FBI tears down barn in search for Jimmy Hoffa

Posted on June 18, 2006 

FBI tears down barn in search for Jimmy Hoffa

By Kevin Krolicki

DETROIT (Reuters) – FBI contractors tore apart a barn on a Michigan horse farm on Wednesday, looking for the body of Jimmy Hoffa as they pursued a long-neglected lead in the labor leader’s 1975 disappearance.

A private contractor hired by the FBI expected to finish demolishing the 4,700-square-foot (437 square-meter) red barn and then rip up a concrete foundation below on Thursday, a company representative said.

The barn’s destruction comes a week after investigators launched an intensive search of the Hidden Dreams horse farm near Detroit, using body-sniffing dogs and ground-piercing radar.

The investigation was triggered by a tip from Donovan Wells, 75, a federal prisoner serving time for marijuana trafficking who lived on the farm at the time of Hoffa’s disappearance.

The farm was previously owned by Hoffa associate Rolland McMaster. It is about 20 miles away from where the legendary Teamsters union boss disappeared on July 30, 1975.

No trace of Hoffa has ever been found, and no one has been charged in the case.

James Elsman, a lawyer who represented Wells when the former truck owner pleaded guilty 30 years ago to stealing shipments of rolled steel, said he told the FBI this week he could identify the Hoffa grave site based on case notes from his former client.

Wells and another defendant in the steel theft case, Jimmy Brooks, told him they watched as men with a stolen backhoe dug what appeared to be a grave the day after Hoffa vanished.

When they buried a cylindrical object wrapped in a kind of plastic, Elsman said Wells had told him that he heard McMaster say, “There goes Jimmy, or words to that effect.”

Elsman, who met with FBI agents on Monday, said Wells had offered the information to investigators in exchange for leniency 30 years ago but they had seemed uninterested then.

“Wells put himself out there for showing them where the grave site was, but they didn’t ask,” Elsman said. “They asked about the intricacies of the steel theft business to my incredulity.”

Mayer Morganroth, McMaster’s attorney, dismissed that report, saying McMaster, one of the founding members of the Teamsters union, had been in Indiana when Hoffa disappeared.

McMaster, 92, is distressed that his former property is being searched, bringing his relationship with Hoffa back under scrutiny, Morganroth said.

“He thinks they’re on a wild goose chase, of course, and he keeps getting painted by the media as a bad guy or a Teamsters enforcer,” he said. “They say that he was an enemy of Hoffa, but he was not. They were like brothers.”

Hoffa was last seen outside a Detroit-area restaurant where he was to meet New Jersey Teamsters’ boss Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano, a member of the Genovese crime family, and a local Mafia captain, Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone. He had called his wife to say no one else had shown up for the meeting.

He disappeared just as he was to embark on a campaign to get reelected to his post as president of the Teamsters sparked a nationwide investigation.

Hoffa was declared dead in 1982, and numerous books about his life have pinned his disappearance on mobsters who murdered him because they did not want him interfering with their close ties to the union.

Over the years, a number of dead-end leads and conspiracy theories have surfaced about Hoffa’s fate, including that his body was entombed under the artificial turf in Giants Stadium in New Jersey, buried in a Pennsylvania coal mine or crushed in a car sent for scrap metal.

Interest in Hoffa’s mysterious disappearance was heightened by the 1992 movie “Hoffa,” starring Jack Nicholson as the charismatic labor leader.

Hoffa’s son, James Hoffa, is the current leader of the Teamsters union.

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from My Way

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