Who’s In The Lake Mead Barrel? A Mob Murder Victim? Jimmy Hoffa?

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Who’s In The Lake Mead Barrel? A Mob Murder Victim? Jimmy Hoffa?
© USA Today

The discovery of human skeletal remains inside a metal barrel near Las Vegas is generating speculation about the victim’s identity.

Police have noted that positive identification could be difficult to determine, but that has not stopped social media users from going online to voice opinions.

Some believe the person was a Mob murder victim or a long-ago casino thief. Others are saying it could be former labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, pictured. At one time, Hoffa helped secure Mob-connected Teamsters Union loans for Las Vegas casino construction.

Murder Victim’s Kmart Shoes Provide Clues

The person whose remains are inside the corroded barrel was shot to death decades ago, police said. The victim’s Kmart shoes and other clothing date the incident to the mid-1970s or early ’80s.

The barrel was discovered May 1 on the shoreline at Lake Mead, about 40 miles east of Las Vegas.   

The discovery site was underwater at one time, but a severe drought has lowered the lake level, exposing terrain once beneath the water’s surface. Other human remains have since been discovered at the lake.

Mob Active During ’70s And ’80s

The timeframe of the barrel incident coincides with Mafia involvement in Las Vegas, as depicted in the Martin Scorsese movie “Casino.” 

The movie features Joe Pesci as a violent mobster based on Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, the Chicago Outfit’s overseer in Las Vegas during the 1970s into the ’80s. 

Some have speculated that Spilotro or other mobsters might have had a hand in killing the victim and dumping the barrel in what, at the time, was deep lake water.

Hoffa Went Missing In Detroit

The  possibility that the person in the Lake Mead barrel was killed in the mid-’70s has some wondering whether Hoffa’s body might have been located at last. 

On July 30, 1975, the 62-year-old Hoffa, by then a convicted felon, disappeared from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox restaurant in suburban Detroit. He was supposed to have met there with Mafia leaders to settle a dispute. 

Hoffa was never heard from again.

Over the years, the search for Hoffa’s body has led to authorized digs at certain sites and a rumor that he might have been buried at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. 

The NFL stadium has been demolished without any evidence of Hoffa’s remains.

Feds Investigate New Jersey Site

In November, the New York Times reported that federal authorities are investigating a dump site in Jersey City, New Jersey, where Hoffa might have been buried in a 55-gallon drum. 

The site is beneath the Pulaski Skyway connecting Jersey City and Newark.

Dan Moldea, an investigative reporter and author of the 1978 book “The Hoffa Wars,” identified the site from a key source connected to that location and other information.

Scott Burnstein, a journalist who, like Moldea, is a well-respected Hoffa authority, believes the body was disposed of in the Detroit area. However, Burnstein holds Moldea in high regard and does not discount the Jersey City possibility.

On the Gangster Report website, Burnstein, a member of the Las Vegas Mob Museum advisory council, recently reported that the FBI believes the person in the Lake Mead barrel was a victim of Tony “The Ant” Spilotro’s. 

Spilotro and his brother, Michael, were killed by mobsters in the Chicago area in 1986 and buried in an Indiana cornfield.

Hoffa Theory Laughed Off

No one in a position of authority has suggested the Lake Mead barrel contains Hoffa’s remains.

Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a defense attorney who represented Spilotro and other reputed mobsters, laughed off the suggestion.

"I'm relatively sure it was not Jimmy Hoffa," Goodman told the Associated Press.

Who Killed Hoffa?

Though Hoffa’s remains have not been uncovered, it is widely believed he was killed in a Mob hit. 

Most Mafia authorities dismiss the premise in Martin Scorsese’s 2019 movie “The Irishman” that the killer was Philadelphia hit man Frank Sheeran. 

Among other names, East Coast mobster Salvatore “Sally Bugs” Briguglio has been cited as a likely Hoffa assassin. 

Three years after Hoffa was killed, Briguglio was shot to death on Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy.

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