Finding Jimmy Hoffa

Finding Jimmy Hoffa

After 45-year odyssey, investigative reporter believes he knows where the legendary Teamsters boss is buried

In this 1972 ABC television interview, former Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa said President Richard Nixon was the most qualified candidate in the presidential race. Hoffa disappeared three years later. CSU Archives/Everett Collection/Alamy Stock Photo

Editor’s note:

After investigating the Jimmy Hoffa murder case since Hoffa’s disappearance forty-five years ago this month, investigative journalist Dan E. Moldea – the author of ten books, including The Hoffa Wars in 1978 — prepares “to go all-in” with his search for Hoffa’s remains. Below is an essay about his career-long journey, excerpted from the just-released third edition of his memoir, Confessions of a Guerrilla Writer: Adventures in the Jungles of Crime, Politics, and Journalism.

Also, in May, Moldea released his tenth book: Money, Politics, and Corruption in U.S. Higher Education: The Stories of Whistleblowers.

* * *

I began my investigation of Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters Union in December 1974 while I was a twenty-four-year-old graduate student at Kent State University and writing a column for The Reporter, a small Akron-based newspaper that served the African-American community in northeastern Ohio. During the late winter and early spring of 1975, I published an eight-part series, “The Teamsters, Their Pension Fund, and the Mafia.”

Shortly after I completed that work, I received a phone call from Jonathan Kwitny, a veteran investigative journalist for the Wall Street Journal. He said he was doing his own three-part series about the corruption of the union’s pension fund and asked for my help, which I was happy to provide. Kwitny’s series, with my assistance, ran in the Journal from July 22-24, 1975.

The following week, Jimmy Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975.

Shortly after the news broke, Kwitny called, and we concocted a wild theory that Hoffa was alive and hiding at a Mob-owned lodge in Eagle River, Wisconsin. We met in Chicago and flew to Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where we rented a car and drove to Eagle River.

Although we had an amazing adventure — which included me getting bitten by a German shepherd while trespassing on the grounds of the lodge — our search for Hoffa was nothing more than a wild goose chase.

After Kwitny returned to New York, I flew to Detroit and immediately went to the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, a northern suburb, where Hoffa was last seen. While I was at the restaurant, I met the legendary NBC News correspondent Irving R. Levine, who was covering the Hoffa case for the network. He immediately hired me as a researcher after he called Kwitny, who enthusiastically vouched for me.

The Hoffa case in three acts

The murder of Jimmy Hoffa was a three-act drama with different characters in each act.

In Act One, Hoffa went to the Red Fox restaurant, expecting to meet two Mafia figures: labor racketeer Anthony Provenzano of New Jersey, a capo in the Vito Genovese crime family, and Anthony Giacalone, a top mobster in the Detroit Mafia who was related, by marriage, to Provenzano. In addition, Hoffa might have been expecting to meet with a Giacalone-connected businessman, Lenny Schultz.

Within days of Hoffa’s disappearance, dozens of theories surfaced as to who was in the car that picked up Hoffa and drove him into Act Two, where he was murdered. And there were just as many theories as to the location of the scene of the crime and who actually executed the killing.

In Act Three, the co-conspirators disposed of Hoffa’s body, launching hundreds of theories as to what happened to Hoffa’s remains.

Rolland McMaster

On August 5, my first full day on the job with NBC News, I received an introduction to an associate of Rolland McMaster, a Teamsters official who had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Hoffa since their earliest days in the union. However, in recent years, Hoffa and McMaster had a huge falling out over control of Teamsters Local 299 in Detroit, Hoffa’s home local. Consequently, they became mortal enemies.

In fact, my new source alleged that McMaster had played a key role in the disposal of Hoffa’s body six days earlier — but he could not prove it. NBC authorized me to pursue the McMaster lead but put me on a short leash, giving me a limited amount of time to get results.

With the help of my friends and sources in the rank-and-file reform movement within the Teamsters, I received introductions to several key players in the Hoffa drama. I quickly learned that since 1971, McMaster, an international organizer, had directed a 32-member Teamsters organizing unit that was traveling around the country, shaking down trucking companies in return for labor peace.

In addition, I obtained interviews and documents showing that McMaster and his goon squad were behind a series of unsolved acts of violence in Local 299. They included bombings, beatings, shootings and sabotage, almost exclusively directed against Hoffa’s supporters. And I was able to produce evidence showing that three of McMaster’s men — Larry McHenry, Jack Robison and Jim Shaw — were responsible for many of these incidents.

Still, the high command at NBC News was not convinced. So, after accepting and completing a short-term assignment in New York to help with the production of an NBC special on Hoffa, I returned to my career as a scuffling independent investigative journalist.

Contacting the FBI and Hoffa Jr.

Back in Ohio in early September 1975 — a little more than a month after the murder — I prepared a fifteen-page theory about what had happened to Hoffa and submitted it to the FBI’s Detroit field office. On September 24, an FBI special agent interviewed me.

Based on our conversation, he wrote a report, stating:

Specifically, Moldea advances the theory that Hoffa’s disappearance and other incidents of Teamster related violence have been the work of Rolland McMaster and other former Teamster International organizers who worked for McMaster in the Teamster Central States Division for Steel and Special Commodities in the early 1970s. In his theory, Moldea sets forth sufficient factual info, which indicates he has good sources close to McMaster and knowledgeable of his union activities.

Two more FBI special agents interviewed me again at my home in Akron for two days, October 15-16, 1975. Although I refused to give them the name of my principal source without his permission, the agents, who encouraged me to come back to Detroit to continue my independent investigation, wrote in another official report:

Moldea provided a great deal of information from a source who claims to have worked for Rolland McMaster in “task force” comprised of about 15 [sic] men whose overt purpose was to organize non-union truckers; but whose actual purpose was to instigate labor violence and unrest. Allegedly, McMaster would then extort money from trucking firms for a guarantee of labor peace.

Moldea and his source feel that McMaster and his “task force,” acting on orders from above, are responsible for various instances of labor violence, including Hoffa’s disappearance. Moldea appears sincere, resourceful, cooperative, and is attempting to convince his primary source to cooperate with the FBI.

Two weeks later, on October 28, I returned to Detroit, where I received an introduction to Jimmy Hoffa Jr., the attorney/son of the murdered Teamsters boss, at his downtown law office. During our first meeting, I explained my theory about McMaster to Hoffa, who immediately called the local FBI headquarters and asked an agent with whom he was on a first-name basis to come to his office to meet me.

Within half an hour, two FBI special agents walked into Hoffa’s office. As instructed by Hoffa, I repeated my information about McMaster. The agents, who said they were already familiar with my work, confirmed to Hoffa that my information was solid and that my investigation of McMaster was both important and trustworthy.

Declaring that he believed I had solved the violence in his father’s local before he disappeared, Hoffa gave me $2,100 in reward money from the “Hoffa Reward Fund,” a bankroll put up by local unions and private individuals, among others, who wanted to solve the Hoffa case. Hoffa Jr. served as the administrator of the fund.

In addition, Hoffa helped to arrange a freelance assignment with the Detroit Free Press where I was tasked to focus on a single story: the McMaster goon squad and its shakedown of trucking companies around the country.

