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Jimmy Hoffa still missing after failed search at reputed burial site

June 19, 2013|By Michael Muskal

The FBI on Wednesday closed its latest search for the remains of former Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, ending a dig in a rural field near Detroit where investigators failed to find a trace of the man who has been missing for almost 40 years.

The latest effort to locate some trace of Hoffa officially ended Wednesday morning, according to Robert Foley, head of the FBI office in Detroit. He made the announcement hours after officials had resumed digging in the field in Oakland Township, the Detroit area where the union boss had his power base and was last seen.

“We did not uncover any evidence relevant to the investigation on James Hoffa,” Foley told reporters at a news conference.

“I am very confident of our result here after two-days-plus of diligent effort,” he said of the operation that began on Monday. “As of this point, we'll be closing down the excavation operation.”

As it has in in the past, the FBI insisted that the case remained open.

Hoffa, whose mysterious disappearance eclipsed his tumultuous life, was last seen on July 30, 1975, outside a restaurant in Bloomfield Township, another Detroit suburb. The FBI has said it believes that Hoffa met with two organized crime figures, one of whom was a former Teamsters associate.

Hoffa was forced out of power in 1964 after being convicted of jury tampering. At the time of his disapperance he was reportedly planning a return to the Teamsters, the union he had built into one of the most successful labor organizations of its time as well as one of the unions allegedly linked to a variety of organized crime families.

Hoffa was never heard from again after the lunch.

Theories about his disappearance have included that he was killed by mobsters who feared his return to union power. Over the years, rumors have placed his remains at several locations in the Detroit area, in swamps in Florida and even in concrete beneath the former Giants Stadium in Rutherford, N.J. Tests have been carried out in a number of places without finding any trace of Hoffa.

Hoffa, born in 1913, was declared legally dead in 1982.

The latest digging expedition started after a tip from reputed Mafia captain Tony Zerilli, who, through his lawyer, said Hoffa was buried beneath a concrete slab in a barn in Oakland Township. The barn is gone, but FBI agents dug on the land where it once stood. They brought in heavy equipment and cadaver dogs as well as forensic experts to assist.

Zerilli, now 85, was in prison for organized crime activities when Hoffa disappeared. But he told New York's  WNBC-TV in January that he was informed about Hoffa's whereabouts after his release. Details are reportedly in a manuscript Zerilli is selling online.

Last fall, officials dug out a suburban Detroit driveway after another tip that Hoffa found his final resting place there. That search was sparked by a tip from an elderly man who said he saw a body put under the driveway years ago and that he thought it might have been Hoffa.

In 2003, a backyard swimming pool was dug up 90 miles northwest of Detroit. Seven years ago, a tip from an ailing federal inmate led to a two-week search and excavation at a horse farm in the same area.

No evidence of Hoffa was ever found.

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