OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich., — The latest search for former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975 in what law enforcement officials believe might have been an organized crime hit, brought investigators on Monday to an overgrown vacant field in suburban Detroit.
A bulldozer drove onto the property and video shot from a helicopter by Detroit television station WDIV showed FBI agents with shovels digging at the ground in a bid to find the remains of the union leader, whose dramatic life story inspired the 1992 movie “Hoffa,” starring Jack Nicholson.
FBI special agent Robert D. Foley confirmed the search on a property in Oakland Township about 45 miles north of Detroit, but declined to provide further details.
“Because this investigation is an open investigation and because the search warrant is sealed, I will not be able to provide any additional details regarding our activity here this morning,” Foley told reporters gathered at the site.
The property is being searched because Tony Zerilli, 85, the son of reputed former Detroit mob boss Joseph Zerilli, told WDIV in January that Hoffa, 62, was buried there.
Hoffa was last seen at a suburban Detroit restaurant in July 1975 and investigators have followed up thousands of leads over the decades, but no remains have been found. His disappearance and where he might have been buried remains one of the great mysteries for conspiracy theorists.
In September, police removed a soil sample from behind a private home in Roseville, Michigan, after receiving a tip that Hoffa might be buried there. No remains were found.
Hoffa, the father of current Teamsters President James Hoffa, led the union from 1957 to 1971, spending the final years of his term in prison for fraud and jury tampering. He was released in late 1971 when President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence.
Authorities have long held the theory that Hoffa was ordered killed by organized crime figures to prevent him from regaining control of the Teamsters. He had agreed to be banned from the union until 1980 as part of the deal that got him out of prison.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told reporters a conclusion on to the search for Hoffa’s body was “long overdue.”
“This has been one of those kind of open wounds for a long time,” Bouchard said. “It’s my fondest hope that we can give that closure, not just to the Hoffa family but also to the community.”