Ralph Picardo and the federal grand jury

On November 5, 1975, the same day I started my work for the newspaper, a new federal witness in the Hoffa case secretly flipped and turned state’s evidence: Ralph Picardo, a longtime associate of Tony Provenzano and his crew. Picardo, Provenzano’s former driver, was serving twenty years for manslaughter at Trenton State Penitentiary in New Jersey.

According to federal law enforcement officials, Picardo had a visitor a few days after Hoffa vanished: Stephen Andretta, who allegedly confessed to Picardo his own role and that of his brother, Thomas, in the Hoffa murder conspiracy — as well as those of two other brothers, Salvatore and Gabriel Briguglio. All four men were also closely associated with Provenzano.

In short, Picardo alleged that Andretta told him that Hoffa had been a) murdered in Detroit, b) stuffed into a 55-gallon oil drum, c) loaded onto a Gateway Transportation truck, and then d) shipped to New Jersey.

Phil “Brother” Moscato Sr., a soldier in New York’s Genovese crime family, co-owned a dump in Jersey City, New Jersey, where Hoffa is allegedly buried. Courtesy of Dan E. Moldea

When the FBI asked Picardo whether Andretta had revealed the identity of Hoffa’s killer, Picardo replied that he had not. However, Picardo knew from his work with the Provenzano operation that Provenzano had personally put a contract on Hoffa in either late 1973 or early 1974 that was specifically given to Sal Briguglio.

When the FBI asked Picardo whether Andretta revealed the location of Hoffa’s remains after it was shipped to New Jersey, Picardo, once again, replied that he had not. However, Picardo knew from personal experience that when Provenzano ordered someone murdered, their bodies often wound up in 55-gallon oil drums, buried at a landfill in Jersey City called “Brother Moscato’s Dump,” which was owned by Phillip “Brother” Moscato, a reputed soldier in the Vito Genovese crime family. Specifically, Picardo named one of Provenzano’s victims as Armand Faugno, a local loan shark who wound up in an unmarked grave at the dumpsite.

Later, using Picardo’s information as probable cause, the FBI obtained a search warrant for Moscato’s landfill, ostensibly looking for Faugno when, in fact, they were looking for Jimmy Hoffa. However, the size of the area and its toxic conditions, along with the wintery weather and lack of a known specific location, caused agents to abort their search.

On December 4, 1975, the Andrettas and the Briguglios appeared before a federal grand jury in Detroit, investigating the Hoffa case. All four, who had been identified in press reports the previous day, took the Fifth against self-incrimination.

A fifth suspect was not previously identified by the news media: Rolland McMaster, whom, after several phone interviews, I met face-to-face for the first time at the federal courthouse as he waited his turn to appear before the grand jury. He told me later that same day that, like the Andrettas and Briguglios, he had taken the Fifth.

Significantly, on the day Hoffa disappeared, McMaster’s alibi was that he was with his brother-in-law, Stanton Barr, the head of the steel division for Gateway Transportation, at a meeting of Gateway officials in Gary, Indiana — the same Gateway company that Picardo had referred to in his statement to the FBI, the same one that had allegedly carried Hoffa’s body to New Jersey.

My story about McMaster’s goon squad was published in the Detroit Free Press on June 20, 1976. However, my bosses at the Free Press would not allow me to print details about McMaster’s alleged roles in either the Local 299 violence or Hoffa’s disappearance.

Interviews with the Andrettas and Briguglios

In early July 1976, I began my next freelance assignment with Washington columnist Jack Anderson, addressing the two issues about Rolland McMaster that the Free Press refused to publish. Marc Smolonsky, one of the top reporters in Anderson’s office who became a life-long friend, introduced me to the well-known columnist.

During my research, I interviewed McMaster and Stan Barr of Gateway, as well as McMaster’s top henchmen: Larry McHenry, Jack Robison and Jim Shaw, about whom I had collected new evidence that they were behind the violence in Local 299.

Notably, Shaw, at the time of Hoffa’s murder, was a long-haul driver for Gateway Transportation.

In addition, on October 25, 1976, I conducted an exclusive three-and-a-half-hour recorded interview with Steve Andretta and Salvatore Briguglio, who were accompanied by their attorney, William Bufalino, the cousin of Mafia boss Russell Bufalino, and Provenzano’s younger brother, Salvatore Provenzano, a former president of Local 560 and a member of the general executive board of the international union. Also, that same day, I had interviews with Tom Andretta over the phone and Gabe Briguglio in person, which were not recorded.

Among several other subjects, I received new details about Andretta’s prison visitation with Ralph Picardo and Briguglio’s relationship with both Jimmy Hoffa and Phillip Moscato, the co-owner of “Brother Moscato’s Dump.” Both Briguglio and Moscato were reputed soldiers in the Genovese crime family.

The Hoffa Wars

In late August 1978, my first book, The Hoffa Wars, which chronicled Jimmy Hoffa’s rise and fall, was released. Earlier, a blatant attempt to suppress my work by the publishing house of a rival author was detailed in a June 29, 1978, article in the New York Times by the newspaper’s chief literary critic, Herbert Mitgang, who wrote: “Publishing lawyers said that the attempted delay of the Moldea book was one of the first examples of [a] possible loss of independence — with implicit censorship — where there is a conflict on a controversial nonfiction book.”

After the attempted sabotage of The Hoffa Wars was revealed by Mitgang and the Times, my book was supercharged. Playboy bought a long excerpt of the book. The Observer of London acquired worldwide rights, and the New York Times purchased the U.S. rights. It also was a Book of the Month selection.

My work was widely viewed as the most revealing account of the battles revolving around Detroit’s Local 299, which had spiraled into a war zone when Hoffa tried to retain his power after he was sent to prison in 1967 in the aftermath of his 1964 convictions for jury tampering and pension fraud. I chronicled the specific acts of violence against pro-Hoffa supporters, directed by Rolland McMaster and carried out by his goon squad, climaxed by Hoffa’s murder in July 1975.

I concluded that Hoffa’s murder was engineered by Tony Provenzano and carried out by Sal Briguglio — with his brother, Gabe, along with Steve and Tom Andretta, playing supporting roles. I also alleged that, although Sal Briguglio was the actual killer, Frank Sheeran, a Teamsters thug from Philadelphia who was close to Hoffa, was part of the overall murder conspiracy.

Based on information from my sources in the law enforcement community, I alleged that Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien, Hoffa’s “foster son,” had driven the car that picked up Hoffa and driven him to the scene of his murder. In later years, I backed away from that description of O’Brien’s role after he passed a polygraph test in 1999. Then, in 2007, Phillip Moscato Sr. alleged that the real identity of the person who drove Hoffa to his death was Vito Giacalone, the brother of Tony Giacalone.

Notably, even though I had viewed Ralph Picardo’s information as the firewall of the Hoffa case and admonished other investigators when they diverged from his version of events — that Hoffa was murdered in Detroit, stuffed into a 55-gallon oil drum, loaded onto a Gateway Transportation truck and shipped to New Jersey — I failed to follow my own warning when I published my book.

