“I Heard You Paint House’s – Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa,” is the autobiography of mobster Frank “The Irishman” Sheehan, written by former homicide prosecutor and Chief Deputy Attorney General of the State of Delaware, Charles Brandt. The main point of the book is that Sheehan, more than 25 years after the disappearance of Teamsters union President Jimmy Hoffa, finally admitted to putting two bullets in Hoffa’s head. The book is interspersed with Brant’s writing, which are precise and quite detailed, and the transcripts of recordings Brant made with Sheehan in the early 2000’s. By the time of Sheehan’s “confession,” he was a fragile old man living in an assisted living facility.
The term “paint houses,” means you are a killer; the thought being, when you shoot somebody in a house, you “paint” the walls with their blood. The 6-foot-4-inch Sheehan claimed the first time he spoke to Hoffa, at the behest of mob boss Russell Bufalino, the first words Hoffa ever said to Sheehan on the phone were, “I heard you paint houses,” which is a subtle way of Hoffa asking Sheehan if he could depend on him to kill whomever Hoffa said needed to be killed. And Sheehan did kill for Hoffa, according to Sheehan, many times. In this book, Sheehan mentions several murders he committed for Hoffa and for other union officials too. But he mentions no names of the victims, except for Hoffa and Crazy Joe Gallo, whom Sheehan also claims he killed.
Brandt details Hoffa’s rise from a mere union member to the head of the Teamsters, the strongest, and possibly the most corrupt union in American history. Hoffa was tight with several members of the American Mafia, including Bufalino, and Anthony “Tony Pro” Provanzano, who was allegedly the one to insist Jimmy Hoffa had to be killed. Hoffa had complete control over the Teamsters lucrative retirement accounts, which he used as a quasi-loan system for several gangsters for various causes, some legal, some not so legal. Of course, Hoffa skimmed a little off the top for himself, so everybody was happy.
When Hoffa, after a decade quest by Robert Kennedy (Kennedy called his legal team “Get Hoffa”), finally was sent to prison for various union crimes, Hoffa hand-picked his old friend Frank Fitzsimmons as the interim President of the Teamsters. The intention was, after Hoffa was released from jail, he would resume his old duties with the Teamsters. Only the mob and Fitzsimmons had different ideas.
Released from prison after serving five years, Hoffa insisted that he be allowed to run for election to get his old job back. Hoffa was told by Bufalino and Provenzano to forget about doing so. They were perfectly happy with Fitzsimmons, whom they could control more easily than the bombastic Hoffa. Stupidly, Hoffa began making threats; saying that he had enough information on plenty of people to put them in jail. Hoffa also said he would squeal to the Feds if he was not given his old job back. Soon the order was handed down that it was Hoffa who had to go. According to Sheehan, he was one of Hoffa’s closest friends and the only one who could get close enough to Hoffa to do the job.
According to Sheehan, on July 30, 1975, Hoffa was summoned to a meeting by Bufalino and Provenzano at the Machus Red Fox Restaurant located in a suburb outside Detroit. When Hoffa arrived no one was there, but minutes later Sheehan arrived in a car driven by Chuckie O’Brien, whom Hoffa treated like his own son. Sheehan told Hoffa the place of the meeting had been moved to a private house. Hoffa didn’t like the idea, but knowing that the two mob bosses out-ranked him, Hoffa agreed to go anyway and he got into the car. It was a fatal mistake.
When they arrived at the private house, O’Brien drove away, and Sheehan followed Hoffa into the house. Once inside, Sheehan said he fired two bullets into his “friend” Hoffa’s head. A “clean-up crew” already on the premises, stuffed Hoffa’s body into the trunk of a waiting car, hidden in the garage out back. Then they drove Hoffa to a local funeral parlor, to be cremated immediately.
Sheehan claimed he had no choice but to kill Hoffa, or he would have been killed himself. He also claims he was heart-broken that he had to kill his best friend, and as a result, soon turned into a hopeless alcoholic.
Sheehan is one of many people who have claimed to have killed Jimmy Hoffa. But he was the only one to actually be a close friend of Hoffa’s and was a suspect by the FBI from the beginning. Maybe Sheehan killed Hoffa and maybe he didn’t. Brandt laid out a concise blueprint of the Hoffa murder that is quite convincing. But Sheehan’s claim to have killed Crazy Joe Gallo, by himself, is beyond belief.
By all accounts of the Gallo murder, Crazy Joe Gallo was killed by two Mafia associates in Umberto’s Clam House on Mulberry Street, in the early morning hours of April 7th, 1972. There were eyewitnesses to the murder, and in no account was a single gunman described as the killer. And certainly not a 6-foot-4-inch Irish gunman, who would stick out like a sore thumb in Manhattan’s Little Italy, where I lived for 48 years.
So it stands to reason, if Sheehan lied about killing Gallo, he may have lied about killing Hoffa too. Only the “Irishman,” Jimmy Hoffa, and the real killers, if Sheehan didn’t kill Hoffa, know for sure.