He has not talked about Jimmy Hoffa since 1975.
Now, Gabriel Briguglio, the last Jimmy Hoffa suspect still alive, has decided to speak out to me and Fox News.
“I have nothing to hide,” he says. “I was home that night … and If they don’t want to believe me, that’s their business.”
Briguglio is 84 years old and has lived his life for nearly five decades under the shadow of suspicion he murdered Jimmy Hoffa.
He says the FBI, federal prosecutors and the media were all hoodwinked by a lying mob informer who misdirected the investigation in its early stages with self-serving, fabricated claims that only served to damage the investigation. The result, he says, has been a false narrative cemented in the American public’s mind of what happened and who was responsible.
“A lot of time was wasted,” he says. “I wish that they really get it through their mind to ‘X’ me out of that and say that it’s impossible because I have all the proof in the world that I wasn’t even involved in anything and what I was doing I was doing, what I said I was doing.”
Gabe is a retired New Jersey truck driver and Teamsters Union local vice president and business agent who, through the years, has also been called a suspected member of the New Jersey Genovese crime family. It is a label he pointedly denies and says he has long given up trying to do anything about.
“My kids, even now to this day, are wondering why I am even here, doing the interview with you,” he said in the emotional Fox Nation television taping with me as he teared up thinking about the damage that the years of Hoffa allegations have done to his family. He is married but separated and has four adult children who have lived under the Hoffa shadow since they were children.
“I think it hurt my kids more than it hurt me because I know I was not involved,” he says. “They knew that what they were saying about me wasn’t true.”
Gabe told me that he is finally speaking out to correct the record. His interview can be seen in the latest episode of our Hoffa investigation series, “Riddle, The Search for James R. Hoffa,” streaming on Fox Nation.
“I don’t know how much longer I have to live. I hope that it’s a long time. But for whatever time I have left, I want to get it off my head, I want to let it be known,” he said.
His name first became forever linked with Hoffa a few months after the International Brotherhood of Teamsters president disappeared. Gabe was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury investigating the case in Detroit and in a lineup as one of the key suspects.
Hoffa, the legendary labor leader who had been president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, vanished July 30, 1975. It is believed he was on his way to a mob meeting with powerful Detroit family mob boss Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone and New Jersey Teamsters Union Local President Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano, who was also a volatile and feared Capo in the Genovese crime family.
Hoffa, who had been released from federal prison on fraud and bribery charges, was determined to regain his old job as the Teamsters president, and the sit-down was meant to advance his goal. But the Mafia was against it, and it was Hoffa’s bullheaded intransigence in not stepping aside that cost him his life.
He was last seen climbing into a car in the parking lot of the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan restaurant, The Machus Red Fox, just over the Detroit city line.
Besides Gabe, the other New Jersey-based suspects, along with “Tony Pro,” were three other New Jersey men who investigators said were part of Tony Pro’s crew. They were Gabe’s brother, Sal Briguglio, and another pair of brothers, Thomas and Steven Andretta.
The 1976 FBI Hoffex report, the bureau-wide compilation of the investigation, said Gabe was “a trusted associate of ‘Tony Pro’ reported by Newark source to be involved in the actual disappearance of JRH” … James Riddle Hoffa.
For decades, the media and books portrayed Gabe as one of Hoffa’s Mafia killers.
“Provenzano plotted to kill Hoffa, with the help of an associate, Gabriel Briguglio;” or “Gabriel waited to ambush Hoffa;” or “the second suspected hitman was Gabriel Briguglio.” As recently as last year, articles alleged Gabe “was involved in Hoffa’s murder,” or that he was “potentially part of a ‘clean-up crew’ tasked with getting rid of Hoffa’s body” and that “he belonged to Tony Pro’s New Jersey mob crew.”
Gabe says he was in New Jersey playing cards in a union hall the day Hoffa disappeared, paid a contractor for re-siding his East Rutherford, New Jersey, house with aluminum siding and came home from work as usual to be greeted by his kids.
“I was playing Greek rummy at lunchtime. Then, I had a meeting at one of my companies to discuss a problem with the contract, and then, from there, I had to be at my house that was being sided.”
An FBI report confirms Gabe was re-siding his house in East Rutherford, New Jersey, that month. Gabe says he paid Jersey Home Sales for the job on the day Hoffa disappeared because it was the end of the month and the job had been completed. Fox News attempted to confirm the transaction with the company, but it went out of business.
Gabe says to this day the FBI never asked him what he was doing on the day Hoffa vanished.
“They ever asked me anything about where I was, not even once,” he says. “Never did.”
