DETROIT -- At least one part of a former mobster's tale about the Jimmy Hoffa case checks out.
Tony Zerilli, 85, who was indicted in 1996 as a key figure in Detroit's underworld, said that former Detroit mob boss Jack Tocco owned property in Oakland Township, Mich., where Zerilli claims Hoffa was buried in 1975.
But Oakland County, Mich., deed records show the property on Buell Road was owned by Belaire Diversified Inc. until 1982, when the title was transferred to Tocco.
"He bought it on a land contract," said Michael Glime, who ran Belaire and now is retired. "The checks came from Melrose Linen Supply. He always paid promptly."
Melrose was Tocco's company.
Glime couldn't remember exactly when he sold the property to Tocco, but remembered the land contract took 10 years and four months to pay off before the 1982 title transfer, a timeline that would have meant Tocco owned it from at least 1972, three years before Hoffa's disappearance.
"He owned it," Glime said.
Zerilli made the claim in an interview with reporter Marc Santia of New York's WNBC-TV, formerly of WDIV-TV in Detroit.
In the interview, Zerilli said Hoffa, 62, was buried in a field in northern Oakland County after he was kidnapped on the afternoon of July 30, 1975, from a restaurant parking lot in Oakland County. Hoffa's body never has been found, and the case is one of the 20th century's most vexing mysteries.
"The master plan was, as I understood, they were going to put him in a shallow grave here, and they were going to take him from here to Rogers City, upstate, where there was a hunting lodge," Zerilli said during the interview, which aired Sunday night. "That just fell through."
Zerilli, who denied during the interview that he was in the mob, said that he was in jail at the time Hoffa disappeared and learned the details after his release. He said he thinks Hoffa's body remains buried 30 miles away from the restaurant in a field.
Zerilli said he has spoken with the FBI, but Simon Shaykhet, spokesman for the FBI's Detroit office, said Monday that the agency had no comment.
The FBI has theorized that Hoffa disappeared after going to the restaurant for a reconciliation meeting with Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano, a mob-connected New Jersey Teamster official, and Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone, a Detroit Mafia captain.
The FBI thought that Provenzano and Giacalone had Hoffa killed to prevent him from regaining the Teamsters presidency, ending the mob's influence over the union and its easy access to Teamster pension funds. Hoffa ran the union in 1957-71.
Various theories -- and numerous books and interviews -- surmise that Hoffa's body was either incinerated or buried.
Hoffa's daughter, Barbara Crancer, a retired judge in suburban St. Louis, said Monday that she hasn't been contacted by investigators about the latest development, but that she had seen the news reports.
"I'm going to leave it up to the FBI to check out the veracity of Mr. Zerilli," she said.
The property Tocco owned has been sold several times since.
Enzo Cerqua, president of Futura Construction, was running netting along Buell Road to keep the Hoffa-curious away from a house he's rehabbing next door.
He said the homeowner bought the place in the summer, not knowing the possible Hoffa connection. On Monday, Cerqua watched as helicopters flew overhead, and he spoke to a woman writing a book about Hoffa.
"The Hoffa thing -- you know it's going to draw traffic here," said Cerqua, 47, of Oxford, Mich., who hunted on the property in the early 2000s and never saw any signs of a grave. "My wife wants to come look. I'm like, 'Look, you've been there a hundred times.' It's a sexy topic to talk about. At this point here, it's like 'Alright, is (the body) going to come out?' It's something everybody wants to know."