CONFESSIONS OF A GUERRILLA WRITER:
Adventures in the Jungles of Crime, Politics, and Journalism
Copyright © 2013-2015 by Dan E. Moldea
Available at Amazon
Updates, reviews, excerpts & errata
From the Preface of Confessions of a Guerrilla Writer:I have always worked hard to get my facts straight. However, I do make mistakes, and I am more than willing atone for them. When informed, I will immediately list provable errors on an errata sheet on my website, www.moldea.com, and I promise to make any and all necessary corrections in future editions of this book as quickly as possible.
Update (8-26-2013): Press inquiries should be sent to email@example.com.
Update (8-26-2013): Dan Moldea's Twitter address is @DanMoldea. He is also on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
Update (9-6-2013): The print edition of CGW went up on CreateSpace and then on Amazon the following day.
Update (9-15-2013): The Kindle edition of CGW was released on Amazon.
11-19-2013: Participated on a panel organized by the Justice Integrity Project on the JFK murder at the National Press Club.
12-7-2013: Book party at the home of Jim Grady and Bonnie Goldstein. (See: Janet Donovan, Hollywood on the Potomac, "Confessions!" December 11, 2013)
12-15-2013: Interview with Bill Wilhelm of The Sports Exchange on WATD-FM in Mansfield, Massachusetts.
12-18-2013: Interview with Ethelbert Miller, host of The Scholars on UDC-TV in Washington, D.C.
1-9-2014: Interview with Ron Chepesiuk and William Hryb, hosts of Crime Beat radio. (The interview begins at 12:12.)
Mel Ayton, History News Network, "Review of Dan Moldea's Confessions of a Guerrilla Writer," October 12, 2013.
"[Dan Moldea] is one of America's best investigative reporters. . . ."
John L. Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal, "NFR Not Likely to Ride into the Sunset," January 9, 2014.
"Confessions of a Guerrilla Writer, investigative reporter and author Dan Moldea’s entertaining memoir, should be read by every sports bettor just for its chapter on the NFL’s response to the author’s book on professional football, Interference."
Excerpts on Facebook and/or Twitter
The Hoffa murder case
Excerpt #1 from The Prologue (9-9-2013):
The man promised to deliver Jimmy Hoffa’s dead body to me, gift-wrapped in a 55-gallon drum.
Yet, while sitting alone in my black 2007 Jeep Liberty at our prearranged meeting place in the rear parking lot of a Mobil station just off an empty country road in Hartland Township about an hour northwest of Detroit, all that went through my mind was how many federal, state, and local laws I was about to violate if this actually happened. However, regardless of the consequences, if Hoffa’s remains were really offered to me, I was going to accept them.
It was the hot and sunny late afternoon of August 20, 2009—thirty-four years after the ex-Teamsters boss disappeared on July 30, 1975. A young freelance writer back then, I had started my investigations of Hoffa and Teamsters eight months before he vanished. Hoffa’s still-unsolved murder had been my obsession ever since, even after the 1978 publication of my book, The Hoffa Wars.
Knowing the Hoffa case as well as any journalist, I recognized the good leads from the bad and had received dozens over the years. But the stunning detail that a Michigan man—“AH,” as I called him—provided in the summer of 2009 had really grabbed me. Inasmuch as AH, a convicted scam artist, was simultaneously cooperating with the FBI and had nothing to gain by conning me, I decided to play out this drama, primarily because he had once worked for former Detroit Teamster leader Rolland McMaster, a top suspect in Hoffa’s disappearance. Aside from Hoffa, McMaster, who had died in October 2007, was the principal character of my 1978 book. I had spent years investigating him and openly alleged that he had played a role in the disposal of Hoffa’s body.
In May 2006, the FBI had launched a well-publicized search for Hoffa’s body at a farm in Wixom, Michigan, excavating a portion of the property, destroying and then rebuilding a large barn in the process. In July 1975, that farm was owned by McMaster.
Although the FBI did not find Hoffa, the New York Times quoted an FBI spokesperson who “was convinced that Mr. Hoffa's body had been buried on the farm, and there was ‘no indication that it has been moved.’" . . .
Excerpt #2 from Chapter 10, "The goon squad" (9-10-2013):
On Tuesday, August 5 , the day after I was hired by NBC News, I was given a desk in the newsroom of WWJ‑TV, an NBC affiliate in downtown Detroit. For my first assignment, Bob Toombs gave me a long list of questions he needed answered and people he wanted contacted.
At 10:45 A.M., with my work nearly completed, I received a call from a very nervous man who refused to identify himself. He said that he had received my name from someone in the Teamsters rank‑and‑file reform movement, adding that he had important information about the Hoffa case.
Believing that this guy might be for real, I grabbed my tape recorder. Then, I attached a common wiretapping device with a suction cup to the telephone. Because I did not want to inhibit what he had called to tell me, I didn't tell him when I switched on the recorder.
"Okay, let me understand this," I said, trying to get him to repeat what he had just said off tape. "You're saying that you know who bombed Dick Fitzsimmons's car last month."
"Yeah, but, like I said, I can't prove it," he said. "I just know they did it."
"And you say it was a ruse?"
"Yeah . . . most of the bombings and shootings in Local 299 were against pro‑Hoffa people. Then, just before Jimmy disappeared, Dick Fitzsimmons's car was bombed. . . . It had been too one way. They wanted something to happen to a Fitzsimmons person to make it look like both sides were involved in the violence."
"You're telling me that some pro‑Fitzsimmons people blew up Dick Fitzsimmons' car?"
"Yeah, that's it."
"Does Dick Fitzsimmons know about this?"
"I don't think so. He didn't need to. He was someplace else when it happened. . . . Nobody got hurt, and it wasn't even Fitzsimmons's own car. The union gave him that car to use."
"Okay, who are the guys who did the bombing?"
With no equivocation, the source gave me the names of two men I had never heard of before: Larry McHenry and Jim Shaw, alleging that they had actually bombed the car.
"I'm sorry, sir, I don't know those names. Who are these guys?"
"They used to work for Rolland McMaster, and they might be still working for him."