During my interview with Charles Crimaldi, a Chicago mobster-turned-federal-witness, he convinced me the Mafia would not have taken the risk of transporting Hoffa from Detroit to New Jersey, adding that his information was that Hoffa was disposed of in a car compactor in or near Detroit. Consequently, after I learned that Gateway’s steel division — which was headed by McMaster’s brother-in-law — was near the Ford River Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan, I wrote that, after Hoffa was murdered and stuffed into the oil drum, the Gateway truck likely took him to the Ford location where he was “crushed and smelted.”

Nearly thirty years later, in 2007, Moscato convinced me I was wrong about that, too.

Remarkably, there were no serious threats of litigation against The Hoffa Wars — with one exception. On March 22, 1979, attorney F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, who represented Frank Sheeran, sent me a letter, saying, in part:

Mr. Sheeran has recently become familiar with the book authored by you entitled The Hoffa Wars.

Mr. Sheeran wishes me to inform you that he emphatically denies the allegations about his involvement in Mr. Hoffa’s alleged death and to state specifically that your allegation that he was present in Detroit on the last day that Mr. Hoffa was seen is false, unfounded and has been specifically contradicted by evidence supplied by Mr. Sheeran to the Federal Government.(1)

Frank Sheeran and I Heard You Paint Houses

After telling conflicting stories for years about his role in the Hoffa murder, Frank Sheeran declared in his final years that he had killed the former Teamsters boss. His version of events was the basis for the bestselling Charles Brandt book I Heard You Paint Houses and the 2019 Martin Scorsese film The Irishman. Courtesy of John Zeitts

In the spring of 2001, broadcast correspondent Eric Shawn of Fox News interviewed Frank Sheeran, who, over the years, had developed a reputation for telling conflicting versions about his knowledge of the circumstances of Hoffa’s death. During their meeting, Sheeran falsely admitted to Shawn that he had personally killed Hoffa.

At the time, Sheeran was working on a book project with Charles Brandt, a respected former Delaware prosecutor. Their book, I Heard You Paint Houses, was a one-source story about Sheeran’s life and times that was slated for release in the spring of 2004.

Shawn embraced Brandt’s book, along with Sheeran’s version of the Hoffa murder, and skillfully used his platform at Fox News to help launch the Brandt-Sheeran project.

Shawn asked me, among others, to sign a nondisclosure agreement, read the embargoed book, and then, upon its release, provide my comments on camera about its conclusions.

In my pre-NDA evaluation to reporter David Ashenfelter of the Detroit Free Press — which became the basis for my post-NDA comments — I stated that Sheeran had lied about his role in the case, adding: “Make no mistake: This is the biggest break in the case since Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975. Now, in the wake of Sheeran’s death in December 2003, the task will be to separate fact from fiction.”

In other words, I knew that Sheeran — whom I had interviewed in March 1978 — had fabricated his role in the killing of Hoffa, along with those of other infamous criminals he falsely claimed to have killed in Brandt’s 2004 book, including but not limited to New York mobster Joey Gallo and Sal Briguglio, Hoffa’s actual killer.

Soon after, Shawn and his team at Fox discovered traces of blood at the exact location in the same house that Sheeran had specified as the scene of Hoffa’s murder. However, DNA testing refuted claims that the blood was Hoffa’s.

Don Wells and McMaster’s farm in Wixom

In 2006, the FBI served a search warrant at a farm in Wixom, Michigan, which in 1975 was owned by Rolland McMaster and his wife, Marilyn. Living on the farm with the McMaster family back then were a business partner, Donovan Wells, and his wife, Monica.

While in a federal prison, Wells provided evidence to federal agents that served, at least in part, as the necessary probable cause for obtaining their court-authorized search warrant for the property. Importantly, Wells took and passed a polygraph test arranged by the FBI.

Don Wells provided information that led the FBI to obtain a warrant to search a farm in Wixom, Michigan, in 2006. The farm had been owned by Rolland McMaster, who was suspected of having a role in the disposal of Hoffa’s body. The FBI did not find Hoffa’s body, but they still believe it was there on the day of the murder. Courtesy of Dan E. Moldea

Although the search did not yield Hoffa’s body, the FBI still believed Hoffa had been on that farm on the day of his murder. According to an article in the New York Times:

“After a thorough and comprehensive search, no remains of Mr. Hoffa have been located,” Judith M. Chilen, an assistant special agent, said at a news briefing at the farm entrance.

Ms. Chilen added that she was convinced that his body had been buried on the farm and that there was “no indication that it has been moved.(2)

I had first interviewed Wells in 1976 while he was still doing business with McMaster. Subsequent to the failed FBI excavation thirty years later, I interviewed Wells once again after his release from prison. I also interviewed his wife.

During this 2009 interview, Don and Monica Wells told me the following:

* McMaster had dug a large hole in the back of his farm a few weeks before Hoffa disappeared.

* On the night before Hoffa’s murder, Wells was having dinner with Rolland McMaster and his brother-in-law, Stanton Barr of Gateway Transportation, at a Detroit restaurant when Tony Provenzano came up to their table and said, “It’s going to be a great day tomorrow! A great day tomorrow! Right, Mac?” He then asked McMaster to join him at the bar for a private conversation.

When Wells asked Barr what Provenzano was talking about, he replied that Provenzano planned to meet Hoffa the following day.

When Provenzano and McMaster returned, Provenzano pointed to McMaster and Barr and asked, “Do you guys know where you’re going to be tomorrow?”

McMaster replied, “Yeah, we’re all straight on that.”

* During the mid-afternoon on the day of the murder, Monica Wells, who had blond hair, was looking out the window at the McMaster farmhouse when she saw two or three dark-colored cars turning onto a dirt road at the farm, speeding towards the pre-dug hole in the back of the property. After about twenty-to-thirty minutes, the same cars left the way they came.

When she saw McMaster the following day, Monica told him what she had witnessed. He replied, “Blondes who talk too much don’t get old.”

Also, during my visit with Wells, I suggested that we go to the farm, which was no longer owned by McMaster, who died in 2007. When we arrived, with the new owner’s permission, Wells gave me a tour of the property, as well as a copy of the diagram that he had given to the FBI upon which federal agents based their search.

It quickly became clear during my 2009 visit that the FBI had misread Wells’s hand-drawn map — and dug in the wrong place three years earlier.

However, I believed, as both Wells and the FBI special agent believed, that persons unknown had taken Hoffa, alive or dead, to McMaster’s property on the day he disappeared.

* * *

Journalist and author Scott Burnstein, arguably the top expert on the Detroit Mafia, later published an exclusive story, revealing that one of his sources alleged that Lenny Schultz, a Mob-connected businessman who was close to Tony and Vito Giacalone, had given him a remarkable confession that included a startling revelation about McMaster.

Burnstein reported:

One of Schultz’s former associates, who declined to be named, says Schultz told him in the 1990s that Hoffa was murdered at his home in Franklin, Michigan, a short drive from the Machus Red Fox restaurant where Hoffa was last seen getting into the passenger’s seat of a maroon-colored Mercury Marquis and driving away.

