he might be one of the few men who actually knows where Hoffa's body was buried.
“Clearly, when he returned he would’ve been a person, based on his position in the hierarchy, who would have been able to learn the facts and circumstances surrounding the disappearance of James Earl Hoffa,” Corbett said.
Although Zerilli has said that he's simply seeking closure for himself and Hoffa’s family, he's also working on a book and has a website, HoffaFound.com, the NBC report said.
“I’d like to just prove to everybody that I’m not crazy," Zerilli said. "And it means a lot to me. What happened happened while I was in jail. And I feel very, very bad about it and it should never have happened to Jim Hoffa. He didn’t deserve what happened to him.”
My name is Carey Vanderborg and I'm a journalist working in New York City. I love food, travel, craft beer, live music and writing about all of the above.