Jimmy Hoffa disappeared 40 years ago

The Detroit News

Forty years ago today, former Teamsters President James R. Hoffa went to the Machus Red Fox restaurant on Telegraph (now the site of Andiamo Bloomfield Township), believing he was to have a "peace conference" with mob boss Tony Provenzano.

Hoffa had relinquished the presidency of the Teamsters years earlier after he was convicted of jury tampering, but in the years since his release in 1971, he missed being involved in the union. Was the meeting with “Tony Pro” intended to enable his return to power?

A June 3, 1974, file photo shows Jimmy Hoffa

But Provenzano was reportedly in New Jersey that long summer day of July 30, 1975, and the last anyone heard of Hoffa was a phone call he made to his wife, Josephine, at 2:30 p.m. from a nearby pay phone. He told her nobody was there to meet him. The next morning, his car was found abandoned in the parking lot.

Hoffa’s disappearance remains one of the 20th century’s great unsolved mysteries. Many of those with links to the Hoffa case have taken secrets to their graves — Giacomo "Black Jack" Tocco, Leonard Schultz, Vito "Billy Jack" Giacalone, Anthony Giacalone, Tony Zerilli, and so on.

The FBI has long suspected Hoffa was killed in Detroit and his body disposed of in a mob-owned sanitation firm in Hamtramck. The FBI said in a 1975 memo it believed Hoffa's disappearance "is directly connected with his attempts to regain power within the Teamsters union, which would possibly have an effect on the (mob La Cosa Nostra) control and manipulation of the Teamster Pension Fund."

Jimmy Hoffa walks with his arms outstretched with a group of men on Oct. 10, 1957.

Hoffa had links to organized crime figures and was convicted in 1964 of attempting to bribe a grand juror. Including a subsequent conviction, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison but was released after President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence to time served.

He was declared legally dead in 1982. Hoffa would be 102 years old today.

There have been many fruitless searches for his body in recent years, including one that ended June 20, 2013, after the FBI spent three days combing a 1-acre site in Oakland Township near Buell and Adams roads. The search, prompted by a tip from an aging mobster, brought out 40 agents, cadaver dogs, forensic anthropologists and an earth mover. But it didn't uncover human remains.

In September 2012, a dig was held in a driveway in Roseville, based on a suggestion from another tipster. Again, no remains were found. In 2006, the FBI spent 14 days digging at a horse farm near Milford looking for Hoffa's remains, at a cost of $225,000 in taxpayer funds.

Hoffa was an early supporter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights. He also pushed for auto safety legislation.

James R. "Jimmy" Hoffa, right, with (from left) daughter Barbara, son Jim and wife Josephine at an event in 1956.