I hear you paint houses: Hoffa, Marcello, Ferrie, and E. Howard Hunt

I used to drive to Hollywood, Florida, with Russell for meetings at Joe Sonken’s Gold Coast Lounge quite a bit. Once in a while we’d fly if there was some emergency, but most of the time I drove us down. Joe Sonken was with Russell’s family. Everybody went to the Gold Coast for meetings. All the different people from all over the country met at the Gold Coast. They had the best stone crabs in Florida. Russell would meet there with Santo Trafficante from Florida and Carlos Marcello from New Orleans many times over the course of a year.

I met Trafficante’s lawyer there, Frank Ragano. They loaned Frank Ragano to Jimmy to help him out with the trials he ended up having on account of Bobby and the Get Hoffa Squad. I met Carlos Marcello’s pilot there, too, a guy named Dave Ferrie. They later said he was gay, but if he was he didn’t make a pass at me. He still had his hair when I met him. They say he went a little nutty later on and carried a makeup kit around with him. You could tell he hated Castro with a passion, and he was very close to the anti-Castro Cubans in Florida. One morning a couple of weeks after the meeting at the Gold Coast where I met Dave Ferrie, I was back in Philly at the local and I got a call from Jimmy Hoffa, who told me to go check on that thing we talked about. That meant I should go to the pay phone I used to use and to wait for a phone call.

I got over to the pay phone and when it rang I heard Jimmy’s voice, say “Is that you?” I told him, “Yeah.” He said: “I talked to your friend and he told me to tell you. Get your hands on a safe rig tomorrow and go down to the Harry C. Campbell concrete plant on Eastern Avenue outside of Baltimore. You can’t miss it. Bring somebody to help you drive. You’re going over the road. And don’t forget to call your friend.” I hung up and called Russell from the pay phone and I said to Russell that I had heard from that guy, and Russell said that was good and we hung up.

I drove up to Philly to see Phil Milestone at Milestone Hauling. He owed some big money that he couldn’t pay, so he was doing favors instead, like he had me on the payroll but I didn’t have to work. He was an old time bootlegger. Good people. He was safe to get a truck from; he was no rat. Phil ended up doing time for trying to bribe an IRS agent. Phil gave me a truck and I got ahold of a young guy named Jack Flynn to drive with me. (Jack died young sitting in his car of a heart attack when I was back in school on a parole violation in 1995. I made a call and got his girlfriend a union death benefit.)

We drove the Milestone Hauling truck to Baltimore and pulled into the Campbell plant. I’ve been down there lately to find it and it’s got a new name, Bonsal. It’s more built up, with a few more buildings, but the old stone buildings are still there. In 1961 when we drove in it had a little landing strip. The landing strip had a small plane on it, and Carlos Marcello’s pilot who I had just met at the Gold Coast, Dave Ferrie, got out of the plane and came over to my rig and directed us to back up next to some army trucks. We backed up and all of a sudden this gang of soldiers came out of a building and began unloading military uniforms and weapons and ammunition from their army trucks and loading it all onto our truck. Dave Ferrie told me that the war materiel being loaded was from the Maryland National Guard. He gave me paperwork on the load in case we got stopped. He told me to take it to the dog track in Orange Grove, Florida, outside of Jacksonville. He said I’d be met there by a guy with big ears named Hunt.

We drove straight down old Route 13. I used to drive coffee down to Florida for Food Fair and haul back oranges. I used to like to stop for those Lums chili dogs. You didn’t get them in the North. It took us about twenty-one hours to get there, and we turned the load over to Hunt and some anti-Castro Cubans. Jack Flynn stayed down in Florida to drive the rig back and I flew back to Philly. Hunt later turned up on TV as the one in charge of the Watergate burglars, E. Howard Hunt, but at that time he was connected to the CIA somehow. Hunt also got some kind of operation on his ears, because the next time I saw him his ears were closer to his head. I drove up to Kingston to give Russell a report on the matter, and he told me that something was going to be happening in Cuba and that’s why Jimmy called me to drive the truck down to Florida. He told me that Jimmy Hoffa was keeping an open mind about the Kennedys.