"Okay, I'm sorry again," I said with some frustration. "I'm not familiar with him either. What's his name?"
Remaining patient with me, the source repeated McMaster's name and spelled it for me, adding that he was a "general organizer" for the Teamsters who worked directly for Fitzsimmons.
A few minutes later, I asked, "Okay, so what kind of work did these two guys do for McMaster?"
"They were part of an 'organizing unit' McMaster ran for Fitzsimmons and the Teamsters. . . ."
"You mean, like a goon squad?"
"Yeah," he laughed, "it was a goon squad."
Excerpt #3 from Chapter 13, "A guerrilla writer in New York" (9-11-2013):
On Thursday, August 14, , I flew to New York where I went to work in the Special Projects Division of NBC News under executive producer Gordon Manning, who had just joined the network after a long and distinguished career at CBS News where he served as executive producer of its evening news program with anchorman Walter Cronkite.
I went to the office of the 58‑year old Manning to introduce myself and to plead with him to allow me to continue my work with the Master Task Force source.
"Dan, is this the guy who gave us Manitoulin Island?" Asked Manning with justifiable sarcasm.
"Sir," I said, smiling but reeling on the defensive, "I know what you're thinking, but everything he said he knew for sure was confirmed. Regarding Manitoulin Island, he said a guy named McMaster had a farm on the eastern portion of the island, and that people were meeting there. Bob Vito confirmed all of that."
"What about Hoffa's body?” Manning continued, refusing to let me off the hook. “Didn't he say something about Hoffa being up there, too?"
"That was nothing but speculation on his part, sir. He labeled it that way. Bob Toombs just played his hunch."
Relenting, Manning allowed me to continue working on the McMaster Task Force, as long as it didn't interfere with what I had been brought to New York to do.
"Thank you, sir," I replied respectfully, "because my source wants to meet with me this Sunday."
Manning laughed and instructed me to work it out with Bob Reid.
That same day, I met another legendary news producer who had just come to NBC, Stanhope Gould, also a veteran of CBS News. Gould had heard about my work from Manning and tagged me as “a guerrilla writer”—an advocacy journalist, an investigative reporter who embraces a particular cause and openly takes sides.
Inasmuch as Gould was the new head of NBC’s investigative unit and had come from the school of objective journalism, I didn’t really accept his depiction of me as a compliment. But—considering the nature of my work and my alliances with, among others, the rank-and-file reform movement within the Teamsters—I did consider it a fair description.
In fact, I had become an advocate, and I had taken sides.
Excerpt #4 from Chapter 16, "Back to Detroit" (9-12-2013):
I went to Local 299 where I met again with Hoffa's uncle, Steve Riddle, asking him to arrange an interview for me with James P. Hoffa, Jimmy Hoffa's attorney-son. Riddle picked up the telephone, called young Hoffa, and set up a meeting for the following day.
On October 29, , I met the 34‑year‑old Hoffa in his law office on the 33rd floor of Detroit's Guardian Building, overlooking the Detroit River. An all‑state linebacker at Detroit's Cooley High School, Hoffa had gone to Michigan State where a knee injury ended his football career. Later, he attended law school at the University of Michigan. In 1967, while a practicing labor attorney, Hoffa ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Michigan State Legislature. After the election, he concentrated on his law practice at the firm of Hoffa Chodak & Robiner. He became a trusted legal advisor to Local 299, as well as to his father.
With Hoffa's law partner, Murray Chodak in the room, Hoffa vehemently defended his dad, saying, "There was a mutual love between my father and the Teamsters' rank and file. They knew that he sincerely cared about them and their welfare. He was a real leader."
Making it respectfully clear that I didn't agree at all with his appraisal of his dad, I quickly changed the subject and explained my theory about the Local 299 violence and his father's murder, along with Rolland McMaster’s possible role.
Excited by this news, Hoffa asked, "Does the FBI know what you know?"
Not knowing how to handle that question, I simply replied, "I don't know what the FBI knows."
Immediately, Hoffa picked up his telephone and dialed a number. "I've got a man here I want you to meet," Hoffa said. "Can you come over now? He's here."
When he hung up the receiver, he said, "The FBI is coming over here. Is that okay? I know these guys. You can trust them."
I shrugged, saying nothing but fearing that I had just been bullied into an awkward situation.
Hoffa, Chodak, and I continued to talk for the next half hour until his secretary buzzed and told him that the FBI agents had arrived.
Within seconds, three special agents walked into Hoffa's office while I was looking out the window on the other side of the room. I immediately recognized one of them as the FBI agent who had visited me in Ohio two weeks earlier. I didn't say a word, waiting to see how he wanted to handle the situation.
Shaking hands with Hoffa first, the FBI agent I knew turned and saw me by the window. He paused momentarily. But other than "hello," he didn't say a word as Hoffa introduced us. "Nice to meet you," I simply replied.
For the next forty‑five minutes, Hoffa and the three FBI agents listened as I did my song‑and‑dance routine. When I completed the performance, Hoffa and the FBI agents asked me several questions. Then, still in my presence, Hoffa asked the FBI agents what they thought.
"We can't confirm everything he's saying," one of the other FBI agents responded. "But you can trust what he's saying—if that makes any sense."
When Hoffa asked what that meant, the agent added, "You can trust Dan and his information."
A few minutes later, the three FBI agents left, leaving Hoffa, Chodak, and me behind.
Hoffa asked me if I needed any money. I replied that I did, and that I was looking for a newspaper to finance my research. When Hoffa asked me if I had talked to the Detroit Free Press, I recounted that I had spoken with Jo Thomas the previous day, adding that she said her newspaper didn't hire freelancers.
Once again, Hoffa picked up the telephone. This time, he called the Free Press's labor editor, Ralph Orr. Hoffa arranged a meeting for the following day.
Excerpt #5 from Chapter 18: “A surprise witness at the grand jury” (9-13-2013)
On December 3, , one of Thomas's sources telephoned, telling her that the U.S. Strike Force Against Organized Crime in Detroit had called several key witnesses in the Hoffa case to appear before a federal grand jury the following day. As all of us jumped on telephones to call our sources, word quickly spread that the witnesses were the suspects actually thought to have murdered Hoffa. This appeared to be the big break in the case everyone had been waiting for.
