Crime

Dan Moldea: Key FBI Source in Jimmy Hoffa Disappearance Dies in Metro Detroit


September 08, 2019, 10:36 PM

The writer, a Washington investigative journalist specializing in organized crime and political corruption investigations, is a Jimmy Hoffa murder specialist. He is the author of "The Hoffa Wars" (1978) and eight other books. 

By Dan Moldea

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Don and Monica Wells, at their one-time horse farm in Wixom in 2009, which was dug up by the FBI during a 2006 search for Jimmy Hoffa. (Photo: Dan Moldea)

One of the most important federal sources of information about the Jimmy Hoffa murder case was Donovan Wells, who died Thursday at age 89 outside of Detroit. Below is an excerpt of a story I wrote for the 40th anniversary of the Hoffa case in 2015, based partly on interviews with Don and his wife, Monica. I liked and respected him for turning his life around.

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FBI agents raided a Milford Township farm looking for Hoffa's remains in May 2006, based on information from Donovan Wells, a former business partner of both Rolland McMaster and Stanton Barr. At the time, Wells was in a federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky. He and his family lived on McMaster's farm the summer Hoffa disappeared.

The FBI's search warrant for McMaster's farm has never been released. But Wells told me in 2009 that he informed the FBI that a large hole had been dug on the north end of the property several weeks before Hoffa's murder.

In addition, his wife Monica claimed that on the afternoon of Hoffa's July 30, 1975 disappearance, she saw two or three dark cars speeding onto the property, roaring past the farmhouse on an adjacent dirt road, and heading towards the pre-dug hole.

But what had really piqued the FBI's interest was what Wells had seen and heard the night before Hoffa's murder. At a local restaurant, as Wells, McMaster, and Barr were having dinner, mobster and Teamster official Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano – in the flesh – suddenly appeared, slapped his hand on their table, and said: "It's going to be a great day tomorrow! A great day tomorrow! Right, Mac?" And he slapped McMaster on the back.

Provenzano then asked McMaster to accompany him to the bar for a private conversation.

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Jimmy Hoffa

While they were gone, Wells asked Barr what was going on. Barr replied that Provenzano and Hoffa were meeting the following day to settle their differences—and that Tony Giacalone was making the arrangements for the sitdown.

When Provenzano and McMaster returned to the table, Provenzano pointed to McMaster and Barr and asked, "Do you guys know where you're going to be tomorrow?"

McMaster responded, "Yeah, we're all straight on that."

The FBI never unearthed Hoffa's remains, or any evidence that he had been killed on McMaster's farm, but Don Wells—who passed an FBI polygraph test—gave the bureauh important new information about Hoffa's disappearance in 2006: Rolland McMaster and Tony Pro were together at a restaurant in Detroit on July 29, 1975, the night before Hoffa disappeared. Wells also heard a portion of their conversation which was clearly about Provenzano's scheduled 2 p.m. meeting with Hoffa on July 30, as well as the need for McMaster and Barr to have established alibis for the afternoon when Hoffa was last seen.

The writer's last story for Deadline Detroit, in July, was headlined Jimmy Hoffa Vanished 44 Years Ago. Here's What I Think Happened.



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