Jimmy was cooperating in this out of respect for Sam Giancana and out of respect for Russell, and because it would be good for everybody’s sake to take back Cuba from the Communists. Even if it would turn out to be good for the Kennedys. Then the next thing I heard on television that April was that President Kennedy had loused up the Bay of Pigs invasion against Castro. At the last minute Kennedy decided not to send American air cover for the infantry in the amphibious landing. I would have thought John F. Kennedy would have known better than that from having been in the war. You cannot have a landing invasion force without air support. The anti-Castro Cubans who invaded didn’t even have ships offshore to shell the land above the beachhead. The invasion forces were sitting ducks on that beach. The ones that weren’t killed outright were captured by the Communists, and who knows what happened to a lot of those guys. These Kennedys could louse up a one-car funeral, I thought.

I flew down to the Gold Coast with Russell to meet with Santo Trafficante and some of the people. I never heard anything said by any of the people, including Russell, about any plot they had with the Kennedy government to assassinate Castro with poison or a bullet, but some of that came out about ten years later in the newspapers. They used to say the alleged mob only whacked their own. Maybe they figured Castro was a lot like them. In his way, he was a boss. Castro had a crew and he had a territory, and he violated his territory and he came into their territory and took over their valuable property and kicked them out. No boss is supposed to get away with that. I can tell you that some of the different people at Joe Sonken’s viewed old man Kennedy as one of their own. And in a way they no doubt viewed his sons Jack and Bobby as part of his crew.

Johnny Roselli was one of the IRS’s first targets. He lived the glamorous life in Hollywood and Las Vegas, yet he had no job nor any visible means of support. Under prior attorneys general it had never occurred to him that he was vulnerable to the government. Roselli told the brother of the former mayor of Los Angeles: “They are looking into me all the time — and threatening people and looking for enemies and looking for friends.” What made Roselli even angrier was that he suspected that Bobby Kennedy knew that Roselli was allied with the CIA in its operations against Castro. Roselli was later quoted as saying, “Here I am helping the government, helping the country, and that little son of a bitch is breaking my balls.” Around the same time, the IRS assessed Carlos Marcello $835,000 in back taxes and penalties. At that time Marcello was still fighting deportation and was under indictment for perjury and for falsifying his birth certificate. Russell Bufalino was also fighting deportation.

One morning, a few days to a week before November 22, 1963, I got a call from Jimmy to go to the pay phone. When I got there the only thing Jimmy said to me was, “Go see your friend.” I drove up to Russell’s and when he answered the door all he told me to do was, “Go see our friends in Brooklyn. They’ve got something for you to take to Baltimore.” That was not like Russell. He was setting the tone for whatever this was. I turned around and drove to Monte’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. It was a hangout for the Genovese people. It’s the oldest Italian restaurant in New York City. It’s in South Brooklyn, not far from the Gowanus Canal. Excellent food. To the left of the restaurant they have their own parking lot. I parked and went in and stood at the bar. Tony Pro got up from his table and went to the back and returned with a duffel bag. He handed it to me and told me, “Go down to Campbell’s Cement in Baltimore where you went that time with the truck. Our friend’s pilot will be there. He’s waiting for this.” You didn’t have to spend all that time in combat to know you had a duffel bag with three rifles in it. I knew it was rifles, but I had no idea what it was.

When I got there, Carlos’s pilot, Dave Ferrie, was there with another guy I knew from Monte’s who was with Genovese. He’s gone now, but he has a nice family. There’s no reason to bring his name into it. He said, “How’s your friend?” I said, “He’s doing good.” He said, “You got something for us?” With the tone Russell had set, I didn’t even get out of my car. I gave him the keys. He opened the trunk, took the bag, we said good-bye, and away I went home.

Two years after the Warren Commission released its 1964 report, Bobby Kennedy told his brother Jack’s former White House aide Richard Goodwin, “I never thought it was the Cubans. If anyone was involved it was organized crime. But there is nothing I can do about it. Not now.” At the time Bobby Kennedy made these statements to former White House officials who were his friends, he knew more about the inner game of organized crime than any “outsider” in the country. Bobby Kennedy certainly knew that, in the absence of a mob war, bosses did not ever eliminate another boss’s underboss. It would bring major retaliation. To effect a desired change in policy, mob bosses have traditionally eliminated — and still eliminate — bosses, not underbosses. On an international scale it is called regime change. To the Italian bosses it is merely a matter of following the old Sicilian maxim that to kill a dog you don’t cut off its tail, you cut off its head.