Filtering out the bad rumors from the good, we learned that the witnesses were several union officials from New Jersey. All of them were associated with Tony Provenzano, whom Hoffa was scheduled to meet on the day he disappeared.
Also, the FBI had conducted searches of at least three locations in New Jersey: a file cabinet used by Salvatore Briguglio, a business agent in Local 560; a safety deposit box leased by his brother, Gabriel Briguglio, the vice president of Local 84 in Fort Lee, at a bank in Union City; and Brother Moscato’s garbage dump in Hackensack.
After hearing Salvatore Briguglio's name, I called Don Vestal, a one‑time Hoffa aide who later became an enemy of the union's power structure and then a leader of the Teamsters United Rank and File (TURF), a rank‑and‑file reform organization. I asked him whether he had ever heard of Briguglio—without telling him why I was interested or even mentioning McMaster’s name.
Vestal's response was contained in my December 3 memorandum to Orr and Thomas: “Don Vestal said that Briguglio is known by Dave Johnson, a former business agent in 299, and McMaster. Vestal said that Briguglio . . . was generally considered to be McMaster's bodyguard. He said Briguglio was close to both Tony and Sal Provenzano [who was Tony's brother]. . . . McMaster and Briguglio traveled together; their association goes back to the late '50s or early '60s.”
Neither Orr nor Thomas had anything to say about my memorandum. Instead, they continued their own work, digging out the names of those who were going to appear at the grand jury: the Briguglio brothers and another set of brothers, Stephen and Thomas Andretta, who were also associated with Provenzano.
A fifth witness could not be identified.
All five of these men were represented by William Bufalino, who was related to Russell Bufalino, the Mafia boss of northeastern Pennsylvania.
On Thursday, December 4, while Ralph Orr and I worked in the newsroom, Jo Thomas covered the chaotic scene outside the grand-jury room at the federal courthouse, across the street from the Free Press building. Periodically, she phoned in reports to our boss, John Oppedahl, who relayed the messages to Orr and me.
After a few hours of this, Oppedahl, laughing almost uncontrollably, walked up to my desk and asked, "Guess who the unidentified fifth man at the grand jury is?"
Without saying anything, I jumped out of my seat and left the newsroom. Passing by the elevators, I ran down the steps, out the building, across the street, and into the federal courthouse.
When I arrived, I saw Rolland McMaster, standing alone by the elevator, waiting for his turn to testify.
Wearing a trench coat, sports shirt, and a hat with a wide brim, the 62‑year‑old union organizer epitomized the classic stereotype of the term "Teamster." Although he and I were both the same height—six‑feet‑four‑inches—he weighed 245, seventy pounds more than me. His hands were as big as shovels. His face was highlighted by a thick, protruding upper lip.
He wore a pair of designer eyeglasses. Behind them, his right eye was penetrating. His left eye, which was made of glass, simply stared straight ahead and into the distance.
I walked up to McMaster and introduced myself. McMaster simply said, "I thought that was you."
Tastelessly jubilant and even a little sarcastic, I asked him, "Gee, Mister McMaster, why have you been called before the grand jury investigating Hoffa's disappearance?"
Allowing me to get away with my bad attitude, he simply replied, "I don't know. You're welcome to call me after it's over, and I'll tell you what happened."
Another reporter walked up to us and began to question McMaster. I excused myself and walked away.
As I looked for Jo Thomas, I heard someone behind me say, "Hey, Moldea!" McMaster had left the other reporter and followed me. "Do you think you got me?" McMaster asked in a good‑natured tone.
Surprised by his reaction, I timidly replied, "Probably not, sir."
Excerpt #6 from Chapter 18: “A surprise witness at the grand jury” (9-14-2013)
On Friday, December 5, the day after the grand-jury hearing, the Free Press reported that Hoffa might have been killed, stuffed into a 55‑gallon drum, loaded onto a Gateway Transportation Company truck, and shipped to some unknown destination. Many people speculated that Hoffa's body might have been buried at Brother Moscato's—the site of a recent FBI search. . . .
The FBI agent did tell me that officials of Gateway's steel division in Detroit had been subpoenaed to testify before the federal grand jury, along with their records of dispatch from July 30 to August 10.
"When I talked to McMaster," I said to the FBI agent, "he told me that he didn't remember where he was. He told me to ask the FBI."
The agent replied, "McMaster was with Teamsters Local 142 secretary‑treasurer Donald Sawochka in Gary, Indiana, for two or three hours on the day Hoffa disappeared. That's what Sawochka told us."
"What was the purpose of the meeting?"
"They were meeting with representatives of Gateway's steel division."
Laughing at that response because of Gateway's alleged link to Hoffa's murder, I asked, "Did McMaster go to the meeting alone or with another union official?"
"No, he went with Stanton Barr."
"Who is Stanton Barr?"
"He's McMaster's brother-in-law. He married the sister of McMaster's wife."
"Why would he go with McMaster to a union meeting with Gateway executives?"
Then the FBI agent started laughing, too. "Because," he replied, "Stanton Barr is the head of Gateway's steel division in Detroit. He was among the Gateway people who testified at the grand-jury hearing on December 4. . . . All of you guys in the press completely missed that."
Excerpt #7 from Chapter 24: “My lunch with Hoffa's alleged killers” (9-15-2013)
With some trepidation but total surrender, I stepped into the back seat of [Salvatore] Briguglio's late‑model Buick. As I squirmed momentarily, Briguglio pressed a button that opened the garage door. Within seconds, we were across the street in front of the restaurant.
Inside, as the maitre d' led us down an aisle to a back room, I saw two other men seated at our table. No introductions necessary, I already knew who they were.
The first was Briguglio's brother, 31‑year old Gabriel, the vice president of the Provenzano‑controlled Local 84 in Fort Lee and one of Sally Bug's alleged coconspirators in the Hoffa murder. The second man was 40‑year old Steve Andretta, a former Local 560 business agent and the brother of Tom Andretta, another alleged witness to the killing.
