|A.K.A.||Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran|
|Was||Activist Trade unionist Criminal|
|From||United States of America|
|Birth||25 October 1920, Camden, United States of America|
|Death||14 December 2003, Philadelphia, United States of America (aged 83 years)|
|Residence||Darby, United States of America|
Francis Joseph Sheeran (October 25, 1920 – December 14, 2003), known as Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran, was an American labor union official who was accused of having links to the Bufalino crime family.
In his capacity as a high-ranking official in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), the president of Local 326, Sheeran was a leading figure in the corruption of unions by organized crime. In 1980, Sheeran was convicted of labor racketeering, and sentenced to 32 years in prison, of which he served 13 years.
Shortly before his death, Sheeran claimed to have killed Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa in 1975. Author Charles Brandt detailed what Sheeran told him about Hoffa in the narrative nonfiction work I Heard You Paint Houses (2004). The truthfulness of the book, including Sheeran's supposed confessions to killing Jimmy Hoffa and Joe Gallo have been disputed by "The Lies of the Irishman," an article in Slate by Bill Tonelli, and "Jimmy Hoffa and 'The Irishman': A True Crime Story?" by Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith, which appeared in The New York Review of Books. The book is the basis for the 2019 film The Irishman directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran and Al Pacino as Hoffa.
Sheeran was born and raised in Darby, Pennsylvania, a small working-class borough on the outskirts of Philadelphia. He was the son of Thomas Francis Sheeran Jr., a house painter from Philadelphia (1886–1968), and Mary Agnes Hanson. Sheeran was of Irish Catholic descent on his father's side and Swedish on his mother's side.
World War II
Sheeran enlisted in the Army in August 1941, did his 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" and "The Killer Division". On July 14, 1943, Sheeran set sail for North Africa.
Sheeran served 411 days of combat duty (a significant length of time, as the average was around 100 days). His first experience of combat was during the Italian Campaign; including the invasion of Sicily, the Salerno landings, the Anzio Campaign. He then served in the landings in southern France, and the invasion of Germany.
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 categories:
- 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.
- 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."
- The Dachau reprisals and other reprisal killings of concentration camp guards and trustee inmates.
- 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, he "had no hesitation in doing what I had to do."
Discharge and post-war
Sheeran was discharged from the army on October 24, 1945. He later recalled that it was "a day before my twenty-fifth birthday, but only according to the calendar." Upon returning from his army service, Sheeran married Mary Leddy, an Irish immigrant. The couple had three daughters, MaryAnne, Dolores, and Peggy, but divorced in 1968. Sheeran then married Irene Gray, with whom he had one daughter, Connie.
Organized crime and the Teamsters Union
When he left the service, Sheeran became a meat driver for Food Fair. He met Russell Bufalino in 1955, when Bufalino offered to help him fix his truck, and later worked jobs driving him around and making deliveries. Sheeran also reportedly operated out of a bar located in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, which was run by Bill Distanisloa, an Angelo Bruno soldier.
Sheeran's first murder was reportedly Whispers DiTullio, a gangster who had tasked Sheeran with destroying the Cadillac Linen Service in Delaware for $10,000; unbeknownst to Sheeran, Bruno had a large stake in the business. When Sheeran was spotted outside the business in Delaware, Sheeran was brought in for questioning; Bufalino had convinced an angered Bruno to spare Sheeran, ordering him to kill DiTullio as retribution.
Sheeran was also suspected to have been the lone shooter in the murder of Joe Gallo at Umberto's Clam House on April 7, 1972.
Bufalino had introduced Sheeran to 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. According to Sheeran, the first conversation he had with Hoffa was over the phone, where Hoffa started by saying, "I heard you paint houses"—a mob code meaning: I heard you kill people, the "paint" being the blood that splatters when bullets are fired into a body. Sheeran later became acting president of Local 326 of the Teamsters Union in Wilmington, Delaware.
In 1972, Sheeran had been charged for murder in the 1967 death of Robert DeGeorge, who was killed in a shootout in front of Local 107 headquarters, however, the case was dismissed on the grounds that Sheeran had been denied a speedy trial. He was also alleged to have conspired to murder Francis J. Marino in 1976, a Philadelphia labor organizer, and Frederick John Gawronski, killed the same year in a tavern in New Castle, Delaware.
Prison and death
Sheeran was indicted along with six others in July 1980, on charges involving his links to the labor leasing businesses controlled by Eugene Boffa Sr. of Hackensack, New Jersey. On October 31, 1980, Sheeran was found guilty of 11 charges of labor racketeering. He was sentenced to a 32-year prison term and served 13 years.
Sheeran died of cancer on December 14, 2003, aged 83, in a nursing home in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.
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 confessed to killing Hoffa. According to Brandt, Chuckie O'Brien drove Sheeran, Hoffa, and fellow mobster Sal Briguglio to a house in Metro 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 stains found in the Detroit house where Sheeran claimed the murder happened were determined not to match Hoffa's DNA.
The FBI continues its attempts to connect Sheeran to the murder, retesting the blood and floorboards with latest advancements in forensics. In Riddle, a documentary about the Hoffa disappearance that was broadcast on November 27, 2018, on FOX, the FBI replied "No comment" when asked about their latest tests.
Martin Scorsese was long interested in directing a film about Sheeran's life and his alleged involvement in the slaying of Hoffa, and in 2019 his film The Irishman was released. Steven Zaillian is the screenwriter and co-producer Robert De Niro portrays Sheeran, with Al Pacino as Hoffa, and Joe Pesci as Bufalino. The film had its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on September 27, 2019 and was released on November 1, 2019 with digital streaming that started on November 27, 2019 via Netflix.