“When they first came to see me with the warrant to go to Detroit, because they said I was involved in (Hoffa’s) disappearance … that’s when, forget about it. You know, I got even more aggravated because they don’t even ask you, ‘Where were you?’ or ‘What were you doing that day?’ I know what I was doing. I can’t forget. I won $600 bucks that day,” he said, referring to his card playing winnings.
“I couldn’t believe that somebody would put my name in there, until I found out it was Picardo.”
Ralph Picardo was a young mobster in Tony Pro’s crew, his former driver who was serving more than 20 years in Trenton State Prison for murder. He told the FBI he believed Tony Pro’s men had killed Hoffa and that Gabe was one of them. The feds then took Picardo’s story and used it to empanel a grand jury in Detroit in December 1975, five months after Hoffa vanished.
“When I heard it was him, I knew right away what he had in mind. He wanted to get out of jail,” says Gabe. “That’s the only way that he was going to get out. He’s got to look for the best story that he could make up that would be believable, because he’s a believable liar. That’s exactly what he did.”
Picardo’s plan worked.
The young mobster was sprung from prison, placed in the Witness Protection Program and has since died. But as the feds started to roll out Picardo in succeeding cases after Hoffa in 1975, it became clear he encountered serious credibility problems. His veracity was eventually exposed as so non-existent even Picardo’s FBI handler in the Hoffa case did not buy what he was claiming.
Jim Dooley, one of Picardo’s FBI case agents, said last year that he “would not believe a word that came out of (Picardo’s) mouth, ‘including a and the,’ to quote Mary McCarthy, unless there was independent corroboration.”
Dooley told Harvard Law professor and author Jack Goldsmith of the Lawfareblog that Picardo would “take the little he knew firsthand and extend it as far as he could, using what he heard, up to and including gossip.”
“That was Ralph” Dooley said. “We put up with him because he was the only game in town.”
Picardo “hated prison,” and his claims were “a gambit to get out of jail and get him and his family into the Witness Protection Program. (In this goal Picardo eventually succeeded),” Goldsmith wrote.
“How can you take a guy that’s such a liar?” Gabe asked.
Picardo claimed suspect Steven Andretta spilled the story to him during a prison visit, but even the FBI’s own documents show Picardo was merely guessing.
Picardo “speculated” that “if” Tony Pro was involved, it would “figure” that the Andrettas and Briguglios were also involved in Hoffa’s disappearance, the FBI report says. Observers point out that the mob stoolie did not provide any hard evidence to authorities, but they pounced on his guesses because they had no other leads. Gabe acknowledges that no witness, physical evidence or any other statements have backed up what Picardo said.
Picardo’s unraveling then started after the feds used him in the Hoffa case.
Court documents branded Picardo “a liar,” “a pathological liar,” “off-the-wall” and a “little crazy.” He “used relatives without their knowledge to further his criminal schemes, and that he believed self-preservation was ‘the name of the game.’” It was also revealed that he had been held in the psychiatric wing of the Trenton State Prison.
The New York Times reported that Picardo was “fond of telling federal agents stories that had no basis in fact.”
Then, in 1981, Picardo set his sights a little higher than Gabe, “Tony Pro” and the others.
He aimed at the White House.
President Ronald Reagan had nominated New Jersey construction company executive Raymond Donovan as his administration’s labor secretary. Picardo told his FBI handlers that Donovan had given him payoffs for labor peace. His allegations against the secretary-designate hit Washington, D.C., like a bombshell.
The U.S. Senate Labor Subcommittee held hearings on Donovan’s nomination, and he was blunt and direct in his testimony about Picardo’s claims.
Donovan told the senators: “Picardo is lying. I know he is lying. In fact, I believe he’s a pathological liar. … There are witnesses … who call him ‘a wacko,’ ‘off the wall,’ ‘full of s—.’ OK? And a pathological liar.”
Special Prosecutor Leon Silverman was appointed to investigate Picardo’s claims, and after the grand jury rejected Picardo’s accusations against Donovan, the prosecutor was forced to reveal what certainly must have been an embarrassing revelation: Picardo had lied.
“The source (Picardo) admitted having deliberately lied about all of the allegations and stated that none of them were true … the source stated that the source had deliberately fabricated the allegations … that the allegations had all been lies,” Silverman wrote to the panel of federal judges overseeing the case.
Donovan said he told Silverman Picardo should be charged with perjury, but the government again gave Picardo a break, and he never faced any charges.
Picardo also broke the law while he was in the Witness Protection Program.
Two days before Christmas in 1975, he escaped from the Special Protection unit where he was being held in the federal prison in Portland, Maine. A warrant was issued for his arrest. And when he was nabbed in New York two months later, the U.S. Attorney spared him and declined to press charges.
