- Long-time International Brotherhood of Teamsters boss, James “Jimmy” Hoffa, went missing in 1975.
- While theories surrounding his disappearance are still circulating today, the case has been described as one of America’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
- Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, among many other legendary actors, is a fictionalized account of Hoffa’s disappearance from the point of view of Mafia hitman Frank Sheeran.
- The film is based on a book by Charles Brandt, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” which details interviews and confessions that Sheeran once reportedly made to Brandt before he died.
- Scorsese and De Niro have both said the film isn’t necessarily a true representation of Sheeran – rather it’s about a character they built together based on Sheeran.
- “The Irishman” is nominated for 10 Academy Awards this year including best picture.
- Here’s what we know so far about the real-life Jimmy Hoffa and the ongoing investigation into his disappearance.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
James “Jimmy” Hoffa was last seen on July 30, 1975, at the Machus Red Fox Restaurant near Bloomfield Township, Michigan, just 25 miles from Detroit. The next day, he was reported as a missing person. Seven years later, in 1982, he was declared “presumed dead.”
Jimmy was a long-time leader of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, “North America’s strongest and most diverse labour union,” according to the organisation itself.
While the union has been known for supporting truckers across America …
… it also became known for its ties to organised crime and the Mafia specifically.
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty ImagesHoffa (centre) with attorney William Bufalino (left) and friend Chuck O’Brien (right).
The mob ties and mysterious disappearance of Hoffa are the basis of the Martin Scorsese-directed Netflix film “The Irishman.”
The story is an adaptation of the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” — Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran’s account of his involvement with the Mafia, the Bufalino crime family, and Hoffa’s death.
Although Sheeran claims to have shot his long-time friend, Hoffa, on orders from the Bufalino family, he’s reportedly one of 14 people who’ve taken responsibility for Hoffa’s disappearance over the years.
The film depicts Sheeran as the last surviving member of his mafia generation. It tells the story of his involvement, and his relationship with Hoffa, from his own point of view, which is why historians and critics are sceptical of how accurate this portrayed confession really is.
While the confession and description of how Sheeran killed Hoffa and what he did with Hoffa’s body is skepticized to this day, the reason why Hoffa was targeted in the first place is not, and it goes back to the election of John F. Kennedy into the White House.
Source: USA Today
Hoffa served as the Teamsters president from 1957 through 1967. During that time, JFK was elected President of the United States. The president appointed his brother, Robert Kennedy, Attorney General.
Robert and Hoffa had a long-standing and well-documented feud. Kennedy’s then-new position as Attorney General allowed the two to face-off even more intensely than before.
Source: Washington Post
Although Bobby was no longer Attorney General following the assassination of his brother, Hoffa was still facing other charges and trials, particularly in Nashville.
Eventually, Hoffa was sentenced to 13 years in prison under multiple convictions including jury tampering, fraud, and racketeering.
Hoffa was sent to Lewisburg Federal Prison in Pennsylvania.
While he was in prison, Hoffa’s vice president Frank “Fitz” Fitzsimmons stepped in.
Hoffa was released from prison after almost five years on probation granted by the Nixon Administration. The administration changed his sentence from 13 years to 6 and a half years, and Hoffa would serve the then-remaining year and a half under probation.
Source: The New York Times
“The Irishman” emphasises that Hoffa wanted to relax with his wife when he left Lewisburg, but not that he became known as a prison reform activist as well.
The part of his post-prison life the film focuses on — and the part arguably most important to his disappearance — is that he wanted to reclaim his place on top of the Teamsters union. But, in Hoffa’s absence, mobsters reportedly had formed a successful relationship with Fitz that they didn’t want to change.
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty ImagesFrank Fitzsimmons testifying before Senate Investigations Subcommittee in 1977.
It’s believed by historians that Mafia members wanted to continue working with Fitz. The theory continues on to say that Hoffa had too much information on the Mafia and its involvement with the Teamsters, and they wanted him dead so he couldn’t reveal what he knew.
When police started to investigate Hoffa’s disappearance, they found his car at the restaurant where he reportedly had a lunch planned with Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano of New Jersey and Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone of Detroit.
“The Irishman” has been reviewed as “great filmmaking, but bad history,” by author Dan Moldea who has been researching Hoffa for more than four decades. Other historians and critics say the same.
Source: USA Today
As a loose reiteration of Sheeran’s account of what happened, the film hints at the cremation of Hoffa’s body. However, historians like Moldea think it’s possible that his body was shoved into a waste drum and buried in a New Jersey Landfill.
No one really knows what happened to Jimmy, and some people including members of Hoffa’s family and investigative reporter Scott Burnstein think we never will.
Source: USA Today
But with the resurgence of the story and persistence of investigators, other people including Moldea are hopeful that the truth will come out soon.
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