- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006

MILFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Federal agents searching a horse farm for clues to union firebrand Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance expect to be there at least a couple weeks and will probably remove a barn, an FBI agent said yesterday.

Investigators began digging at Hidden Dreams Farm on Wednesday in a search for “the human remains of James Riddle Hoffa,” according to the search warrant, obtained by the Associated Press.

“This is the best lead I’ve seen come across on the Hoffa investigation,” said Daniel Roberts, special agent in charge of the Detroit FBI field office for the past two years.

The former Teamsters leader disappeared in 1975 on a night he was to have dinner at a restaurant about 20 miles from the farm outside Detroit.

Mr. Hoffa had plans to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain, and investigators have longed suspected the two had him killed to prevent Hoffa from regaining the union presidency after he served prison time for jury tampering.

Mr. Roberts declined to say what led agents to the farm, where organized crime figures used to meet, but said the search included the use of heavy construction equipment and investigators expected to be there a couple weeks.

For years there have been rumors in the surrounding neighborhood that Hoffa had been killed and buried there at the order of mobsters and others who didn’t want Mr. Hoffa to regain power over the Teamsters.

Deb Koskovich said she heard the rumor about Mr. Hoffa’s body two decades ago from a neighbor when she moved next door.

“We laughed and that was the end of that,” said Mrs. Koskovich, 52. “I never thought about it again until today so apparently there have been rumors.”

A law-enforcement official in Washington said the search was based on information developed several years ago and verified more recently.

The information indicated there was a high level of suspicious activity on the farm the day Mr. Hoffa vanished, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

A backhoe appeared near a barn that organized crime members had used for meetings, but that location was never used again after Mr. Hoffa disappeared, the official said.

Mr. Roberts would not say who owned the property when Mr. Hoffa disappeared but said it was now under different ownership.

Reporters were not allowed on the property, a horse farm surrounded by a white wooden fence just off a dirt road, but images shot from news helicopters showed about a dozen people, some with shovels, standing by an area of newly turned dirt about 10 feet by 15 feet.

Mark Weidel, who was visiting his parents’ home just up the road, said he grew up hearing rumors about Mr. Hoffa and didn’t expect anything to come of this search.

“It’s just another Hoffa story,” he said.

Last year, the FBI crime lab concluded that blood found on the floor of a Detroit home where a one-time Hoffa ally claimed to have killed him did not belong to Hoffa.

Bloomfield Township police ripped up the floorboards from the house where Frank Sheeran claimed Mr. Hoffa was killed. Mr. Sheeran died in 2003 at age 83.

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