DETROIT - Tony Zerilli is a man the FBI says was one of Detroit's most powerful Mafia figures at the time that Jimmy Hoffa disappeared.
For 37 years, the FBI has been trying desperately to get him to talk about the labor leader's mysterious vanishing. Investigators say he may be only one of a handful of people on the planet who know what happened to Hoffa.
But Zerilli has broken his silence and talked one-on-one with former Local 4 Defender Marc Santia.
Zerilli said he's tired of people who don't know anything about Hoffa's disappearance writing books, making movies and making money off of it.
"All this speculation of where he is and where he's not. They say he was in a meat grinder. It's all baloney. What happened to Hoffa was very simple. He got picked up over there and buried," Zerilli said.
Zerilli said he thinks Hoffa is buried in a now vacant lot in northern Oakland County -- Rochester.
Investigators said when Zerilli got out, he would have immediately been told what had happened to Hoffa.
"The master plan was, that I understood, was that they were going to put him in a shallow grave here. Then, they were going to take him from here to Rogers City upstate," Zerilli said. "There was a hunting lodge and they were going to bury in a shallow grave then take him up there for final burial. Then, I understand, that it just fell through."
Zerilli was in prison when Hoffa disappeared. He said he hopes to clear his name from having anything to do with Hoffa's disappearance. Zerilli also denies being involved in the Mafia.
"If I wasn't away, I don't think it would have ever happened. That's all I can tell you. I would've done anything in the world to protect Jim Hoffa," Zerilli said. "Jim Hoffa to me was a gentleman. What happened to him was as wrong as anything could be as far as I'm concerned."
Retired FBI agent John Anthony says Zerilli's words should be looked at closely.
"You have to regard it as pretty damn good, pretty credible, reliable and worthy of the FBI following up on it," Anthony said.
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