In school Jimmy talked a lot about Partin. Frank Ragano was supposed to be getting an affidavit from Partin that the government set Jimmy up. There was a D.A. in New Orleans who arrested Partin, and they were supposed to get that D.A. off Partin’s back in exchange for the affidavit. The same D.A. arrested Walter Sheridan for bribery, and that was supposed to help Jimmy by making Sheridan look bad in the papers. All that help came from Russell’s and Jimmy’s good friend, Carlos Marcello, the boss in New Orleans who had the D.A. That was the same D.A. that was arresting everybody for the JFK assassination. Sometimes a friendly D.A. acts like a bird dog to flush rats out of the weeds. When the rat surfaces to cooperate with the D.A., then the people know what to do. I don’t know about that D.A. I was never a party to any discussions about him. But he did arrest Partin and Sheridan during this time.

About a year after Jimmy went in, Bobby Kennedy announced that he was going to run for president. As far as I could tell that didn’t affect Jimmy at all because Jimmy was already supporting Nixon from jail, getting deliveries of cash down to Mitchell and the Nixon campaign. Jimmy was just glad that Bobby was no longer the attorney general. Everybody approved of Lyndon Johnson’s attorney general, Ramsey Clark. He was the opposite of Bobby Kennedy. He didn’t bother anybody. He was the one they used to call Pamsey Clark. He was against wiretaps. A couple of months later Bobby Kennedy got it from the terrorist. I know Jimmy lost no sleep over that, but Jimmy hardly mentioned it. I think all of Jimmy’s focus was on getting out. He kept up with events through all the papers that he always read, but he didn’t waste his breath on what was happening on the outside unless it had something to do with getting him out. I do believe Jimmy hated jail way more than he ever hated Bobby.

"I Heard You Paint Houses", Updated Edition: Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa

Hoffa, Giancana, Kennedy, and Jack Ruby

Sam Giancana was going to help John F. Kennedy against Nixon and so were Giancana’s buddy Frank Sinatra and practically all of Hollywood. Giancana said he was going to fix the election in Illinois so Kennedy would win that state. Jimmy couldn’t believe his ears. Jimmy tried to talk him out of it. Jimmy told him nobody could control Bobby because he was mental. Jimmy said people went to the old man during the McClellan Committee hearings and he couldn’t do anything about either one of his millionaire kids.

Giancana told Jimmy that Kennedy was going to help them get Castro out of Cuba so they could get their casinos back. Jimmy said that they were crazy to trust those Kennedy boys after what they did in the McClellan hearings.

Jimmy said Nixon was still going to beat Kennedy and Nixon would help them in Cuba.

Giancana said the whole thing happened in Cuba under Eisenhower and Nixon, so what good were the Republicans?

It was something to listen to this. It was only a couple of years after Apalachin let everybody know there was such a thing as this La Cosa Nostra. And here they were talking about whether the Chicago outfit should or should not fix a presidential election. Growing up wherever you grew up you knew the local elections were fixed. You knew the local Philly elections or whatever were fixed, but this was something, and this high-level talk was all going on right in front of me.
I knew how important Cuba was to my friends in the East and all their friends in the country. Russell had taken me with him to Cuba just when Castro was starting to kick everybody out and confiscate their casinos and racetracks and houses and bank accounts and everything else they owned in Cuba. I never saw Russell madder than on that trip to Cuba, and I wasn’t even on the last trip he made where he was even madder because his friend Santo Trafficante from Florida had been arrested by the Communists and was being held in jail. I heard a rumor that Sam Giancana had to send Jack Ruby to Cuba to spread some money around to get Santo out.

Later that same year John F. Kennedy was elected president by a thin margin. The first thing he did was appoint his brother attorney general of the United States. This put Bobby in charge of the Justice Department, all of the United States attorneys, and of the FBI and the FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover. And the first thing Bobby Kennedy did was turn against the very men who helped elect his brother. For the first time in American history an attorney general committed his office to the eradication of organized crime. Toward that end, Bobby Kennedy formed a squad of lawyers and investigators within the Justice Department, and he put in charge of that squad his old right-hand man during the McClellan Committee hearings, Walter Sheridan. Bobby Kennedy chose the members of the squad himself. He gave the squad a very limited job to do and gave the squad a very subtle name: “The Get Hoffa Squad.” Everything, and I mean everything, came as a result of that.