Thrilled by what I was in the midst of and simultaneously wolfing down my portion of the antipasto and a plate of linguini in clam sauce, I kept asking for permission to turn on the tape recorder in my pocket. [William] Bufalino refused each time, saying, "Later, Danny, later."
After a 90‑minute lunch, Bufalino and I left the restaurant and returned to Local 560. This time we walked while Briguglio and Andretta drove over in Briguglio's car.
Because of another appointment, Gabe Briguglio had to leave. During the lunch, he insisted that he had nothing to do with the Hoffa murder. Tom Andretta, whom I talked to on the telephone that afternoon, also denied any role in the killing.
Led into the local union president's office by Bufalino, I finally pulled out my tape recorder and laid it on the table in full view of the others who soon walked in. Salvatore Provenzano—Tony's brother and the president of the local who had not been present for the lunch—joined us, as did Sal Briguglio and Steve Andretta.
For the next three‑and‑a‑half hours, I recorded the first and only taped interview with the man suspected to have murdered Jimmy Hoffa.
Added on 9-15, in response to a question about the relationship between William and Russell Bufalino:
Steve: During this October 25, 1976, interview, Bill Bufalino told me that he and Russell Bufalino were cousins. I added in that chapter:
In response to my question about who was paying Bufalino's legal bills for his representation of Hoffa's alleged killers, the attorney replied, "If someday they have some money, they can pay me. If Hoffa were here right now, he'd say, 'Continue to defend these people. They weren't the ones who did it.'"
Also, I asked Bufalino whether his family relationship with mob boss Russell Bufalino of eastern Pennsylvania was the reason he had been selected as counsel for them. Bufalino shot back, "If you want to charge me with something regarding Russell Bufalino, charge me with the fact that I selected him as my number one friend! I would rather be accused of being his friend and brother by choice, not by an accident of birth!"
Throughout the interview, William Bufalino appeared to suggest that the government suspected Russell Bufalino as the man responsible for ordering the hit on Hoffa. And that was news to me.
At the time, Russell Bufalino was reportedly the interim head of the Vito Genovese crime family. Tony Provenzano was a Genovese caporegime. . . .
Excerpt #8 from Chapter 28: “Who is Frank Sheeran?” (9-16-2013)
[Steven] Brill informed me that he had obtained a secret FBI report, the Hoffex Memo, as he called it. According to Brill, this document detailed what the FBI knew about the events surrounding July 30, 1975, the day Hoffa vanished, including a likely scenario of his murder.
Now truly impressed, I asked Brill to tell me more. He alleged that a Teamster official named Frank Sheeran had been involved in the murder, and that everyone had missed him at the December 4, 1975, federal grand-jury hearing in Detroit. Like McMaster, the Briguglios, and the Andrettas, Sheeran had also taken the Fifth.
Completely deflated by all of this, I returned to my office and called one of my FBI sources.
"What the hell is the Hoffex Memo? I asked.
"I don't know," he replied. "What is it?"
"I just had breakfast with a guy named Steve Brill who's writing a book about the Teamsters, and he says he has a copy of the Hoffex Memo, which tells everything about what happened to Hoffa on the day of the murder!"
"Dan, Hoffex is the code name for our entire Hoffa investigation. We've had a lot of reports. . . ."
I interrupted, clearly not knowing what I was talking about, "What about the one that spells everything out?"
"We don't know what really happened, so we couldn't write a definitive document about what did happen."
"Well, who, then, is Frank Sheeran?"
My FBI source fell speechless.
Hearing his screaming silence, I asked with dread, "Oh, shit! What have I missed?"
"I can't talk about him, Dan."
"Wait a minute! What about confirm and deny? What about keeping me on track?"
Pausing for a moment, he replied, "Okay, yes, we're interested in Sheeran. This is the first time you've asked me about him. So, I'm telling you now, stay on that track. We can't prove anything, but he could be important."
Excerpt #9 from Chapter 35: “Briguglio and I get whacked” (9-17-2013)
When I returned home later that evening, Tina had more bad news for me. Sal Briguglio, whom I had interviewed for a fourth time the previous month, had just been murdered in New York.
Many believed that Briguglio, who was under indictment for the 1961 murder of a union rival, was on the verge of flipping and turning state's evidence about the Hoffa murder.
During my final taped interview with him, Briguglio—worn and tired, showing the strain of the enormous federal pressure he was under—told me, "I've got no regrets, except for getting involved in this mess with the government. If they want you, you're theirs. . . . I have no aspirations any more. I've gone as far as I can go in this union. There's nothing left."
Devastated from everything that had happened that day, I called one of my sources in the FBI’s Washington Field Office who was actively involved in the Hoffa case. He gave me the known details about Briguglio's murder. In short, two unidentified men had walked up to him in New York's Little Italy and knocked him to the sidewalk. Then, they pulled out guns and shot him four times in the head and once in the chest. . . .
On March 28 , one week after Briguglio’s murder, I called Frank Sheeran and tape-recorded the conversation, trying to get him to discuss anything—just as long as I got him talking. As it turned out, I caught him on the run. But he said that he was going to be in Washington the following Monday.
During our brief conversation, I brought up the testimonial dinner that his Teamsters local in Wilmington, Delaware, had thrown for him in 1974—at which Hoffa was the keynote speaker. Sheeran told me, “The only thing I can say about [Hoffa] is all good. . . . Now, the thing is that you just want to talk about Jimmy and his personality, per se? You’re not talking about any other bullshit?”
“Not unless you want to get into it,” I replied.
“No,” he laughed, “I don’t want to get into that shit, my friend. I don’t know anything to get into. As far as he goes, I could tell you my feelings towards the guy, and my relationship, and the kind of man I thought he was. That I can tell you. Anything else, I don’t know.”
Sheeran said that he was going to check me out and call at the end of the following week.
We never spoke again.
As I had already learned, Hoffa and Sheeran were, indeed, very close friends. In fact, I believed that Sheeran could have been in the car that picked up Hoffa on the day of his disappearance. To be sure, Hoffa would have gotten in a car with him.
