DOCUMENT: Crime

Found: FBI File On Hoffa Disappearance

Jimmy Hoffa

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Found: FBI File On Hoffa Disappearance

On March 28, the FBI announced that no federal charges would be filed in connection with the July 1975 disappearance of former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. With the 26-year probe coming to an end, FBI officials--in response to Freedom of Information Act requests--have just released a small portion of the agency's file on the Hoffa case. While there are no great revelations in the 1330 pages of heavily redacted material, TSG got a kick out of a handful of memos, which you'll find here.

The first two pages record hot tips from a pair of Michigan lunatics.

On pages 3-9, you'll find details of an episode that might even make Rupert Murdoch cringe.

In July 1992, Fox TV's "A Current Affair" broadcast an interview with a self-described hitman who told reporter Steve Dunleavy that he was part of a quartet of killers who tossed a still-living Hoffa into Lake Michigan. The ex-con, who spoke on camera but was not identified by the tabloid show, added that Hoffa sank to his death because weights had been strapped to the union leader's legs.

When representatives of "A Current Affair" advised FBI officials of their upcoming Hoffa report, agents asked for the name of the supposed murderer. The bureau's request was turned down by "A Current Affair," and a subsequent teletype noted that the show's staff (and apparently Dunleavy in particular) "have been antagonistic to the [FBI] in the past."

Now here's where it gets good.

An agent working in the FBI's New York press office informed Assistant Special Agent in Charge Donald North that a Fox news anchor "is a friend of the FBI and has adjoining office space to the 'Current Affair' productions." Given this information, North then "authorized contact" with the news anchor "in an attempt to identify the secret informant utilized by "Current Affair" in their program detailing the murder of Hoffa."

On Saturday, July 25--the day after Fox broadcast its Hoffa tale--the news anchor reported back to the FBI press officer that while "'Current Affair' staff refused to identify this source, however, he did learn the man resides in New Orleans, Louisiana and is dying of cancer." The media snitch added that he had learned that "Current Affair" staff questioned the source's credibility, though the ex-con "allegedly passed a polygraph examination."

So, who are the parties involved in this very unorthodox undercover exercise?

While names have been redacted, there can be little doubt that the press officer involved is veteran New York FBI spokesman Joe Valiquette (pictured at left). As the for the journalist, well, keep in mind this episode occurred in the pre-Fox News Channel days, so any "network news anchor" would surely have appeared on Fox 5/WNYW, Fox's flagship New York station.

Like "A Current Affair," WNYW operated out of Fox's studio on East 67th Street in Manhattan. And the only talking head who appears to fit the "network news anchor" description is John Roland, WNYW's longtime anchor (and well-known law enforcement shill). Roland is pictured below.

As it turned out, it took the FBI only a few weeks to identify the hitman from "A Current Affair." Hoffa's supposed murderer, the bureau discovered, was career criminal Joseph Kenneth France, a 70-year-old New Orleans resident who was broke and suffering from emphysema.

But despite a nationwide manhunt, it took agents nearly 13 months to track down and interview France. Not surprisingly, he admitted to fabricating the Hoffa story, for which he was paid $15,000 by "A Current Affair." France told agents that he approached Fox after "Hard Copy" and another tabloid TV program showed no interest in his tale. (9 pages)