“Lenny and I were driving and he just said it, Tony Jack had the house keys, they choked him out in the living room and gave the body to Rolland McMaster to get rid of,” said the associate. “It seemed like he just wanted to get it off his chest and he never said another word about it to me.”(3)

After Burnstein’s important story, I began to ask: Was Hoffa taken to the McMaster-Wells farm after he was killed at Lenny Schultz’s home?

Phillip Moscato Sr.

During my investigation of a corrupt former federal judge in Florida with investigative journalist David Corn, then the Washington editor of The Nation, I discovered documentation showing that a New Jersey Mafia figure had allegedly made cash payoffs to the judge: Phillip Moscato Sr., the co-owner of “Brother Moscato’s Dump” in Jersey City. Remembering him from the Hoffa case and Ralph Picardo’s statement to the FBI, I called Moscato at his home in Ocean, New Jersey.

Between 2007 and 2014, I conducted a series of interviews, many of which were recorded, with Moscato. During our talks, which went way beyond his relationship with the judge, he told me that — although the murder conspiracy against Hoffa was more complicated than publicly known — “Picardo basically had it right.” Moscato also confirmed Don Wells’s claim that Tony Provenzano was in Detroit on the night before the murder.

In addition, Moscato essentially revealed to me that in Act One, Vito Giacalone, the brother of Tony Giacalone — not Chuck O’Brien — had driven the car that picked up Hoffa at the Red Fox and took him to the scene of his murder. In Act Two, Sal Briguglio killed Hoffa. And, in Act Three, Hoffa’s body was indeed buried at his dump in New Jersey — which was the target of a subsequent EPA Superfund cleanup during the late 1970s and 1980s.

Further, Moscato told me that Frank Sheeran played no role in Hoffa’s actual murder.

However, despite my best efforts, Moscato refused to give me the entire story of Hoffa’s murder by the time of his death on February 16, 2014.

I did not publish what Moscato did tell me until July 30, 2015 — the 40th anniversary of Hoffa’s murder. Moscato’s story, which I excerpted in several publications, appeared in the second edition of my memoir, Confessions of a Guerrilla Writer, in which I had earlier debunked Sheeran’s claim that he was Hoffa’s killer in the 2013 first edition of my book.

Also, in Confessions, I detailed my interviews with John Zeitts, who — before Charles Brandt and I Heard You Paint Houses came along in or about 1999 — had written an unpublished manuscript about Frank Sheeran with Sheeran’s full cooperation. The Zeitts-Sheeran book was titled, Stand-Up Guy: Frank “Big Irish” Sheeran.

Before his death in 2011, Zeitts gave me full access to, among other materials, his many hours of audio- and-video-recorded interviews with Sheeran, as well as their draft manuscripts — which contradicted key events in the Brandt-Sheeran book and would likely conflict with the much-anticipated Martin Scorsese-Robert De Niro film, The Irishman.

Phillip Moscato Jr.

At my request, a few months after Phillip Moscato’s death in 2014, I received an introduction to Phillip Moscato Jr., who — I was told by a member of his family — knew something about the Hoffa case. The family member would only say that a New Jersey gangster with a long criminal history named Vincent Ravo was somehow involved in Hoffa’s disposal, which took place on a piece of land by “a miniature golf course,” just off Route 3, which runs through the Meadowlands.

During my five years of interviews with young Moscato from 2014 to 2019 — following seven years of interviews with his father — Moscato Jr. told me that Ravo, a once-close friend of Moscato Sr., had taken him to a specific location. At this place, Ravo, who moored his boat there, allegedly pointed to a spot in a parking lot, which Ravo described to young Moscato as “sacred ground.”

After Phillip Moscato Sr. died in 2014, his son, Phillip Moscato Jr., provided information supporting the theory that Hoffa’s body was moved to and reburied at a parking lot in Carlstadt, New Jersey. Courtesy of Dan E. Moldea

For reasons unknown, Ravo never mentioned Hoffa’s name.

From the outset, Moscato Jr. made it clear to me that he was looking for a deal with a production company or a media organization before disclosing the actual location — despite my constant admonition that he should not ask for a financial reward before “The Trophy,” my code name for Hoffa’s body, was found.

Adding to the mystery, Moscato Jr. told me that ten days before his father died, Moscato Sr. gave him critical details about Hoffa’s murder and the location of his body, instructing young Moscato to “trust and work with Dan Moldea.”

But other than saying that the elder Moscato confirmed that Sal Briguglio had killed Hoffa, young Moscato kept his cards close to his chest — even from me — about the details of what his father had told him before he died. And I simply could not figure out the connection between what Vinnie Ravo and Moscato Sr. had separately told Moscato Jr.

Thus, what young Moscato appeared to be suggesting was that — after the Provenzano crew discovered in 1975 that Steve Andretta had confessed to Ralph Picardo and that Picardo was cooperating with federal law enforcement officials — Moscato Sr. was directed to move Hoffa’s body from the dump and to relocate it, possibly with the help of Vinnie Ravo.

With the random minutiae provided to me by young Moscato, I was able to piece together information that led me to the actual location of “the sacred ground,” which was somewhere at or near a parking lot at 200 Outwater Lane in Carlstadt, New Jersey, which was part of a golf club — that included a miniature golf course — owned by an attorney, Alfred Porro, who had represented both Vinnie Ravo and Phillip Moscato Sr., among other underworld figures.

The golf club and its clubhouse had a different address from its adjacent parking lot: 56 Patterson Plank Road.

In May 1988, local police fished the murdered body of New Jersey mobster John DiGilio out of the Hackensack River, just a few yards offshore from the parking lot at 200 Outwater Lane. Missing for three weeks, DiGilio was a longtime associate of both Vinnie Ravo and Phillip Moscato Sr.

Between 2017 and 2018, Moscato Jr. and I were still at odds over his relentless attempts to profit before Hoffa’s body was found and identified. Thus, because I felt that I was in danger of losing Moscato as a source, I decided to buy some insurance.

Without fanfare, I posted an item on my Twitter page, which was nothing more than an old ad for the sports site: “Lawrence Taylor’s Golf Center and Marina,” noting the Patterson Plank Road address. Also, I added the following statement to my photograph of the ad: “LT, Renaissance Man: Football, golf, boating . . . and mob guys, like Vincent Ravo, aka Vinnie Ravo.”(4) I posted this tweet on July 30, 2018, the 43rd anniversary of Hoffa’s murder. Also, a few days earlier, I had published an online profile of Ravo.(5)

Moscato Jr. was furious with me after I sent him aerial photographs of the Outwater Lane and Patterson Plank Road locations in Carlstadt. Even though I did not print or broadcast any of this, my reporter-source relationship with young Moscato continued to deteriorate, as he resumed his efforts to search for deals that would pay him before he proved anything.

Contentious meeting with Robert De Niro

Since 2008, when Robert De Niro publicly announced his intention to produce a major motion picture based on the life and death of Jimmy Hoffa, attempts were made by mutual friends — specifically former CIA case officer Jack Platt and the respected crime reporter and author Gus Russo, among others — to arrange a meeting between De Niro and me. Because De Niro was so incredibly busy, I didn’t think the meeting would ever happen.

