Politics

Search for Hoffa Under Jersey City Bridge Came Up Empty, F.B.I. Says

It appeared to be a promising lead into the location of the remains of Jimmy Hoffa, the boss of the Teamsters union who disappeared 47 years ago: the deathbed account of a man who claimed to have buried the body in a barrel with an excavator in Jersey City, N.J.

But on Thursday, the F.B.I. announced that a nine-month investigation that included two visits to the site had discovered nothing.

The search had centered around a former landfill where the dying man, Paul Cappola Sr., claimed he buried Mr. Hoffa in 1975, shortly after the embattled union leader disappeared in Michigan. Agents visited the site in October to conduct tests and again in June to dig for evidence.

“Nothing of evidentiary value was discovered during that search,” said Special Agent Mara R. Schneider, a spokeswoman for the Detroit field office, which has led the investigation into Mr. Hoffa’s disappearance. “While we do not currently anticipate any additional activity at the site, the F.B.I. will continue to pursue any viable lead in our efforts to locate Mr. Hoffa.”

In the summer of 1975, shortly after Mr. Hoffa’s disappearance, Paul Cappola was working at the former PJP Landfill beneath the Pulaski Skyway alongside his son, Frank Cappola, who later said he recalled some men driving up and having a heated exchange with his father out of earshot.

Years later, in 2008, the elder Cappola, in grave health, told his son what had happened that day: The visitors said Mr. Hoffa’s remains were being delivered to the landfill, and that he was to bury the body. They pointed out exactly where it should go.

But later, when the body arrived, Paul Cappola secretly changed the burial location in the dead of night, he told his son. He believed the landfill, long associated with organized crime, was under surveillance, so he picked a spot off the property but nearby.

“My father, who didn’t trust anybody, decided to dig a second hole with a company excavator and to place Hoffa in that location,” Frank Cappola would later write in a sworn statement.

In 2019, Frank Cappola shared this account for the first time, with the journalist Dan Moldea, who has written extensively about Mr. Hoffa since before he disappeared. Mr. Moldea said the story was promising because of past statements and tips regarding the landfill, and he forwarded the account to the authorities.

Mr. Moldea said on Thursday that he was disappointed by the investigation’s findings, but added a twist of intrigue in a yarn already rich with twists. He said a recent ground-penetrating-radar investigation by a private company found disturbances and apparent objects below the surface of the soil that were near where the F.B.I. searched, but not the same spots. He said that data has recently been forwarded to the F.B.I.

“I’m more than happy to accept this verdict,” he said Thursday, “but there is one lingering issue that I believe remains unresolved. This is a stone left unturned.”

The Jersey City site is the latest in a decades-old series of failed searches for the missing union boss. Tips and leads suggesting that he was buried in various locations in Michigan or under the former Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands also ended with agents empty-handed.

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