But that was nothing but pure speculation. I had absolutely no evidence to justify placing Sheeran in that car for publication in my upcoming book—even though I now had enough evidence to implicate him in the overall murder conspiracy. . . .
Excerpt #10 from Chapter 40: “Helping TDU and PROD make peace" (9-18-2013)
On March 22 , Paddington Press received a letter addressed to me from Frank Sheeran’s attorney, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia’s former district attorney, who wrote: “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.
“On Mr. Sheeran’s behalf, I demand a retraction and a public apology for all of your many allegations of his activities surrounding and contributing to the alleged disappearance or death of Mr. Hoffa.”
My attorney replied to Sheeran, simply saying: “Mr. Moldea stands by his reporting.”
I never heard from [Sheeran’s] attorney again.
Sheeran later held a press conference at which he told reporters: “The government feels I have information on the Hoffa case, which I don’t.”
Excerpt #11 from Chapter 147: “Frank Sheeran's conflicting confessions" (9-19-2013)
In late July 2003, I had another exchange with a different producer at Dateline NBC, who had also been offered Sheeran’s story. When he asked me in a July 23 email what I thought about Sheeran, I replied in writing, “I’ve been hearing about Sheeran’s book for nearly two years. Take him very, very seriously. From what I understand, he has been sick, and this could be tantamount to a death-bed confession.”
During the early evening, the NBC producer wrote back, saying that the network was moving forward with the Sheeran story. He wanted to bring me on as a consultant.
However, internal problems developed at NBC six days later. The producer wrote that his boss was extremely skeptical of Sheeran’s version of events and, simply speaking, believed that he was lying. Meantime, the producer and others were trying to turn their boss around.
In my written reply, I recounted what I had learned from the previous NBC producer.
This new NBC producer corrected me on one very key point: Sheeran was now saying that he, not Sal Briguglio, had committed the murder.
“Tell me,” he continued in his email, “what would sell more books? A book by someone who was there? Or the triggerman himself? I think Sheeran has made his bed with all his lies over the years. If nobody will touch his book he has only himself to blame.”
Shocked, I wrote back: “Sheeran’s claiming that he did the job, personally???!!! That’s a new one on me.”
Three weeks later, on August 18, the producer gave me NBC News’s final word on Sheeran: “My bosses decided that Sheeran has made too many claims proven false over the years to be believed now. So we are passing on the story.”
A few days before the end of 2003, I received the news that the 83-year-old Sheeran had died on December 14 at a nursing home in a suburb of Philadelphia. His passing went virtually unnoticed.
Excerpt #12 from Chapter 148: “Not a distinction without a difference" (9-20-2013)
Eric Shawn of Fox News broke the story about Brandt’s book on Sheeran on May 28. Shawn had interviewed Sheeran shortly before his death. Sheeran had supposedly admitted that he had killed Hoffa—just as the Dateline NBC producer told me the previous year—but, inexplicably, he refused to say so on camera to Fox News. From his hospital bed, he would only say, "I stand by what's written in the book.”
I agreed to appear in the report, repeating with considerable enthusiasm, “I’m convinced without any question that this is the biggest break in the Hoffa case since Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975. There’s no doubt in my mind about this.”
However, reporter Shawn added: “Moldea . . . believes Sheeran was involved in Hoffa’s murder, but is skeptical if he actually fired the fatal shots.”
To me, the question of whether Hoffa’s killer was Frank Sheeran or Sal Briguglio was not a distinction without a difference. It went right to the heart of the issue of who was involved in the murder, as well as the motive behind it. . . .
Fox News had gained entrance to the Beaverland Street home where Hoffa had allegedly been killed, authorizing crime-scene investigators to search for any residue of blood in its foyer. Using Luminol, a chemical spray that illuminates blood, the forensics team discovered what appeared to be traces of blood, both in the foyer and in a hallway that led to the kitchen.
Everyone, including me, hoped that the subsequent DNA analysis would show that this was Hoffa’s blood. . . .
On February 14, 2005, the Bloomfield Police Department issued a press release about the results of the DNA test of the blood residue found in the foyer of the home on Beaverland Street where Sheeran had supposedly killed Jimmy Hoffa. The release stated: “In late December 2004, the FBI contacted our department with an oral report on the findings. We were advised that blood was found in some of the wood floor samples but they did not believe that it matches Hoffa’s. They then indicated that the flooring submitted for examination, as well as a detailed written report would be forthcoming.
“This morning, we received a written report submitted by the FBI that concludes that human blood was found on wood flooring but the blood was not Hoffa’s. As a result, the lead supplied by Fox News in New York has been determined to be unfounded.”
Excerpt #13 from Chapter 149: “They're digging at a farm in Wixom" (9-21-2013)
On May 17, 2006, I received a telephone call from David Ashenfelter at the Detroit Free Press. He asked if I had heard the latest on the Hoffa case.
"What’s happened?” I replied.
“They’re digging at a farm in Wixom.”
Hearing that, I joyfully sprang out of the chair at my desk and did a quadruple fist pump, hoping that it was the farm I thought it was. . . .
By late afternoon, Ashenfelter and I had pieced together what was happening at that 85-acre Wixom farm in Milford Township, about 35 miles northwest of Detroit. FBI agents, armed with a search warrant, were digging at a specific location and actually looking for the body of Jimmy Hoffa. An FBI spokesman told reporters that investigators were pursuing “evidence of criminal activity that may have occurred under previous ownership.”
We were quickly able to confirm that the previous owner was, indeed, Rolland McMaster.
We also discovered that the information upon which the FBI based its search warrant had been supplied by Donovan Wells, who was serving a ten-year stretch in a Lexington, Kentucky, prison in the wake of his conviction for smuggling marijuana. After his recent falling out with McMaster, the 75-year-old Wells had decided to flip and turn state’s evidence.
