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Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran (October 25, 1920 – December 14, 2003) was a labor union official who was accused of having links to the Bufalino crime family. In his capacity as a high official in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Sheeran was a leading figure in the corruption of unions by organized crime. Shortly before his death, Sheeran also confessed to killing Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa. Author Charles Brandt would detail what Sheeran told him about his alleged murder of Hoffa in his 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses.
Frank Sheeran was born in Darby, Pennsylvania, a small working-class borough on the outskirts of Philadelphia. His family was of mixed Irish- and Swedish-American descent. He grew to his full adult height of 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall while serving in the Army during World War II.
World War II
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1941, and was assigned to the military police before transferring to the 45th Infantry Division, known as "The Thunderbirds." It was while serving in World War II that Sheeran developed a callousness to the taking of human life. He served 411 days of combat duty (a large amount; average is around 100), and participated in the Dachau massacre. He later told Charles Brandt,
“When an officer would tell you to take a couple of German prisoners back behind the line and for you to ‘hurry back,’ you did what you had to do.”
When he left the service, he became a trucker, but made extra money on the side by committing crimes, including murder for hire. Due to his criminal acumen, he became a close associate of Mafia bosses Russell Bufalino and Angelo Bruno. It was Bufalino, the head of the Bufalino crime family, who acted as Sheeran's mentor throughout his life.
The Teamster's Union
At Sheeran's request, Bufalino also set him up with Teamsters International President Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa, who became a close friend, used Sheeran for muscle, including the assassination of recalcitrant union members and members of rival unions threatening the Teamsters' turf.
He also claimed to have been part of the provisioning of the anti-Fidel Castro forces involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion and had intimate knowledge about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. According to Sheeran, Jimmy Hoffa wanted Kennedy dead as his brother Bobby Kennedy, the Attorney General of the United States, was harassing him. The assassination of President Kennedy was a Mafia hit, according to Sheeran, who did not actively participate in the plot, but who transported three rifles to the alleged assassins via David Ferrie.
Brandt describes in his book how the old and ill Sheeran told him that he was the man who shot Jimmy Hoffa upon Mafia orders. Sheeran would also confess to killing Hoffa to Fox News reporters. While investigators did find traces of blood in the Detroit house where Sheeran confessed he killed Hoffa, they also determined it may have been too old for conclusive testing.
Additionally, Sheeran claimed to have been the triggerman behind another famous mob-related murder, that of Crazy Joe Gallo. An eyewitness to the Gallo hit was discovered by Charles Brandt and confirmed that Sheeran was the shooter at Umberto's Clam House.
In popular culture
Martin Scorcese is set to direct a movie regarding Sheeran's life entitled The Irishman. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci are attached to the project.
- Brandt, Charles (2004). "I Heard You Paint Houses": Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran and the Inside Story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the Last Ride of Jimmy Hoffa. Hanover, New Hampshire: Steerforth Press. ISBN 978-1-58642-077-2. OCLC 54897800.
- English, T. J. (2005). Paddy whacked: the untold story of the Irish American gangster. HarperCollins. p. 438. ISBN 978-0-06-059002-4.
- "Detroit House Searched for Clues in Hoffa Case". Fox News. 1975-07-30. Retrieved 2012-05-30.
- The Irishman and the Quiet Don by Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus (SUNY)