PBS Analyzes Mob Boss's Role in Case of Hoffa Disappearance


2015 Update: Get ready to get sick of Jimmy Hoffa. The 40th anniversary of the disappearance of the notorious mobbed-up former Teamsters boss swiftly approaches...


Citizens' Voice: "New light is shed on the old mystery in an episode of “History Detectives Special Investigations,” “Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa?” which aired on July 22 on PBS and its affiliates.

Hoffa, the former head of the Teamsters union, vanished from the face of the earth on July 30, 1975. No trace of him has ever come to light.

The History Detectives’ investigation focuses on who killed Hoffa and why.

The who is most likely hit man Frank Sheeran, who did so at the directive of Kingston-based mafia boss Russell Bufalino, according to some experts.


But why?

Hoffa knew too much. And he was starting to talk about it, the experts say.

Matt Birkbeck, author of the Bufalino story “The Quiet Don,” is a former reporter for the Morning Call in Allentown and author of four other books. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who currently covers Wall Street for Harrison Scott Publications and lives outside of Stroudsburg.

Birkbeck said he was contacted by History Detectives Special Investigations last May when they first found out about “The Quiet Don.”

Bufalino strenuously avoided publicity. So to see his name in an article in the June 9, 1975 issue of Time magazine about the CIA-mafia link in Cuba likely sent him over the edge.

“Apparently they had been working on this. They saw the book, and one of the producers reached out to me,” he said.

Birkbeck said he met with the investigators and was “on board with what they were doing,” particularly on the research side."...

History Detectives investigator Tukufu Zuberi went to Philadelphia to interview Charles Brandt, author of “I Heard You Paint Houses,” which tells the story of Frank Sheeran, a close associate of Bufalino and a friend of Hoffa.

Brandt’s book reveals that Bufalino ordered the hit on Hoffa, and Sheeran carried it out.

The investigation of Hoffa’s disappearance had, at one time, more than 200 FBI agents involved, Birkbeck said. They had an idea of who was involved in it, but couldn’t get enough evidence to bring anyone to trial, he said.

For the show, Glover dug up recently declassified government files on Hoffa, including a memo indicating the FBI suspected the mafia was responsible for his disappearance but couldn’t prove it.

Birkbeck said it takes the Hoffa story to a whole other level by introducing the Bufalino element, and how he gave in to the mob’s wanting Hoffa — a friend of Bufalino’s — dead.

After the Cuban revolution, the mafia, which had millions invested in gambling and other venues in the country, allegedly worked with the CIA to get at foreign leaders, specifically Fidel Castro. Bufalino was one of the mobsters involved, with business ties to Cuba going back to the 1940s.

Despite growing concern by mafiosi that Hoffa was starting to talk to the wrong people, Bufalino didn’t give in to pressure to have him silenced permanently.

Until something happened to change his mind.

Bufalino strenuously avoided publicity. So to see his name in an article in the June 9, 1975 issue of Time magazine about the CIA-mafia link in Cuba likely sent him over the edge.

“When I uncovered it, I was like, wow,” Birkbeck said. “The whole Hoffa thing was interesting to me as I was digging into it, and then being able to tie that all up was a big moment in my research.”

In the History Detectives episode, investigator Wes Cowan shares recordings made by the notoriously paranoid Nixon — he had his own office bugged and recorded everyone who came in — talking about Hoffa.

Birkbeck said he was familiar with most of the material in the program, except for the Nixon tapes, which he would have put in his book if he had known about them.

“I thought that was awesome,” he said. “It was a really good ‘get’ on their part."

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