Dan Moldea, right, meets with actor Robert De Niro to try to convince him that Frank Sheeran did not tell the truth about his role in the Hoffa murder. De Niro, convinced of the legitimacy of Sheeran’s story, pressed ahead with production of The Irishman. Courtesy of Dale Myers

Then, on December 2, 2014, Russo called, telling me that De Niro would be his last-minute guest that night at a twice-a-year dinner that I hosted since 1989 for published authors at The Old Europe restaurant in the Glover Park section of Washington, D.C.

I didn’t tell anyone about our special visitor.

Eighty unsuspecting authors attended the dinner that evening where they were shocked to see De Niro, who couldn’t have been friendlier, nicer or a better sport. He posed for hundreds of photographs and treated all who approached him with respect.

Then, as the crowd thinned out, Russo invited De Niro and me to a table in a corner of the restaurant where the three of us could talk privately. A photograph was taken of the meeting.

Still proud of his purchase of the rights to I Heard You Paint Houses six years earlier, De Niro—who had hired Oscar-winner Steven Zaillian to write the screenplay for his movie, The Irishman — told Gus and me: “This is the book. This is the real story about the murder of Jimmy Hoffa.”

Taken aback, I replied: “With all due respect, you don’t know what you’re talking about. . . . Bob, you’re being conned if you believe that.”

“I’m not getting conned,” he replied.

The conversation deteriorated from there. De Niro and I did not part as friends.

Eric Shawn of Fox News and Frank Sheeran

Over the years, Eric Shawn of Fox News, to his great credit in light of our differing views about the Hoffa murder, continued to ask me to appear on camera during his filmed reports about Hoffa, essentially allowing me to play the role as the principal naysayer of his “Sheeran-did-it” theory.

Actually, along with author Charles Brandt, Shawn had remained at the epicenter of the Hoffa investigation, keeping the case alive since 2004 with his unwavering support of Brandt’s book and the upcoming movie he unofficially helped to develop, The Irishman.

Without Eric Shawn, Charles Brandt’s book would have received very little attention, and the movie, The Irishman, probably never would have been made.

On November 27, 2018, Shawn broadcast a hour-long special on Fox Nation, a new subscription streaming service of the Fox News empire: Riddle: The Search for Jimmy Hoffa, his latest installment about the Hoffa murder case during which he continued to embrace the badly flawed theory that Frank Sheeran had murdered Jimmy Hoffa.

Once again, Shawn, showing his objectivity and sense of fairness, featured my reporting on his program, even though it directly contradicted his own work.(6)

On December 16, Shawn, as part of the promotion of his special report, interviewed me on his Sunday afternoon news program on Fox. In addition to my criticism of his claim that Sheeran killed Hoffa, Shawn also permitted me to give him some good-natured grief, because he had repeatedly reported that Steve Andretta was dead, as Frank Sheeran had claimed in his 2004 book.

In fact, Andretta was alive and well and still living in New Jersey.

On February 3, 2019, Shawn again asked me to appear on his program, this time to discuss the recent death of Tom Andretta, Steve Andretta’s younger brother and an alleged co-conspirator in the Hoffa case.

Between my December and February appearances on Fox News with Shawn, I suggested to Phillip Moscato Jr. that — with the Scorsese-De Niro false-fact-filled film fantasy, The Irishman, slated for a fall release — we might want to consider working with Shawn, whom I considered to be a friend.

Actually, whether I liked it or not, Fox News was the only game in town. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC, along with the other cable networks, did not appear to be doing anything in conjunction with the movie’s release.

However, Moscato still refused to relent on his “no money, no show” demand, which continued to cause considerable friction between us. Consequently, Moscato and I went for several months with no communications between us.

Working with Fox for free

On July 16, 2019 — two days after I had announced on my blog that I had new information about the Hoffa caper — Eric Shawn called and left a message on my answering machine, saying that he and his bosses at Fox wanted to offer me a paid-consulting agreement to work with them on their Hoffa investigation. Before calling Shawn back, I decided to speak first with Moscato Jr., who told me that he was working with a Florida production company. He added that the producers wanted me to write his book.

I repeated, as I had for the past several years, that without Hoffa’s body confirmed, there was no book. However, I volunteered to do a nine-hour recorded interview with Moscato, which I personally paid to have transcribed. Then, I used it as the basis for a book proposal I wrote for Moscato, gratis, about his life as the son of a Mafia soldier. I gave it to Moscato for any purpose he chose — even if I was not the author — as long as he kept me “in the loop.”

During my subsequent conversation with Eric Shawn, he revealed that he and Moscato had met through the producers with the Florida production company, adding that he had interviewed him during the past few weeks.

For eighteen years, Eric Shawn of Fox News believed that Frank Sheeran had killed Hoffa but changed his mind in 2019 and embraced the theory that Hoffa was murdered by Salvatore Briguglio. Courtesy of Dan E. Moldea

That news really shocked me. Still, Shawn insisted that we should all work together, repeating the offer from Fox News to hire me as a consultant.

Because Shawn had developed his own reporter-source relationship with Moscato, I had no grounds to complain to Shawn for using Moscato Jr. as a source and taking credit for what he told him. But I did feel somewhat betrayed by Moscato, with whom I had invested five years of my time.

Regardless, I liked and respected both Moscato and Shawn, and I wanted to work with both of them. But I offered to do so for free, rejecting Fox News’s proposed paid-consulting arrangement. I wanted to remain independent so that I could speak to and write for any media organization in the aftermath of the release of The Irishman.

Our handshake agreement made, Shawn and I, with the help of Moscato, were determined to solve Act Three of the Hoffa case: the disposal of his body.

Moscato accompanied Shawn and me to the parking lot at 200 Outwater Lane in Carlstadt, New Jersey, where Vinnie Ravo supposedly showed him the location of Hoffa’s burial site — without ever mentioning Hoffa’s name. Independent of me, Shawn had already learned the address of the parking lot, presumably through his interviews with Moscato Jr.

However, Moscato still refused to tell us what his father specifically said just before his death about the location of Hoffa’s body, something inexplicably consistent with what Ravo had told Moscato Jr.

Significantly, Moscato did say that his father declared with no equivocation that Salvatore Briguglio was Hoffa’s killer.

Meantime, Moscato refused to pledge his full cooperation with the law enforcement community. He balked at executing a sworn statement about what he knew. And he refused to take a polygraph test.

Consequently, in the midst of all this, I started to distance myself from Moscato while Shawn embraced him. And, to be clear, I was not a party to whatever deal they made with Fox News and each other.

In short, I had simply lost confidence in Moscato’s story — unless we could prove that Hoffa’s body had been moved from his father’s landfill.

The Irishman: Great cinema, bad history

What was even more unexpected was that Eric Shawn was reconsidering his then eighteen-year position that Sheeran had killed Hoffa. In fact, Shawn was preparing to do a very public about-face, saying that Sal Briguglio, not Frank Sheeran, had killed Hoffa, based, in part, on what Moscato Sr. had told Moscato Jr.

