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 claimed to have killed Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa. Author Charles Brandt detailed what Sheeran told him about Hoffa in the non-fiction book I Heard You Paint Houses (2004).
Frank Sheeran was born in Darby, Pennsylvania in 1920, a small working-class borough on the outskirts of Philadelphia. His family was of Irish and Swedish descent. He grew to his full adult height of 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) while serving in the Army during World War II.
World War II
Sheeran enlisted in the United States Army in August 1941, did basic training near Biloxi, Mississippi, and was assigned to the military police. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he volunteered for training in the Army Airborne at Fort Benning, Georgia. After dislocating his shoulder, he was transferred to the 45th Infantry Division, known as "The Thunderbirds." On July 14, 1943, Sheeran set sail for North Africa.
Sheeran served 411 days of combat duty (a significant amount as the average is around 100). His first experience of combat was during the Italian Campaign; including the invasion of Sicily, the Salerno landings, the Anzio Campaign, and the Battle of Cassino. He then served in the landings in southern France, the Battle of the Bulge, and the invasion of Germany.
Sheeran added, however,
All in all, I had fifty days lost under AWOL -- absent without official leave -- mostly spent drinking red wine and chasing Italian, French, and German women. However, I was never AWOL when my outfit was going back to the front lines. If you were AWOL when your unit was going back into combat you might as well keep going because one of your own officers would blow you away and they didn't even have to say it was the Germans. That's desertion in the face of the enemy.
Sheeran later recalled his war service as the time when he first developed a callousness to the taking of human life. Sheeran claimed to have participated in numerous massacres and summary executions of German POWs, acts which violated the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and the 1929 Geneva Convention on POWs. In later interviews with Charles Brandt, he divided such massacres into four different categories.
- 1. Revenge killings in the heat of battle. Sheeran told Brandt that, when a German soldier had just killed his close friends and then tried to surrender, he would often "send him to hell, too." He described often witnessing similar behavior by fellow GIs.
- 2. Orders from unit commanders during a mission. When describing his first murder for organized crime, Sheeran recalled: "It was just like 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."
- 3. The Dachau massacre and other reprisal killings of concentration camp guards and trustee inmates.
- 4. Calculated attempts to dehumanize and degrade German POWs. While Sheeran's unit was climbing the Harz Mountains, they came upon a Wehrmacht mule train carrying food and drink up the mountainside. The female cooks were first allowed to leave unmolested, then Sheeran and his fellow GI's "ate what we wanted and soiled the rest with our waste." Then the Wehrmacht mule drivers were given shovels and ordered to "dig their own shallow graves." Sheeran later joked that they did so without complaint, likely hoping that he and his buddies would change their minds. But the mule drivers were shot and buried in the holes they had dug. Sheeran explained that by then, "I had no hesitation in doing what I had to do."
Private Frank Sheeran was discharged from the United States Army on 24 October 1945. He later recalled that it was, "a day before my twenty-fifth birthday, but only according to the calendar."
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
Bufalino set Sheeran up with the 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.
Sheeran claimed to have been part of the provisioning of the anti-Fidel Castro forces involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion and said he had intimate knowledge about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. According to Sheeran, Jimmy Hoffa wanted Kennedy dead because Kennedy's 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.
In the book, I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran and the Closing of the Case on Jimmy Hoffa (2004), author Charles Brandt claims that Sheeran, a professional killer for the mob and longtime friend of Hoffa's, confessed to assassinating Hoffa. According to Brandt, Chuckie O'Brien drove Sheeran, Hoffa, and fellow mobster Sal Briguglio to a house in Detroit. He claimed that while O'Brien and Briguglio drove off, Sheeran and Hoffa went into the house, where Sheeran claims that he shot Hoffa twice in the back of the head. Sheeran says that he was told that Hoffa was cremated after the murder. Sheeran also confessed to reporters that he murdered Hoffa. Blood found in the Detroit house where Sheeran claimed the murder happened was inconclusive for DNA after being under the floorboards for 29 years by the time it was taken up by investigators and in a high foot traffic area of the home. The blood pattern found was proof that someone was killed and the body dragged down the hallway as Sheeran had said, he knew the layout of the house perfectly even after all these years. The House was located only minutes from the roadhouse diner Hoffa was last seen at.
Martin Scorsese is set to direct a movie regarding Sheeran's life and his alleged involvement in the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa titled The Irishman. Steve Zaillian is the screenwriter and Robert De Niro portrays Sheeran. Actors Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel are attached, set to star in the project. The movie is expected to debut in 2019.
- 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.
- Brandt (2004), page 39.
- Brandt (2004), page 38.
- Brandt (2004), pages 38-50.
- Brandt (2004), page 50.
- Brandt (2004), page 51.
- Brandt (2004), 40.
- Brandt (2004), page 84.
- Brandt (2004), page 52.
- "Where is Hoffa?". 8 HD I-Team. November 13, 2006.
- Brandt, Charles. I Heard You Paint Houses.
- "Detroit House Searched for Clues in Hoffa Case". Fox News. 1975-07-30. Retrieved 2012-05-30.
- "History Detectives". Retrieved 11 May 2016. (transcript)
- "Police: Blood found in Detroit home did not come from Hoffa". highbeam.com. Associated Press. Retrieved September 9, 2017.[dead link]
- Karush, Sarah (February 14, 2005). "Police: Blood found in Detroit home did not come from Hoffa". Detroit Free Press. Associated Press.
- The Irishman, imdb.com; accessed August 8, 2017.
- The Irishman, imdb.com; accessed October 13, 2017.
- The Irishman and the Quiet Don by Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus (SUNY)