When I heard that Don Wells was the informant, I was thrilled—especially since I had interviewed him thirty years earlier, writing about him and his associates in The Hoffa Wars, saying: “Wells lived with McMaster at his . . . Wixom farm and was a partner of McMaster’s brother-in-law, Stanton Barr, in a trucking company called Spot Leasing. Wells also owned a Time-D.C., Inc., terminal in suburban Detroit, and Jim Shaw worked for him [in April 1975] . . . .
“Soon afterward, Shaw, through McMaster, got a job with the Detroit steel division of Gateway Transportation Company, which was headed by Stanton Barr. Shaw’s former employer says he worked at Gateway ‘for the next several months.’”
Along with Larry McHenry, Jim Shaw was the FBI’s top suspect for the bombing of Dick Fitzsimmons’s union car twenty days before Hoffa disappeared—just as the Hoffex Memo had declared. Stanton Barr and McMaster had driven to Gary, Indiana, early on the morning of Hoffa’s disappearance and returned to Detroit later in the day.
Although McHenry and Shaw were both dead, McMaster, now 92, was alive, living on a farm on Clyde Road in Fenton, Michigan. Stan Barr, who lived on another farm on Clyde Road, was his neighbor, as well as his brother-in-law. . . .
Then, suddenly the entire operation came to a screeching halt after fourteen days.
Completely stunned by this decision, I called my sources in Detroit who simply told me that the revelations about the high cost of the dig had forced its shutdown. In effect, it was a political decision made in Washington, D.C.
Micheline Maynard of the New York Times [wrote a] news story—which included an extraordinary admission from . . . . Judith M. Chilen, an assistant [FBI] special agent, [who] said she was convinced that Mr. Hoffa's body had been buried on the farm, and there was ‘no indication that it has been moved.’"
Excerpt #14 from Chapter 150: “It's going to be a great day tomorrow" (9-22-2013)
Returning to the car with his wife and me, [Don] Wells drove down the narrow road alongside the new red barn which loomed large on the right. We pulled into the parking lot at the end of this structure, which was perpendicular to two older red barns where farmhands were attending to several horses.
As we stepped out of the car, we saw a tall man in a cowboy hat and a red shirt. I went up to him, introduced the three of us, and asked, “Where are the railroad tracks that ran along this property?”
The man named Doug, who turned out to be the farm’s manager, pointed to the area near a tall fence—the same fence that we had earlier seen from the other side.
As I walked towards the fence, I stepped onto a dirt road. I looked back at Don and Monica, asking, “Is this the path that started on Pontiac Trail, the one on which Monica saw the three fast cars that day?”
Don and Monica came over to where I was standing and looked around the area. Then, for a further perspective, we walked towards the tall fence.
They confirmed that we were on the dirt road that once ran north and south off Pontiac Trail, alongside McMaster’s farmhouse.
About ten yards from our side of the fence was another long path that stretched east and west and was littered with discarded railroad ties.
“Jesus, Don,” I said, now standing where the two paths intersected. “Is this where the railroad tracks were?”
Both Don and Monica came over, along with Doug—and now Ron Lusk who had also joined us.
All four of them agreed that we were standing at the location of the now abandoned railroad tracks, as well as the road that had once run from Pontiac Trail to the back of the farm near the tree line.
Pulling Don and Monica off to the side, I asked privately, “Okay now, where was that pre-dug hole?” . . .
Ronald Reagan, MCA and the Mafia
Excerpt from Chapter 44, “Reagan Courting Teamsters” (10-15-2013)
Still burned out in the summer of 1980—two years after the release of The Hoffa Wars—I was still doing anything and everything, trying to stay away from investigations of the Teamsters and the Mafia. For the first time in a long time, I finally felt safe and secure.
Then, on Wednesday afternoon, August 27, 1980, I received a telephone call from one of my Teamster sources in Ohio. He told me that Ronald Reagan had just kicked off his fall campaign in Columbus with an appearance before the Ohio Conference of Teamsters, chaired by the union's new vice president, Jackie Presser of Cleveland. Surprised by Reagan's odd selection for such an important event, I asked my source to stay in touch with me.
Later that day, he called back, saying that Reagan had just spent the past forty‑five minutes behind closed doors with Presser and Roy Williams of Kansas City, another Teamsters vice president—in concert with the decision by the Teamsters' general executive board to endorse Reagan's candidacy.
Williams, who had supervised the McMaster Task Force, was not just another union man. Earlier that same morning, the wire services, newspapers, radio, and television networks had carried stories about Williams's sworn testimony the previous day before the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Williams had taken the Fifth Amendment twenty‑three times when asked about his personal and financial dealings with several top organized‑crime figures.
Among the mobsters with whom Williams had been associated was Carlos Marcello, who recently had been memorialized on tape during the FBI's BRILAB sting operation, boasting, "We own the Teamsters."
I called a reporter and spoon fed the information to her, adding that there was no way that Reagan had not received a briefing about Williams's appearance before the subcommittee. Reagan knew exactly what he was dealing with. She broke the story on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.
The story later appeared in newspapers across the country. However, the political impact was minimal, and Reagan's campaign did not even break stride.
On Tuesday, November 4, Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter for President of the United States as the Republicans also took control of the U.S. Senate . . . .
Following his victory, Reagan made his first trip as President-elect to Washington on November 18. Accompanied by Vice President‑elect George H. W. Bush, Reagan went to Teamster headquarters, the union's marble palace on Louisiana Avenue near Capitol Hill. Attending another general executive board meeting, Reagan and Bush joyfully invited the Teamster leaders, especially Jackie Presser and Roy Williams, to help them select their secretary of labor and other administration officials.
To many of us who had investigated the Teamsters and the Mafia, President‑elect Reagan's sweetheart relationship with the union, which he was not even trying to conceal, was our worst nightmare come to life. And, in the wake of Reagan's shocking invitation to the Teamsters, we knew that his cavalier attitude about organized crime would be reflected in the upcoming appointments to his administration.
Sure enough, in mid December, Reagan and Edwin Meese, the chief of his transition team, selected the mob‑connected Jackie Presser, an eighth‑grade dropout, as a "senior economic advisor." Presser boasted to the media that he had been appointed to screen potential appointees to "the Labor Department, Treasury, and a few other independent agencies," presumably any government entity that would have jurisdiction in any future investigations of the Teamsters.
