AG's office had a team of prosecutors to find evidence that Jimmy Hoffa committed a crime

Author Ed Anderson
Jimmy Hoffa led the Teamsters unionA. Garam

Long before former Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa disappeared, he was under the watchful eye of the United States government. When Robert F. Kennedy was sworn in as Attorney General in 1961, he appointed a small group of prosecutors to find a way to bring down the union leader. 

The group was informally known as the "Get Hoffa Squad." 

Kennedy believed that Hoffa was guilty of a litany of crimes including; extortion, bribery, and physical violence. He alleged that Hoffa committed these crimes so he could continue leading the Teamsters. 

The squad had a mandate to uncover and prosecute illegal activities within organized labor. 

When Kennedy assembled the team, questions were raised about whether or not he was doing this for the country's good or to settle a personal vendetta against Hoffa. 

For his part, Hoffa knew that a target was on his back. He quipped to the press that he would "have to hire two hundred more lawyers to keep out of jail." Some experts say that Kennedy's focus wasn't on the union leader per se but on organized crime, and he believed that the mob had infiltrated organized labor. 

Though there was no evidence that this was the case. 

Experts note that the Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field questioned Hoffa several times in the 1950s to no avail. Questions included whether or not organized crime played a part in labor negotiations. 

Each hearing ended with no charges being filed.
Hoff faced 13 years in prison after being convictedPhoto by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

Sun on conviction

Eventually, the squad found some success in having Hoffa formally charged. The case happened in a real estate development in Florida called Sun Valley. They uncovered proof that Hoffa, along with other union leaders, secretly lent money and a promise of helping secure bank loans to the developers in exchange for large accounts for the union. 

In most advertisements for Sun Valley, it was promoted as a retirement destination for union members. 

The feds found that Hoff and his associate Owen Bert Brennan owned an option to buy 45% of the development. They alleged that the union boss and his crony stood to make a fortune for themselves from the deal, even if they put union money at risk. 

Sun Valley was never developed. Instead, it stayed a disaster area. 

Hoffa was indicted on mail fraud and conspiracy charges. However, in 1961, a judge dismissed the indictment on the grounds that the grand jury was improperly impaneled. 

Once again, Hoffa was indicted, but eventually, the prosecutors worked with prosecutors in the 1964 Chicago fraud case against him. 

They also indicted him for violating the Taft-Hartley Act. The act passed in 1947 requires union officials to disclose certain financial and political activities by the union, and it also prohibits them from receiving or accepting payouts from employers.
Hoffa led the Teamsters and faced allegations of corruptionAgnosticPreachersKid

More charges and allegations of corruption

Feds charged that Commercial Carriers, a Michigan trucking company, organized another company in Nashville, Tennessee, so that they could avoid any labor issues with Hoffa and the Teamsters. They alleged that the company set up a new firm, Test Fleets, in the maiden names of Hoffa and Brennan's wives

Once the new company was incorporated, Commercial Carriers leased all of Test Fleet's trucks and assumed all of the firm's operating costs. The new venture was a pure profit venture for the owners. 

Hoffa defended the move by saying it was purely a legal tax move. 

The trial ended with a hung jury. Soon after the judge declared a mistrial, new indictments came down for Hoffa and others in his circle. Prosecutors alleged Hoffa and others tampered with the jury. 

A change of venue was asked for, and in 1964 the trial moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hoffa's lawyer was arrested and charged with bribing a cop into offering a prospective juror $10,000 in order to get another hung jury. 

On March 4, 1964, Hoffa was convicted. A judge sentenced him to eight years in prison and a $10,000 fine. 

He appealed the decision. While on bail, he was convicted in the Chicago fraud case. Subsequently, he was sentenced to five more years in prison. 

His appeals made it all the way to the Supreme Court. None were successful, and he began serving his sentence on March 7, 1967. 

Former President Richard Nixon commuted the sentence to time served on December 23, 1971. After being released from prison, Hoffa collected his pension from the Teamsters, $1.75 million in a lump sum. The union then endorsed Nixon in the 1972 election.
Is Hoffa's body buried under a New Jersey baseball diamond?Photo by Shawn Reza from Pexels

Disappearing civil rights 

Some legal experts raised concerns that Kennedy and his squad might be crossing ethical lines. They claimed that the constant investigations seemed to be more of a vendetta against Hoffa rather than trying to protect Americans. 

Many pointed out that the role of an Attorney General is to prosecute crimes after evidence is found, not to search for proof of a crime. 

Others pointed out that Hoffa told people that he was under constant surveillance, and the government paid for people to perjure themselves to send the union leader to jail. These arguments were used against both Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy by their enemies and those who felt they overstepped ethical bounds. 

The debate continued even after Kennedy left office. 

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa went missing, setting off one of the significant unsolved cases of the 20th century. Over the ensuing 46 years, there have been many tips about where his body might have been buried. However, as of yet, none of those tips have turned out to have merit. 

A new tip came from an unnamed worker who told officials that he buried Hoffa's body underground in a steel drum. Experts on the case say that the new information seems plausible. 

In October, FBI agents from Detroit and Newark followed up on the deathbed confession as to the whereabouts of the former union leader. They dug up a Little League diamond below the Pulaski Skyway. 

The results of the survey are pending as of press time. 

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Ed Anderson is a true crime and gossip writer from Detroit, Michigan. Ed is the author of several true crime books, most recently Cold Cases From Around The World.

Rochester, MI

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