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Read back: Alleged Mafia boss Tony Zerilli talks about Jimmy Hoffa’s ‘shallow grave’

Tony Zerilli talks exclusively to Local 4 Defenders

Tony Zerilli
Tony Zerilli (WDIV)

DETROITEditor’s note: This interview was conducted in February 2013. Tony Zerilli died in March 2015.

Tony Zerilli is a man who the FBI says was one of Detroit’s most powerful Mafia figures at the time that Jimmy Hoffa disappeared.

For 37 years, the FBI had been trying desperately to get him to talk about the labor leader’s mysterious vanishing. Investigators say he may been only one of a handful of people on the planet who knew what happened to Hoffa.

Zerilli broke his silence and talked one-on-one with former Local 4 Defender Marc Santia back in 2013.

Here’s the interview:

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.

1964: Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa is convicted on one count of conspiracy and three counts of mail and wire fraud for improper use of the Teamsters' pension fund. He would eventually receive a five-year sentence to run consecutively with an earlier eight-year sentence for attempted bribery of a grand juror in a Tennessee case. He ended up serving less than five years, with President Richard Nixon commuting his sentence to time served in December 1971.
1964: Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa is convicted on one count of conspiracy and three counts of mail and wire fraud for improper use of the Teamsters' pension fund. He would eventually receive a five-year sentence to run consecutively with an earlier eight-year sentence for attempted bribery of a grand juror in a Tennessee case. He ended up serving less than five years, with President Richard Nixon commuting his sentence to time served in December 1971.

"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.


Shattered: Hoffa - Episode 4: ‘The Comeback’

Season 4 of WDIV’s Shattered Podcast chronicles the rise and fall of the iconic labor leader, Jimmy Hoffa. In Episode 4, Jimmy Hoffa goes to prison -- and plots his comeback. Though, not everyone was rooting for him.

“When it was time for me to go they shackled and chained me like a wild animal: ten pounds of leg irons, belly band, handcuffs, and a chain running up from the leg irons to the handcuffs. There was a caravan to Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary that looked like a scene from Bonnie and Clyde. I don’t know where the hell they thought I was going to run to.” - Jimmy Hoffa

After being released from prison, Hoffa began his fight to regain his power. The Mob wasn’t on board.

Listen to the new podcast here.