Frank Sheeran was a high ranking labor union official with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, he was also one of the main instigators of union corruption for the Mafia, he was also linked to the bosses of the Bufalino Crime Family, Russell Bufalino & Angelo Bruno.
Sheeran is a somewhat controversial character and made some claims before his death that may or may not be true and are hard to prove or disprove. I wont go into these controversies in this story. His life is the subject of a major new movie due out sometime in 2019, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring an all star cast Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel just to name a few. A biography about his life was written in 2004 by the title of I Heard You Paint Houses.
Frank Sheeran was born in Pennsylvania in the 1920’s, he enlisted in the army in 1941 and was attached to the 45th Infantry Division. During World War 2 he had a very impressive record serving 411 days in combat and got first experience of combat during the Italian Campaign including the invasion of Sicily, the Salerno landings, the Anzio Campaign, and the Battle of Cassino. He also served in the landings in southern France, the Battle of the Bulge, and the invasion of Germany.
Needless to say this war experience would be put to use when he returned home, he took a job as a truck driver for a grocery store, which he worked for two uneventful years before he finally had a brush with the law, fighting with two men over a trolley.
(Sheeran on the left)
Sheeran, who was well over six feet tall start making some money on the side by making collections for loansharks around Philadelphia, this would lead him to make connections to the world of criminals. Sometime in the mid 1950’s Sheeran became associated with Russell Bufalino head of the Bufalino Crime Family and became his chauffeur, doing jobs and making deliveries.
An incident in the 50’s would lead Sheeran to carry out his first hit, a local mobster called Whispers offered him $10,000 to burn down the office of Cadillac Linen Service, which was competing with a company that Whispers had an interest in. While he was scoping out the business he was seen, but as it turned out Cadillac Linen Service was owned by a friend of Bufalino’s.
“Because Frank had been seen in Bufalino’s company, the friend did not have Frank killed,” said Brandt, biographer of Sheeran. “But Frank was told to make it right by killing Whispers. That night was his first hit.”
Russell Bufalino (center) & Howie Winter of Boston’s Winter Hill Mob (next to him with black book in his breast pocket)
As a reward, Sheeran was put in contact with another notorious name Jimmy Hoffa, the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters labor union. Hoffa needed some muscle to ensure the silence of his enemies. The story goes, Hoffa said to Sheeran, “I heard you paint houses.” Sheeran replied yes and added, “I also do my own carpentry”. In Mafia code language I heard you paint houses meant he killed people and doing his own carpentry meant he disposed of the bodies too.
While he served as Hoffa’s muscle, his job was to beat and intimidate Hoffa’s enemies, kill people trying to start rival unions, and gun running to name some of his jobs. As they worked together Sheeran and Hoffa grew close, Sheeran was rewarded by being given a lucrative job as president of the Local 326 in Wilmington, Del. That position would give him rewards too in return for mob favors.
But in time things turned sour for Hoffa due to the company he kept and his business practices, investigations, prison time and falling out with the mob sealed his fate and allegedly it was up to Frank Sheeran to take care of his old friend. There are many, many theories as to what happened to Jimmy Hoffa, his disappearance and his body, and in all honesty the truth may never be known. And this is only one version of accounts, from Sheeran himself.
Sheeran and a few associates picked Hoffa up at a restaurant called the Red Fox. Sheeran claimed that his presence helped put Hoffa at ease about driving to a meeting at a Detroit house.*
As they arrived at the house in Detroit. From the book I Heard You Paint Houses: “When Jimmy saw . . . that nobody came out of the rooms to greet him, he knew right away what it was,” Sheeran said in the book, adding that Hoffa tried to flee. “Jimmy Hoffa got shot twice at a decent range — not too close or the [blood] splatters back at you — in the back of his head . . . My friend did not suffer.”
However another version states that Sheeran did not shoot Hoffa, another mobster from New Jersey is believed to be the killer Sal “Sally Bugs” Briguglio, Hoffa’s body was then brought to a dump in New Jersey where it was disposed of.
In 2004, nearly 30 years after Hoffa’s disappearance Sheeran would eventually give an address where this murder was supposed to have taken place, in 2013 the FBI, after a thorough search 28 samples of blood were found, only 2 samples of blood contained sufficient DNA, however the samples proved inconclusive.
Frank Sheeran was eventually indicted in labor racketeering and sentenced to a 32 year prison sentence, which he served 13 years. While crippled with arthritis and in living in a nursing home he confessed to Hoffa’s murder to 3 priests and author Charles Brandt.
As stated earlier, Sheeran confessed to involvement in certain crimes and events that may or may not be true and at this point are hard to verify.
*Hoffa’s family themselves believe that Sheeran was at least involved with luring Hoffa to his death as they believe that he would have only gotten in the car with Sheeran present.