Also leading to his amazing turnabout, Shawn had heard of and asked me about an internal Department of Justice memo dated November 26, 1976, from federal prosecutor Robert C. Stewart to DOJ official Kurt W. Muellenberg that had named Briguglio as Hoffa’s killer. I had a copy of this document and was more than happy to share it with Shawn, which he used to reinforce his new “Sheeran-didn’t-do-it” position.(7)

Shawn’s brave adjustment was strengthened by the pending releases of a slew of accompanying investigative articles that disputed the facts in The Irishman.

The most influential of these stories were published by Larry Henry for The Mob Museum, Bill Tonelli in Slate, Nick Vadala in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Scott Burnstein in the Gangster Report, George Anastasia of the Philly Voice, Vince Wade in the Daily Beast, Julie Miller of Vanity Fair, John Wisely and Julie Hinds of the Detroit Free Press, Allan Lengel of Deadline Detroit, Michael Wilson of the New York Times, Mark Dawidziak of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Amanda Darrach of the Columbia Journalism Review, Leo Sisti of L’Espresso and Manuel Roig-Franzia in the Washington Post.

Arguably, the biggest negative impact on the false facts and fabrications in The Irishman came from Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith, the author of the newly released, In Hoffa’s Shadow, the story of Goldsmith’s relationship with his stepfather, Chuck O’Brien. Along with his book, Goldsmith published devastating essays about the motion picture’s inaccuracies and examples of sheer irresponsibility in the New York Review of Books, Lawfare and as an op-ed in the New York Times.

In his book, Goldsmith noted one of my own turnabouts, writing:

The dean of Hoffa journalists, Dan Moldea, has been gripped by the disappearance since literally the day after it occurred, when he was twenty-five years old. Like so many longtime observers, he no longer believes, as he claimed in his 1978 book The Hoffa Wars, that Chuckie was involved in the disappearance. Moldea interviewed many of the leading suspects and players in the case, including Sal Briguglio, the Andretta brothers, and Brother Moscato, a Provenzano protégé. Moldea knew more details about the Hoffa case than anyone I met outside the government, has offered many theories of the disappearance over the years, and is always close by with analysis when a new rumor or ostensible piece of evidence pops up. “Even though the FBI hasn’t located Hoffa’s body,” Moldea told me in August 2018, at the start of his forty-fourth year on the case, “I still hope to find it.”(8)

Seeing his film under siege, Martin Scorsese cynically but wisely embraced what I called “an artistic-license dodge,” simply claiming that his people had bought the rights to I Heard You Paint Houses and then turned its major character, Frank Sheeran, into their own character whom they essentially re-created.

However, Robert De Niro continued to defend the film as the true and accurate version of what really happened to Jimmy Hoffa.

Simultaneously, news about my warning to De Niro in December 2014 that he was “being conned” by Sheeran’s story, generated much attention, too. And De Niro was specifically asked about our meeting:

During a recent interview with IndieWire Executive Editor Eric Kohn, De Niro addressed Moldea’s accusation and did not seem phased by claims The Irishman depicts an untrue story.

“Dan is a well-respected writer. I met him in D.C. for a writers thing where they get together every year. He said that we were getting conned. I wasn’t getting conned,” De Niro said. “I have no problem with people disagreeing. He of course is an authority on Hoffa and everything else. As Marty says, we’re not saying we’re telling the actual story, we’re telling our story. I believed it.”

De Niro continued, “I know one thing — I know all the stuff that Frank said, the descriptions of the places he was at, the way he talked, that’s all real. The way he describes what happened to Hoffa is a very plausible thing to me. I’d love to hear what actually happened to him. But this made a lot of sense to me.”(9)

After momentarily suspending all disbelief and seeing The Irishman, I issued a statement, saying, “It is a stunning work of filmmaking by Martin Scorsese — although it appears to be his homage to Oliver Stone’s own film fantasy, JFK, with its great cinema but bad history.”

Frank Cappola, son of Paul Cappola, Moscato’s partner

On February 3, 2019, I received a call from a Florida businessman, Paul Cappola Jr., the youngest son of the late Paul Cappola, Sr., the partner of Phillip Moscato Sr. at Brother Moscato’s Dump in Jersey City, aka the PJP Landfill. Young Cappola told me that he believed that his older brother, Frank Cappola, might have specific information about the location of Jimmy Hoffa’s remains at the dump.

I asked for an introduction to Frank Cappola but, for whatever reason, I did not receive it at that time. Several months later, on September 6, 2019, I contacted Cappola Jr. and appealed to him to arrange an introduction for me to his brother.

Frank Cappola, whose father was Brother Moscato’s partner in the New Jersey dump, escorted Moldea last September to the exact location where Hoffa’s body is believed to be buried. Courtesy of Dan E. Moldea

Through my research since the previous February, I learned that Frank Cappola, who had a criminal record, worked for many years as a top lieutenant for New Jersey gangster Vincent Ravo — the same Vinnie Ravo who had supposedly shown Phillip Moscato Jr. the location of Hoffa’s body, aka “sacred ground,” buried in a parking lot at 200 Outwater Lane in Carlstadt.

In the small-world category, the owner of the property had tasked Ravo years earlier to arrange for a major clean-up and overhaul of that same parking lot. And the person to whom Ravo gave this assignment was Frank Cappola.

Under the circumstances, I just had to talk to this guy. There was no stopping me.

On September 7, 2019, I received a call from Frank Cappola. During this interview, he told me that Jimmy Hoffa was, indeed, buried at the PJP Landfill.

And he added that he knew the exact location of Hoffa’s unmarked grave.

Cappola had never even heard the theory that Hoffa was moved from the dump and taken to the parking lot in Carlstadt.

After that first conversation, we had six additional interviews, all by phone.

On September 26, Fox News, for reasons unknown, balked at bringing Cappola onto our team, refusing to pay for his airfare from Florida to New Jersey after initially agreeing to do so several days earlier. Cappola had planned to fly to Newark the following day to meet with me, but he had no ticket. And he was so angry about it that he threatened to cancel his trip.

After Fox News dropped the ball, I personally paid for Cappola’s round-trip ticket, which caused considerable tension among Fox News, Cappola and me — with Eric Shawn insisting that he was caught in the middle.

I was not under contract with Fox, so, inasmuch as I found Cappola and paid for his expenses, I told Shawn to tell his bosses, with respect, that Frank Cappola was now my source, exclusively.

Cappola arrived in New Jersey on Friday, September 27, the same day as The Irishman premiered at the New York Film Festival.

During our dinner the following night, September 28, Cappola — who felt disrespected by Fox News and refused to speak with Shawn — told me that he was going to drive to PJP the following day.

I replied, smiling, “Motherfucker, you are taking me with you.”

On Sunday morning, September 29, Cappola picked me up at my hotel in Secaucus, and we drove to the remnants of the former PJP Landfill in Jersey City, aka “Brother Moscato’s Dump.”

When we arrived, Cappola gave me a tour of the area, which he had not visited in nearly twenty years. But his memories seemed to sharpen just by being there, and he went on to repeat what he had told me during our numerous phone interviews over the past three weeks — with few, if any, changes to or variations on his original story.

The tour culminated with his identification of the exact spot where, according to Cappola, Hoffa was buried in the unmarked grave dug by his father, Paul Cappola Sr.