Gabe did end up serving two years in federal prison in an unrelated labor racketeering case, which he says was a setup. The prosecution’s main witness against him: Ralph Picardo.
He also denies having ever been in the Mafia.
“No way. They can all think what they want to think,” he says. “I didn’t participate in anything to do with the mob.”
His brother Sal, however, was a suspected mob hitman for “Tony Pro.”
“That was his life,” Gabe says. “I don’t speak for him.”
Sal was gunned down gangland style in 1978, three years after Hoffa disappeared, as he left a Mafia social club in Manhattan’s Little Italy. It was believed “Tony Pro” feared Sal was going to testify against him in a murder of a New Jersey Teamsters official more than a decade earlier. Sal’s killing is still unsolved.
Some reports have also long claimed that Sal was the actual shooter of Jimmy Hoffa. But Gabe says that was impossible because, on the day Hoffa vanished, his brother was sitting in a dentist chair in New Jersey.
“The day that they claimed he was involved in the Hoffa’s thing, he had periodontal work done on his mouth,” he explained. “During the morning, I saw him in the office when I started to play cards, and then he said, ‘I’m leaving to go to the dentist.’ He says, ‘I got this thing and it’s killing me.”
Gabe and his family say his is a story of faulty assumptions, false accusations, inaccurate reporting and a criminal justice system that offers no remedy to correct misguided judgments that tar a person for life.
Others believe Picardo was credible.
Dan Moldea, a noted Hoffa case expert and author of a 1978 book, “The Hoffa Wars,” has said, “As far as the disposal of the body, Picardo is the state of the art.” He has said that Picardo’s story that Tony Pro’s crew was involved and transported Hoffa’s remains to New Jersey fits the FBI timeline of the Hoffa case.
“Picardo was one of the boys,” Moldea has told Fox Nation. “He was one of the Provenzano crew, He was close friends with all of these guys. We are not dealing with a bunch of Boy Scouts here. This guy was a killer, and this is the world we’re living in.”
Picardo’s son has also told me he thinks his father was telling the truth.
But others say the rush by law enforcement to embrace Picardo’s claims diverted attention from the real culprits.
“I don’t believe Gabe Briguglio killed Jimmy Hoffa or was anywhere near Jimmy Hoffa when he was killed,” says noted organized crime journalist Scott Burnstein, who publishes the website Gangster Report and co-hosts the podcast Original Gangsters.
He says the perception that the East Coast mob carried out Hoffa’s murder is just wrong.
“I don’t believe that the New Jersey Provenzano crew really had that much to do with the Hoffa conspiracy. It was all based on speculation, and second-, third – and fourth-hand information.”
Even the former head of the Detroit Organized Crime Strike Force, Keith Corbett, who oversaw the Hoffa case as a top federal prosecutor, believes Gabe was not Hoffa’s killer.
“I know people who’ve been involved in the strike forces have felt very strongly, some of them, about the New Jersey connection, and people whose opinions I respect. But, personally, the answer to that question is no,” Corbett says.
He and Burnstein do not fault prosecutors for pursuing Picardo’s tip at the time because he appeared plausible and the FBI had little, if anything credible, to go on.
“It was the best information they had available at the time,” Corbett said
“What you have to do, if you’re the bureau, you do some assessment and say, ‘Look, is this guy a person who might have been in a position to know this?’ And I think the answer to that question is yes. And if you determine that he might have known this, then I think you have to follow it out,” he said.
“In August 1975, that was a great tip,” says Burnstein. “It hasn’t aged well, but at the time, I wouldn’t fault any investigator from running that lead down.”
Both believe that Hoffa was kidnapped and killed by the Detroit Mafia.
After Gabe appeared in the lineup without being identified, he went home to New Jersey, but the Hoffa case has never left him. He says he hopes to meet Hoffa’s son, former Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, and his daughter, retired Missouri Judge Barbara Crancer, to share his story.
Gabe also believes the time and effort that law enforcement expended on Picardo ultimately damaged the investigation.
“If they had not listened to that kid (Picardo), maybe they might have resolved it,” he says.
“I’m the only suspect that’s around. There’s nothing that they can get from me that I know, because I don’t know anything.”
To this day, Gabe has never been charged, let alone found guilty in the Hoffa case.
Requests for comment about Gabe were not returned by the FBI.
Watch the interview with Gabe Briguglio on Fox Nation’s new episode of “Riddle, The Search For James R. Hoffa.” And catch the five previous programs that investigate one of the greatest continuing mysteries in American history.
Scroll down to leave a comment: