An 85-year-old alleged member of the mafia in Detroit has gone public with allegations he knows where labor leader Jimmy Hoffa was buried following his disappearance in 1975.
WNBC-TV reported on Monday that in an interview, Tony Zerilli, a self-described friend of Hoffa’s, said Hoffa was buried in a field about 20 miles north of the Detroit restaurant where he was last seen.
Zerilli was in jail when Hoffa vanished, and has denied both being involved in his disappearance, or even being a part of the mob at all.
“If I wasn’t away I don’t think it ever would’ve happened, that’s all I can tell you,” he said. “I would’ve done anything in the world to protect Jim Hoffa.”
But investigators said Zerilli was part of an organized crime operation that wasn’t just a family in the symbolic sense — they were actual blood relations. That tight-knit bond, said former U.S. Attorney Keith Corbett, has helped preserve the secret of what happened to the Teamsters leader.
“Clearly when he returned he would’ve been a person, based on his position in the hierarchy, who would have been able to learn the facts and circumstances surrounding the disappearance of James Earl Hoffa,” Corbett said of Zerilli, who refused to cooperate with authorities after regaining his freedom.
Zerilli is also pleading his case online, where he revealed he plans to write a book about what he knows.
“Anthony J. Zerilli spent nearly seven years in Federal Prison for an extortion crime he did not commit,” a statement on the website said. “He kept his mouth shut and did his time. He ratted on no one. He is nobody’s stool pigeon. Never has been and never will be. But he must set the record straight and clear his family name. He has decided to do so by writing a book about his life.”
While the website promises that Zerilli will share stories about hob-nobbing with celebrities like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, he told the station he is far-removed from those kinds of circles now.
“I’m dead broke. I got no money,” he said. “My quality of life is zero.”
Watch WNBC’s report on Zerilli’s story, aired on Jan. 14, 2013, below.