“This is it,” Cappola told me. “This is where my dad buried Jimmy Hoffa.”

The site was the approximate size of a Little League baseball diamond, 60 feet times four.

I filmed the entire tour and interviewed Cappola on videotape that same afternoon.

* * *

Since Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975, I had been involved in no fewer than a half-dozen previous searches — all of which wound up as intriguing adventures but cruel disappointments.

But after closely scrutinizing Cappola’s story, his version of events was something very special and unique. In fact, during my many years of investigating Hoffa’s fate since 1975, Cappola’s information provided me with the best lead I had ever seen or heard with regard to a possible site of the unmarked grave of the ex-Teamsters boss.

On the basis of the information I collected from the tour and the recorded interview, I drafted a proposed sworn declaration for Cappola to sign, which he corrected, amended and executed under the penalty of perjury on October 7.

Meantime, I asked Cappola — as a favor to me and out of respect for a friend and colleague — to agree to an interview with Eric Shawn on October 11, adding that I would be sitting at the table with them and protecting his information. Cappola agreed, and the interview went well.

On or about November 21, 2019 — three days after Shawn and I revealed our information about Moscato Jr. on Shawn’s next installation about Hoffa for Fox Nation — I published my article about Cappola’s breathtaking revelations at Shawn broadcast portions of his brief interview with Cappola as part of his Sunday, December 1, prime-time special on Fox News.

In my article about Cappola and his father, I wrote:

“This is it,” Frank Cappola said to me in a hushed voice on a sunny Sunday afternoon, September 29, as he compared the foreboding area where we were standing with aerial photographs of this same scene. “This is where my dad buried Jimmy Hoffa.” . . .

The location — widely thought to be operated by mobsters — was a familiar one to the FBI and those who had studied the Hoffa-murder case: “Brother Moscato’s Dump” in Jersey City, New Jersey — once a sprawling . . . toxic waste site bordered by the Hackensack River and directly beneath the Pulaski Skyway which stretched between Jersey City and Newark. The dumpsite was targeted for cleanup by the EPA during the late 1970s and 1980s. Most of the land was now a public park and a wildlife refuge.

“Brother Moscato’s Dump” was also known as the PJP Landfill: “P” for Phillip “Brother” Moscato; “J” for local political figure John Hanley; and “P” for Paul Cappola, Frank Cappola’s father. Moscato, according to federal and state law enforcement officials, was a reputed soldier in the Vito Genovese crime family. He worked under Anthony Provenzano of New Jersey, one of two mobsters Hoffa expected to meet on the day he disappeared. Moscato died in 2014.

The late Paul Cappola was a respected businessman who owned a waste-management company in Jersey City and was Moscato’s partner at the PJP Landfill. Cappola was certainly connected to the underworld but, unlike Brother Moscato, was not a “made” member of the Mafia. Still, like Moscato, he was obedient to the powers that controlled the waste-management industry in New Jersey and New York during the 1970s.

Alleged specific location of Hoffa’s remains

Frank Cappola, who was seventeen and working part time at the dump when Hoffa disappeared during the summer of 1975, recalled: “While I was talking to my dad, a black limousine drove onto our lot in the mud. My dad said to Moscato something like, ‘They’re here.’

“Moscato went to the limousine and spoke with its occupants, none of whom were known to me. During their conversation, Moscato turned and pointed to a specific area in the northeast section of the landfill. At the time, I didn’t know why.

“After Moscato made this hand gesture, my father threw his hands up in the air and exclaimed, ‘Now, the whole fucking world will know!’ I didn’t know what my dad was talking about then.

“When the limousine left, Moscato told my father that he had to be somewhere that night, adding, ‘You have to handle it, Paul.’ They walked into the PJP office for a closed-door meeting. At that time, I didn’t know what they discussed.

“Shortly before I left work that day, I saw that a large hole had been dug with an excavator. At the time, I had no idea why.”

In 1989, Frank Cappola was working on a waste site adjacent to the long-defunct PJP Landfill. During a visit from his father, the two men walked onto what was once PJP. When they came to the location of the hole Frank saw that night in 1975, Paul Cappola told his son, “This is where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.”

Frank recalled, “This was the first time that my dad admitted that Hoffa was buried at PJP, although he had referred to Hoffa in unspecific terms in our previous conversations.”

In or about March 2008, while Paul Cappola was dying, he provided his son with the specific details about what had happened to Hoffa’s body, adding that he wanted his son “to help Hoffa return home to his family.”

* * *

Notably, after Ralph Picardo told the FBI that a Gateway Transportation truck had hauled Hoffa’s body to New Jersey, special agents obtained Gateway’s shipping records from the company’s operations in Detroit to its terminal Secaucus, New Jersey — which was less than a ten-minute drive from the PJP Landfill in Jersey City.

Cappola’s sworn statement

In his affidavit, executed at my request, Frank Cappola listed what his father told him:

a. A person or persons he did not name instructed my father and Mr. Moscato to bury Jimmy Hoffa’s body. My father led me to believe that they were the people in the limousine with whom Mr. Moscato met that muddy day during the summer of 1975.

b. Mr. Moscato told my dad that he had something to do that night and asked my father to take care of it.

c. Mr. Moscato had a burial location for Hoffa on the landfill site. While he was talking to the people in the limousine, both my father and I witnessed him pointing in the direction of this location.

d. My father was upset with Mr. Moscato for pointing to that area at the landfill, because the dump was constantly under police scrutiny, and Mr. Moscato’s gesture could have given away the location of Hoffa’s body.

e. After Mr. Moscato left PJP, my father, who didn’t trust anybody, decided to dig a second hole with a company excavator and to place Hoffa at that location — unknown to Mr. Moscato. My dad never told him.

f. Unidentified people brought Hoffa’s dead body to PJP. Because of the awkward position of Hoffa’s corpse after they removed him from whatever container he was in before, they were unable to place him, feet first, in a 55-gallon steel drum retrieved at PJP. So, they put him in the drum headfirst. Then, they sealed the container. My father saw but never handled Hoffa’s dead body.

g. After those people left, my father likely placed the steel drum containing Hoffa’s body on a front loader. Then, he positioned the drum at the bottom of the large hole my father dug, which was eight to fifteen feet deep.

h. I will reveal the exact location of that hole to law enforcement, along with two additional and provable details about that site.

i. My father then placed as many as fifteen to thirty chemical drums in the hole where Hoffa’s body was encased, along with chunks of brick and dirt.

j. Notably, as a common practice, the chemical drums would be marked. The steel drum that contained Hoffa’s body was likely not marked.

k. Then, my father covered the grave with a bulldozer, which completed his task. The site was his secret.

l. My father also placed something detectable just under the surface of the gravesite, which I am willing to disclose to law enforcement.

Along with executing his sworn statement, Cappola told me he was prepared to cooperate fully with the law enforcement community, and he was also willing to take a polygraph test.

According to a statement from the FBI’s field office in Detroit about the information Eric Shawn and I had developed about Phillip Moscato Jr. and Frank Cappola:

Over the years, our office has followed all credible leads we received from the public. We are aware of the recent reports of two individuals, who claim to have knowledge about the whereabouts of Mr. Hoffa. Just as we would with anyone who purports to have information relevant to this — or any — ongoing investigation, the FBI welcomes the opportunity to speak to those individuals.(10)

“Frank, are you okay?”

In early January 2020, Frank Cappola was in New Jersey, visiting his longtime girlfriend, Joy DiBiaso, a legal assistant for a law firm in New York City. Joy, whom I had met during my first visit with Cappola, adored him and was very protective of him. Tough-guy Frank and sweet Joy, both in their early sixties, looked like a couple of carefree school kids when they were together. They were in love.

With Joy’s upcoming retirement, she and Cappola were making plans to live together in Florida.

Before he returned to his home from this trip, I called and invited Cappola and Joy to dinner on Friday, January 10. I took the train to Secaucus and checked into a hotel that was near a sushi buffet that Frank and Joy liked, a place we had been to before.

I was first to arrive at the restaurant. While I was in the lobby, Frank slowly walked through the front door with a breathing tube in his nostrils and a small tank of oxygen slung over his shoulder. Joy was outside parking the car. I knew that Frank was still ailing after a serious bout with pneumonia the previous year.

Shortly after the maître ‘d seated us, Frank became very weak — so much so that he couldn’t even get up to go to the buffet table. I knew that he enjoyed oysters on the half shell and shrimp cocktail. So, while he rested, I went to the seafood bar and fixed him a small plate of food. He ate three of the six oysters and three of the six shrimp before pushing his plate away.

When I looked at him, he had a glassy gaze. I reached across the table and patted him on the shoulder, asking, “Frank, are you okay?” Moments later, Cappola, breathing irregularly, went headfirst into the table, clearly suffering from some sort of respiratory event.

During a dinner meeting with Moldea in January, Frank Cappola collapsed at the table. The following day, he was rushed to the hospital. He died in March. Courtesy of Dan E. Moldea

Joy immediately sprang out of her chair and adjusted his breathing equipment so he could get more oxygen.

“Jesus, Frank,” I exclaimed, “let me call an ambulance!” Joy, almost on the verge of tears, agreed.

Cappola shook his head, saying he just needed to get to Joy’s home and go to bed. He added that he was extremely tired.

We had only spent about fifteen minutes together.

Joy ran out to get the car. While Cappola and I sat together in the lobby, I snapped a photograph of him, looking almost peaceful.

I helped Cappola to Joy’s car, repeating that we should go to the hospital. But he refused again, saying that he just needed to get some sleep.

That was the last time I saw Frank.

In the days that followed, Joy took him to a local hospital that was not equipped to deal with Cappola’s condition. Consequently, medical personnel moved him to the Hackensack University Medical Center where he was fitted with a ventilator and placed in a drug-induced coma.

Although he briefly opened his eyes from time to time, he never fully regained consciousness, and he never spoke another word.

On March 16, 2020, Frank Cappola died before the FBI arranged for the polygraph test he had offered to take, a missed opportunity.

I blogged out the news, adding that if Frank was right, then I was now probably the only person in the world — with one possible exception — who knew where Hoffa was buried.

I immediately found a safe place for the videotapes of my September 29, 2019, “tour” with Cappola at the PJP Landfill, aka “Brother Moscato’s Dump,” as well as for the films of our interviews.

Determined to discover whether Frank was right or wrong, I mapped out a strategy with trusted friends that we hoped to execute immediately. However, when the worldwide pandemic struck with its full force shortly after Frank’s death, everything was frozen and put on hold.

As of this writing, we are waiting for an opportunity to strike. Several months before he died, Frank Cappola authorized me in writing to cooperate fully with the law enforcement community, which I am preparing to do with enthusiasm.

* * *

I started investigating Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters while I was a graduate student at Kent State, eight months before Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975. And I have been involved in the investigation of his killing since Day One.

After all of these years, I am still Ahab, and the Hoffa murder case is still my white whale.(11)


(1)For a copy of the 1979 Sheeran letter to me, see:

(2)Micheline Maynard, New York Times, “F.B.I. Calls Off Its Latest Search for Hoffa,” May 31, 2006.

(3)Scott Burnstein, Gangster Report, “Detroit Mafia Associate Says Jimmy Hoffa Had His Last Stand at Lenny Schultz’s House,” January 4, 2020.


(5)Dan E. Moldea,, “Who is Vinnie Ravo? After 42 years, a possible new cast member emerges in the mystery of the disposal of Jimmy Hoffa,” July 20, 2017. See:

(6)Via Fox Nation, Eric Shawn released the second part of Riddle: The Search for Jimmy Hoffa, on November 18, 2019. Part Three was broadcast on March 17, 2020.

(7)Also, I gave Eric Shawn a letter that the late former FBI Special Agent Ken Walton of Detroit, a long-time friend of mine, had sent to me on July 11, 2004, shortly after the release of I Heard You Paint Houses. Walton, who spent many years investigating the Hoffa murder, wrote: “Regarding Jimmy and the latest [revelations] by Frank Sheeran, I don’t buy it, and when I spoke to Eric Shawn . . . I told him the same thing. . . . I still [think] he was killed by Sal Briguglio.”

On September 25, 2019, I blogged about a videotape in the Zeitts archive in which Sheeran had claimed on film that another reporter and I were misled by the FBI to believe that the Teamsters and the Mafia were behind Hoffa’s murder when, according to Sheeran in this recording, the person who engineered the killing was former U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell, which, of course, was ridiculous.

(8)Jack Goldsmith, In Hoffa’s Shadow: A Stepfather, a Disappearance in Detroit, and My Search for the Truth (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2019) p. 294.

(9)Zack Sharf, IndieWire, “Robert De Niro Defends The Irishman Against Claims It’s Based on an Untrue Story,” November 13, 2019.

(10)Eric Shawn, Fox Nation, “Exclusive: FBI wants to talk to subjects of Fox Nation’s Jimmy Hoffa investigation,” January 15, 2020.

(11)Dates of deaths of persons of interest in the Hoffa-murder case
(*) interviewed by Dan Moldea:

* Thomas Andretta: January 25, 2018
* Stanton Barr: November 13, 2019
* Salvatore Briguglio: March 21, 1978
Russell Bufalino: February 25, 1994
* William Bufalino: May 12, 1990
* Frank Cappola: March 16, 2020
Paul Cappola, Sr.: March 8, 2008
* Allen Dorfman: January 20, 1983
Anthony Giacalone: February 23, 2001
Vito Giacalone: February 19, 2012
* Lawrence McHenry: January 17, 1994
* Rolland McMaster: October 25, 2007
* Phillip Moscato, Sr.: February 16, 2014
* Charles O’Brien, February 13, 2020
Ralph Picardo (federal witness): January 26, 2004
Anthony Provenzano: December 12, 1988
* Salvatore Provenzano: May 27, 2013
* Jack Robison: July 27, 2003
* Leonard Schultz: September 6, 2013
* Jim Shaw: March 31, 1987
* Frank Sheeran: December 13, 2003
* Donovan Wells (federal witness): September 5, 2019

Still alive, as of this writing (May 15, 2020):

* Gabriel Briguglio, living in New Jersey
* Stephen Andretta, living in New Jersey

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