cold cases

FBI Searches New Jersey Landfill for Jimmy Hoffa’s Body

Photo: Bettmann Archive

Decades after Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance captivated the nation, the FBI is once again looking for the body of the mob-connected labor leader in an investigation spurred by a deathbed confession. According to the New York Times, in late October the FBI began a site survey on a former dump near the Pulaski Skyway in Jersey City to look for a steel drum 15 feet below the earth that may contain Hoffa’s body.

Since the former International Brotherhood of Teamsters president was last seen outside a Detroit restaurant in 1975 — amid a dispute with the New Jersey mafia over a plan to come back as the Teamsters leader — there have been several unsuccessful searches for his body. Feds first came to the landfill in Jersey City months after Hoffa’s disappearance, following up on several credible tips.

The lead that led the FBI back to the 87-acre landfill now known as Skyway Park also dates back to 1975, when a teenager named Frank Cappola, working at the landfill with his father, Paul Cappola Sr., saw a black limo drive into the mud, according to a sworn statement given in 2019. “They’re here,” he recalled his father saying, before walking up to the car, talking with the men, and pointing to a faraway corner of the landfill. Shortly before Cappola Sr.’s death in 2008, he confessed to his son that he was instructed to bury Hoffa’s body, which was placed headfirst in a steel drum. Worried that the original location in the dump was compromised, Frank Cappola wrote: “My father, who didn’t trust anybody, decided to dig a second hole with a company excavator and to place Hoffa in that location.” After sinking the barrel into the dirt, he layered the hole with up to 30 chemical drums, followed by bricks and dirt.

According to the Times, Frank Cappola later connected with journalist Dan Moldea, who has written frequently about organized crime and Jimmy Hoffa, who was played by Al Pacino in the 2019 Martin Scorsese film The Irishman. Before his death in March 2020, he told Moldea about his father’s confession; after writing about the ordeal, he says the FBI contacted him that year.

This latest chapter in the Hoffa disappearance, one of those pieces of 20th century American lore that returns to prominence every few years, comes at a peculiar time. In addition to being a belated 79th birthday gift for Martin Scorsese, the news of the investigation was published the week the Teamsters elect a leader to succeed his son James P. Hoffa, who has been the union’s president since 1999.

FBI Searches New Jersey Landfill for Jimmy Hoffa’s Body