Remarkably, at the same time, Presser and other former trustees of the Central States Pension Fund were targets of several civil suits brought by the Department of Labor, seeking reimbursement to the fund of $120 million in illegal loans made to Las Vegas casinos, as well as to organized‑crime figures and their associates. All of the trustees had been forced to resign in 1976 because of their approval of such questionable loans.
On bended knees, White House beat reporters gently prodded Reagan at a press conference to discuss the Presser appointment, asking if he had been informed about the charges against the Teamster leader. Reagan coolly replied, "If that's true, that will be investigated and brought out."
Later, Meese contradicted Reagan, saying that Presser had been investigated prior to his appointment. The charges against Presser, according to Meese, were "mostly innuendo."
While the controversy over Presser stewed, Reagan nominated Ray Donovan as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Donovan, the executive vice president of the Schiavone Construction Company of Secaucus, New Jersey, had raised money for the Reagan‑Bush campaign and even hosted a fundraiser, featuring Frank Sinatra, which yielded over $200,000 in contributions.
Given Donovan's past dealings with the Teamsters, their support for him was no surprise. During his confirmation hearings, Donovan was accused of making past payoffs to a New York Teamsters official on behalf of his New Jersey construction company. In addition, he was charged with associating with top Teamster racketeers, including Salvatore Briguglio of New Jersey's Local 560, the alleged killer of Jimmy Hoffa, who, himself, had been murdered in March 1978. Also, Donovan had allegedly done business with William Masselli, a top Mafia figure in New York.
Remarkably enough, one of the key government witnesses against Donovan was Ralph Picardo, who had also served as the government's chief informant in the Hoffa murder probe. Picardo was the FBI witness who had suggested that Sal Briguglio was Hoffa's killer and that Gateway Transportation was the vehicle that hauled the former Teamsters boss to his final resting place.
Excerpt from Chapter 55, “Finding gold in Los Angeles” (10-14-2013)
Ronald Reagan had come to Los Angeles in 1937 to make motion pictures. In 1940, MCA bought out the talent agency that represented Reagan. Lew Wasserman, a rising star at MCA, became Reagan's personal agent, later negotiating his first million‑dollar contract with Warner Brothers on Reagan's behalf, based on the success of the actor’s 1942 film, King’s Row.
In 1946, Wasserman became the president of MCA, and the following year, Reagan, with his film career already in decline at the end of his seven-year contract, became the president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).
A sweetheart relationship developed between MCA and SAG, which culminated in July 1952 during Reagan's fifth consecutive term as SAG's president. Reagan and Laurence Beilenson—an attorney for MCA who had previously served as SAG's general counsel and represented Reagan in his 1949 divorce from actress Jane Wyman—negotiated an exclusive blanket waiver from SAG that permitted MCA to engage in unlimited film production.
In fact, the agreement violated SAG's bylaws, which prohibited talent agents from employing their own clients. At the time, no other talent agency could receive a similar arrangement.
A Justice Department memorandum in Dave Robb's FOIA cache indicated that the waiver became "the central fact of MCA's whole rise to power."
At the end of Reagan's fifth term as SAG president, he began to have serious financial problems, particularly with the IRS. MCA negotiated a deal with a Las Vegas hotel-casino, which was owned and operated by associates of the Chicago Outfit, for Reagan to host a song‑and‑dance show and to receive enough money to cover his back‑tax debt.
When Reagan returned to Hollywood, MCA, through its newly‑formed film company, Revue Productions, selected him to host its flagship television program, the General Electric Theater for $125,000 a year. He was paid additional fees when he actually produced episodes for the series.
Despite his status as a television producer, Reagan remained on SAG's board of directors in another violation of the guild's bylaws, which prohibited producers from holding office in the actors’ guild. In 1959, when Reagan ran for an unprecedented sixth term as SAG's president, his opponents raised the bylaws issue. However, Reagan denied, on the record, that he had ever produced any episodes for the General Electric Theater, which was an outright lie.
Wasserman had encouraged Reagan to seek his sixth term. MCA was facing sensitive negotiations with SAG over residual television and motion‑picture rights for actors. The issue eventually forced SAG to strike in 1960, and Reagan, as SAG president, became the actors' chief negotiator.
The contract that Reagan arranged with the studios is still known in Hollywood as "The Great Giveaway." It did provide residuals for actors—but only for films made after 1960. The studios kept everything before 1960, which was worth billions of dollars. This greatly benefited MCA, which had recently purchased Paramount Pictures's huge film library in 1959.
(Later, Richard Walsh, the president of IATSE during the 1960 SAG strike, told me that labor lawyer and Mafia mouthpiece Sidney Korshak, a close friend of Lew Wasserman, was directly involved in the negotiations with Reagan—just as Jack Tobin had predicted.)
In 1962, the Justice Department filed a federal antitrust suit against MCA, alleging that it was both a talent agency and a production company. SAG was charged as a coconspirator.
Reagan became the subject of both criminal and civil investigations by the FBI and a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. A Justice Department memorandum quoted a Hollywood source as saying, "Ronald Reagan is a complete slave of MCA who would do their bidding on anything."
Reagan was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, but he experienced amnesia during his testimony on February 5, 1962, failing to recall significant details of his role in the SAG‑MCA blanket‑waiver decision in 1952.
Federal prosecutors were so convinced that Reagan had perjured himself repeatedly during his testimony that they subpoenaed his and his wife's federal income‑tax returns for the years 1952 to 1955. His second wife, actress Nancy Reagan, had been a member of the SAG board of directors since 1951.
However, in July 1962—in the aftermath of MCA's purchase of Decca Records, the parent company of Universal Pictures—MCA agreed to abolish its talent agency as part of a consent decree with the Kennedy Justice Department. As a result, all charges against and investigations of the company and its alleged coconspirators, including Reagan and SAG, were dropped, and the record of the case was sealed.
Universal quickly became the biggest film producer in the entertainment industry.