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Why Mary Meyer was murdered

They had killed Jack because he and his ally-in-peace Nikita Khrushchev were steering the world away from the Cold War toward peace, thereby eliminating the military-industrial-intelligence complex’s most treasured weapons— the fear of war, the fear of “Communist takeover,” and the manipulative use of Fear itself. The Cold War was about to end, and with it the covert action arm of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Agency would have been all but neutered, its funding and resources cut, its menacing grip on public opinion exposed and eliminated. It also meant the eventual curtailment of many of the defense industries, including the proliferation of nuclear arms. There would have been no war in Southeast Asia or Vietnam; that, too, was about to end. A rapprochement with Fidel Castro and Cuba was on the horizon. Both Jack and Fidel wanted “a lasting peace.”

Little attention had been paid to the parting words of a previous president. President Eisenhower had warned the American public in early 1961 of the evil that had spawned since World War II: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Indeed, it had; so much so that in less than three years, anyone who tried to stop it— including the elected president of the United States— would be eliminated.

Simply put, peace— particularly world peace— wasn’t good for business, nor for American military and economic hegemony. Whatever enlightenment Mary and Jack may have finally engendered together, it had evolved into a part of Jack’s newfound trajectory of where he wanted to take not only his presidency in 1963, but the entire world. It was the pursuit of peace that was about to take center stage; and that voyage would no longer include any obsequious bow to the insanity of America’s war machine driven by the legacy of Allen Dulles and his ass-kissing cronies.

After Dallas, amid utter horror and shock, Mary had taken it upon herself to discover and make sense of the truth of the conspiracy that had taken place— only to realize the magnitude of the second conspiracy, a cover-up taking place right before her eyes. There, in her diary, she had reached an understanding. It was her own mosaic of people, events, circumstances, and exploration that informed her understanding— not only of the evil that had taken place in Dallas, but of the villainous darkness that was now enveloping all of America. She had furiously confronted her ex-husband, Cord Meyer, possibly Jim Angleton as well, with what she had discovered, not fully realizing the extent of their own diabolical ruthlessness. The Warren Report was ultimately nothing more than a house of cards; once ignited with the right matchstick, it would be engulfed in flames. If Mary courageously went public with who she was, and what she knew, making clear her position in the final years of Jack’s life, people with influence would take notice; the fire of suspicion around Dallas would erupt into a conflagration. She had to be eliminated.

Janney, Peter. Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace (pp. 390-391). Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Mary's Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace: Third Edition

James Jesus Angleton – the man behind the Kennedy assassination – Quotes from the Devil’s Chessboard

Angleton’s activities ranged from purloining documents at foreign embassies to opening the mail of American citizens (he once jocularly referred to himself as “the postmaster”) to wiretapping the bedrooms of CIA officials. It was his job to be suspicious of everybody, and he was, keeping a treasure trove of sensitive files and photos in the locked vault in his office. Each morning at CIA headquarters, Angleton would report to Dulles on the results of his “fishing expeditions,” as they called his electronic eavesdropping missions, which picked up everything from gossip on the Georgetown party circuit to Washington pillow talk.

As Dulles was well aware, Angleton had even tucked away explosive secrets about the CIA director himself. That is why Dulles had rewarded him with the most sensitive job in the agency, Angleton confided to journalist Joseph Trento near the end of his life. “You know how I got to be in charge of counterintelligence? I agreed not to polygraph or require detailed background checks on Allen Dulles and 60 of his closest friends. They were afraid that their own business dealings with Hitler’s pals would come out.”

Talbot, David. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (pp. 333-334). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Angleton told a friend in British intelligence, “I would kill Philby.” The betrayal was painfully intimate, and it bred a paranoia that bloomed darkly within Angleton. When he was named counterintelligence chief, he saw traitors and signs of Soviet treachery everywhere. His compulsive mole hunting ruined the careers of dozens of CIA agents, doing more to damage agency security than to fortify it. “I couldn’t find that we ever caught a spy under Jim,” said William Colby, the CIA director who finally terminated Angleton’s long tenure in 1975. But under Dulles, Angleton enjoyed free rein to pursue his demons. He dreamed up Cold War phantasms and bogeymen, and then invented all-too-real methods of destroying these horrible apparitions. He operated a kind of virtual CIA within the CIA, reporting only to Dulles himself— and even the top spymaster was not fully aware of his murky activities. “My father once said, ‘I’m not a genius, but in intelligence I am a genius,’” recalled Siri Hari Angleton, who changed her name from Lucy as a young woman, after following her mother and older sister into the Sikh religion.

