Where is Jimmy Hoffa’s body? The FBI partly answered that question after three days of searching a former suburban Detroit farm based on a tip from an 85-year-old mobster peddling a manuscript about what “really happened” to the former Teamsters boss who disappeared in 1975.
The partial answer: Hoffa’s body is not under the now-defunct barn in Oakland Township, Mich., where the mobster said the union leader was buried.
The latest search into where Hoffa was buried was spurred by a tip from reputed Detroit mafia figure Tony Zerilli, a former underboss who is telling the so-called “real story” on Hoffa on the website hoffafound.com. Zerilli is hawking a manuscript for $1.99 (download-only version) and a $7.99 mailed version. He’s also selling $9.99 photographs ($22.99 autographed) of himself looking dapper in a suit and seated in a chair.
“The mystery of the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa has been one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time," Zerilli’s website says. "Many wannabe gangsters and wannabe mob associates have written books and told stories, claiming that they know what happened to Hoffa, and leading the naive public to believe them. They have made millions of dollars in book and movie deals, telling lies and deceiving people. The truth is, only a few people in this world actually knew what really happened to Hoffa. None of them have ever spoken up…until now!”
Zerilli told investigators that he was relayed information on what happened to Hoffa by a fellow mobster. Zerilli said he was not involved in Hoffa’s disappearance; he was in prison at the time the union leader went missing from the Machus Red Fox restaurant outside Detroit in July 1975.
The 85-year-old's lawyer, David Chasnick, denied claims that Zerilli fabricated the story to make money through hoffafound.com.
“The only interest I think that Mr. Zerilli really cares about is that the body be found and these people be put at ease that the body and remains have finally been found,” Chasnick said to the Chicago Tribune. “The FBI wouldn't be doing all this stuff if they thought it was just a ploy.”
Theories have abounded that the mafia wanted to rub out Hoffa, who was barred from being involved in union activities after being pardoned by then-President Richard Nixon in 1971. Hoffa went against the order and tried to reclaim control of the Teamsters, which unsettled the mob.
Some have speculated that New Jersey-based Teamsters leader and Mafioso Anthony Provenzano called for a hit on Hoffa, but Zerilli’s version of events claimed the Detroit mob wanted Hoffa killed.
Presumably, the FBI had reason to check out Zerilli’s information on Hoffa’s body, but it found no evidence that Hoffa was buried in the rural field in Oakland County in suburban Detroit.
"We did not uncover any evidence relevant to the investigation on James Hoffa," Robert Foley, head of the FBI in Detroit, told the Associated Press. "I am very confident of our result here after two-days-plus of diligent effort," he said. "As of this point, we'll be closing down the excavation operation."
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the information from Zerilli was worth checking out.
“It's probably one of the most relevant and credible [tips] in terms of being in the know with information that's come forth,” Bouchard said Tuesday to the Chicago Tribune.
Neighbors near the search area were skeptical that Hoffa’s body would be dug up at the search site.
Tommy Moeller posted a video on Vine that shows him driving around the scene amid media trucks and police vehicles.
“You’re not finding him,” Moeller says to the camera.
In the 38 years since Hoffa was last seen, searches for his body have cost $3 million.
And so the theories remain: Was Hoffa buried under the west end zone of Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.? Was the Teamsters boss’ body chopped up and sent with scrap metal to Japan? Was he dumped in the Florida Everglades?
The mystery continues.