Claiming that he was deeply affected by the breakup of MCA—which, in fact, had turned the company into an even more powerful multibillion dollar international corporation—Reagan, supposedly a lifelong Democrat, suddenly became an anti‑big government Republican, just like his political mentors at MCA, board chair Jules Stein and vice president Taft Schreiber, both of whom were active in Republican Party politics.
In return for Reagan's long‑time loyalty to his benefactors, MCA, through its cooperation in the selling of Reagan's Malibu properties, helped Reagan to become a multi-millionaire—and, then, the governor of California. . . .
The D.C. Madam
Excerpt from Chapter 142: “So tell me about David Vitter” (9-14-2013)
(For nearly a week—as part of my lame effort to promote my new book while trying not to be too annoying—I have posted one excerpt per day, all of which dealing with my investigation of the 1975 murder of Jimmy Hoffa. But, because of Senator David Vitter’s recent actions, now reported in Politico, I have decided to post an additional excerpt today of the untold story about how I discovered Senator Vitter’s connection to D.C. Madam Jeane Palfrey—with whom I was considering writing a book about her life and times prior to her trial conviction and tragic suicide in 2008.)
* * *
A little after 6:00 P.M. on Friday, July 6 —while I was in the midst of going through the D.C. Madam’s phone records during the Clinton-Bush transition period—I was trying to figure out where to finish. Seeing that I was in February 2001, I decided to stop looking on February 27, which was my 51st birthday, a totally random date.
On that day at the logged-in time of 3:06 P.M., I came across a telephone number for Washington, D.C. that I had not seen before. When I ran it through the directory, the name, “David Vitter,” appeared.
Stunned, I ran the number again—and received the same result: David Vitter, then the U.S. congressman from Louisiana who, ironically enough, had succeeded [U.S. House Speaker-designate] Bob Livingston in 1999.
Now, in 2007, Vitter was a powerful conservative United States Senator, elected in 2004.
I also subscribed to two other reverse-phone databases, and I ran the number through both, receiving confirmations from each. In addition, I ran a cursory background check on him.
I took a deep breath and called Jeane Palfrey. When she answered, I said, “So tell me about David Vitter.”
“Who?” She replied.
“He’s the junior Senator from Louisiana. I just found his number in your telephone records.”
Palfrey took a moment and then told me, “I knew a Dave on C Street. But I never knew his real name. In fact, I really didn’t want to know. I never wanted to know.”
I instructed Palfrey to sit tight and not to speak with anybody about anything—especially about this.
Then, I called Flynt, saying, “Larry, I got one.”
“Who’d you get?”
“United States Senator David Vitter of Louisiana. He was the guy who won Livingston’s congressional seat after we forced his resignation on the day of Clinton’s impeachment. He has since been elected to the U.S. Senate.”
“That’s great!” Flynt replied. “Is he a hypocrite?”
“Just wait until you see this guy, Larry.”
I spent about forty-five minutes putting together a more-detailed dossier about the 46-year-old Vitter, a married Harvard graduate and Rhodes Scholar with four children who had built his reputation as a “family values” Roman Catholic. During his 2004 run for the U.S. Senate, he campaigned to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage and to stop same-sex marriage. He was also a co-author of the “Federal Marriage Act.” Pro-war, anti-choice, and pro-gun, he was a classic right-wing politician.
Among other things, I found a specific quote from Vitter during his Senate campaign on the subject of “Protecting the Sanctity of Marriage.” Vitter remarked, “The Hollywood left is redefining the most basic institution in human history. . . . We need a U.S. Senator who will stand up for Louisiana values, not Massachusetts values.”
During a conference call with Flynt and [his assistant], we tried to figure out how to proceed. Flynt asked me if I wanted to make the call and confront Senator Vitter.
“Can you imagine Vitter’s reaction if he gets a call from us?” I asked. “We could get accused of blackmail—just like the last time. We could wind up with an indictment hanging over our heads again. . . .
“We need to feed this material to someone in the mainstream media. We should give him everything we have and let him publish whatever he wants—with the proviso that he credits us for the discovery. Then, Larry, you can go out, call a press conference, and do your thing.”
After a few minutes of conversation, we agreed to this approach. But the question remained: Who would we give the story to? . . .
Excerpt from Chapter 145: “Suicide before prison” (10-3-2013)
On May 6 —the day after the Tarpon Springs medical examiner officially declared that [Jeane] Palfrey had committed suicide—the chief investigating detective for the Tarpon Springs Police Department contacted me for additional material which he wanted for his formal report. I gave him a copy of my book proposal with Palfrey—in which she twice discussed the possibility of suicide, as well as copies of my final emails to her. Also, I arranged a conference call among the detective and me with Jim Grady, who was at the April 11 lunch where Palfrey and I last saw each other.
After speaking with the police, I called Blanche Palfrey to express my sympathy and to discuss her daughter’s death. At the outset, I told her how upset I was with Jeane for placing her mother in the position to find her body hanging at the end of a rope.
Blanche, who couldn’t have been happier to hear from me, said that Jeane “was so upset about going back to prison that she couldn’t stop crying.”
During our continuing conversation, she spoke of Jeane’s recent overdose in Orlando. When I said that I didn’t know what she was talking about, she explained that on April 25, Jeane had gone to her condominium in Orlando and taken an intentional overdose of pills. She was unconscious for nearly thirty hours.
Failing to end her life in that manner, Jeane then returned home and hanged herself.
I asked Blanche if she had told the police this story. She replied that she had not, adding that she didn’t want to cause any more trouble.
I told her that she had to tell the police. I gave her the lead detective’s name and telephone number. She assured me that she would make the call.
I called Blanche again on May 9 and asked her if she had provided the information about Jeane’s earlier unsuccessful attempt to kill herself to the police. She replied that she had not.
I then asked for her permission to represent her with the police and disclose this information. Blanche agreed, and I immediately called the lead detective in the case and told him what Blanche had told me about Jeane’s attempted suicide in Orlando.
The detective knew nothing about this. I invited him to call Blanche who would give him all the details.
On Saturday, May 10, I appeared on CNN to respond to the ludicrous but nagging accusations against me.