Talbot, David. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (p. 335). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Dulles entrusted Angleton with the agency’s most vital and sensitive missions. He was the principal CIA liaison with the key foreign intelligence services, including those in frontline Cold War nations like France, West Germany, Turkey, Taiwan, and Yugoslavia, as well as with Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. Angleton developed a special bond with the Israelis, forging a realpolitik relationship, with both parties conveniently overlooking Angleton’s role in the Nazi ratlines after the war. The Israelis maintained close ties to the American espionage oracle until the end of his life. Several members of Mossad came to Angleton’s home as he lay dying in the spring of 1987, to pay their last respects— and perhaps to make certain the vapory Gray Ghost was indeed finally leaving this mortal coil.

Talbot, David. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (pp. 336-337). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Dulles and Angleton shared a disdain for Washington bureaucracy and for the governmental oversight that comes with a functioning democratic system. Later, in the post-Watergate ’70s, when the Church Committee opened its probe of CIA lawbreaking, Angleton was called to account for himself. As he completed his testimony, the Gray Ghost rose from his chair, and, thinking he was now off the record, muttered, “It is inconceivable that a secret intelligence arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of the government.” It was a concise articulation of the Angleton philosophy; in his mind, CIA overseers were a priestly caste that, because the fate of the nation had been placed in its hands, must be allowed to operate unfettered and above the law.

Talbot, David. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (p. 336). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Dulles also put Angleton in charge of the CIA’s relationship with the FBI— a delicate task considering the rivalry between the two agencies. At the same time he was working with the federal bureau in charge of fighting organized crime, Angleton was also pursuing a CIA partnership with the Mafia. Angleton possessed one of those rare intellects— and characters— that allowed him to lead a life filled with contradiction. He easily passed back and forth between Washington’s overworld and the criminal underworld. He was the sort of man who could crossbreed a new orchid, cook a delicious pasta with slivered truffles imported from Ristorante Passetto in Rome, and then sit down with a criminal mastermind to discuss the fine points of murder. Though he dined and drank with Georgetown high society, Angleton’s work also brought him into close contact with the agency’s rougher characters, including Shef Edwards’s security cops, who helped install Angleton’s bugs, and Bill Harvey, the hard-drinking gun nut who figured prominently in a number of the agency’s assassination jobs.

It was all of a piece, in the intricately wired mind of Jim Angleton: countering dangerous ideas by publishing CIA-vetted literature, or by eliminating the intellectuals and leaders who expounded these ideas. One day, shortly after Fidel Castro took power in Havana, Angleton had a brainstorm. He summoned two Jewish CIA officers, including Sam Halpern, who had recently been assigned to the agency’s covert Cuba team. Angleton asked them to fly to Miami and meet with Meyer Lanksy, organized crime’s chief financial officer, who had been forced to flee Havana ahead of Castro’s revolutionaries, leaving behind the Mafia’s highly lucrative casino empire. Lansky was part of the Jewish mob but had close business ties to the Italian Mafia. Angleton told Halpern and the other Jewish CIA agent to see if they could convince Lansky to arrange for the assassination of Castro.

Angleton’s emissaries met with Lansky, but the crime mogul drove too hard a bargain for his services and the deal fell through. This was only the beginning of the CIA’s endless, Ahab-like quest to kill the Caribbean leviathan, however. Castro would never stop haunting the dreams of the CIA high command. The Cuban revolutionary was not only intellectually formidable and politically fearless; his dream of national liberation was backed up with guns. Castro and his equally charismatic comrade, Che Guevara, made it clear from the start that they would not share the fate of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala: they would fight fire with fire.

Che, a twenty-five-year-old doctor and adventurer in search of a grander meaning to his life, was living in Guatemala City when Arbenz was overthrown. He saw what happened when Arbenz’s moderate reforms came up against the imperial force of United Fruit and the CIA. “I am not Christ or a philanthropist, old lady,” Che wrote to his mother, Celia, in the bantering style he had developed with her, as he and Fidel prepared to board the leaky yacht Granma in Mexico with their band of guerrillas to make history in Cuba. “I fight for the things I believe in, with all the weapons at my disposal and try to leave the other man dead so that I don’t get nailed to a cross.” To avoid Arbenz’s fate, Castro and Guevara would do everything he had not: put the hard-core thugs of the old regime up against a wall, run the CIA’s agents out of the country, purge the armed forces, and mobilize the Cuban people. By militarizing their dream, Fidel and Che became an audacious threat to the American empire. They represented the most dangerous revolutionary idea of all— the one that refused to be crushed.

Talbot, David. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (pp. 337-338). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.