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I Heard You Paint Houses

Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa

I Heard You Paint Houses Buy Now
Format Paperback Ebook
ISBN 978-1-58642-238-7 978-1-58642-240-0
Published Jun 29, 2016
Imprint Steerforth Press
Category 20th Century U.S. History Cultural Destinations Museums U.S. History United States History

New York Times Bestseller — #1 True Crime Bestseller

The inspiration for the major motion picture, THE IRISHMAN.

“The best Mafia book I ever read, and believe me, I read them all.” — Steven Van Zandt

“Charles Brandt has solved the Hoffa mystery.” — Professor Arthur Sloane, author of Hoffa

“Sheeran’s confession that he killed Hoffa in the manner described in the book is supported by the forensic evidence, is entirely credible, and solves the Hoffa mystery.” — Michael Baden M.D., former Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York

“It’s all true.” — New York Police Department organized crime homicide detective Joe Coffey

“Gives new meaning to the term ‘guilty pleasure.’’’ — The New York Times Book Review

**Includes an Epilogue and a Conclusion that detail substantial post-publication corroboration of Frank Sheeran’s confessions to the killings of Jimmy Hoffa and Joey Gallo.

“I heard you paint houses” are the first words Jimmy Hoffa ever spoke to Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran. To paint a house is to kill a man. The paint is the blood that splatters on the walls and floors. In the course of nearly five years of recorded interviews, Frank Sheeran confessed to Charles Brandt that he handled more than twenty-five hits for the mob, and for his friend Hoffa. He also provided intriguing information about the Mafia’s role in the murder of JFK.

Sheeran learned to kill in the US Army, where he saw an astonishing 411 days of active combat duty in Italy during World War II. After returning home he became a hustler and hit man, working for legendary crime boss Russell Bufalino. Eventually Sheeran would rise to a position of such prominence that in a RICO suit the US government would name him as one of only two non-Italians in conspiracy with the Commission of La Cosa Nostra, alongside the likes of Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano and Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno.

When Bufalino ordered Sheeran to kill Hoffa, the Irishman did the deed, knowing that if he had refused he would have been killed himself. Charles Brandt’s page-turner has become a true crime classic.


'The Irishman' named Best Film By National Board Of Review and New York Film Critics Circle

Sheeran’s confession that he killed Hoffa in the manner described in the book is supported by the forensic evidence, is entirely credible, and solves the Hoffa mystery.” — Michael Baden M.D., former Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York

I’m fully convinced – now – that Sheeran was in fact the man who did the deed. And I’m impressed, too, by the book’s readability and by its factual accuracy in all areas on which I’m qualified to pass judgment. Charles Brandt has solved the Hoffa mystery.” —Professor Arthur Sloane, author of Hoffa

Sometimes you can believe everything you read.” — William Big Billy” D’Elia, successor to Russell Bufalino as godfather of the Bufalino crime family

My source in the Bufalino family . . . read I Heard You Paint Houses. All the Bufalino guys read it. This old-time Bufalino guy told me he was shocked. He couldn’t believe Sheeran confessed all that stuff to [Brandt]. It’s all true.” — New York Police Department organized crime homicide detective Joseph Coffey

If the made men Brandt rubbed up against during his five years with Sheeran suspected what Sheeran was confessing to him on tape, they’d both have been promptly whacked.” — Joe Pistone, retired FBI deep undercover agent and the author of Donnie Brasco

I Heard You Paint Houses gives new meaning to the term ‘guilty pleasure.’ It promises to clear up the mystery of Hoffa’s demise, and appears to do so. Sheeran not only admits he was in on the hit, he says it was he who actually pulled the trigger — and not just on Hoffa but on dozens of other victims, including many, he alleges, dispatched on Hoffa’s orders. This last seems likely to spur a reappraisal of Hoffa’s career. . . . Sheeran is Old School, and his tale is admirably free of self-pity and self-aggrandize­ment. Without getting all Oprah about it, he admits he was an alcoholic and a lousy father. His business was killing people, and . . . he did it with little muss, fuss or introspection.’’ — Bryan Burrough, author of Public Enemies, in The New York Times Book Review

One of Sheeran’s virtues was his gift as a storyteller; one of his flaws was his tendency to murder, in mobster jargon, ‘to paint houses.’ . . . Although he professed his loyalty to Hoffa – he said on one occasion, ‘I’ll be a Hoffa man ‘til they pat my face with a shovel and steal my cufflinks’ − Sheeran acknowledged that he was the one who killed the Teamsters boss. . . . On July 30, 1975, Hoffa disappeared. Sheeran explains how he did it, in prose reminiscent of the best gangster films.” — Associated Press

I Heard You Paint Houses is the best Mafia book I ever read, and believe me, I read them all. It’s so authentic.” — Steven Van Zandt, featured actor, Silvio Dante,” in The Sopranos and musician in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band

Told with such economy and chilling force as to make The Sopranos suddenly seem overwrought and theatrical.” New York Daily News

Is Sheeran believable? Very . . . and ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’ is a very enjoyable book.” Trial Magazine

A page-turning account of one man’s descent into the mob.” Delaware News Journal

A terrific read.” Kansas City Star


“They Wouldn’t Dare”

I asked my boss, Russell “McGee” Bufalino, to let me call Jimmy at his

cottage by the lake. I was on a peace mission. All I was trying to do at

that particular time was keep this thing from happening to Jimmy.

I reached out for Jimmy on Sunday afternoon, July 27, 1975. Jimmy

was gone by Wednesday, July 30. Sadly, as we say, gone to Australia —

down under. I will miss my friend until the day I join him.

I was at my own apartment in Philly using my own phone when I

made the long-distance call to Jimmy’s cottage at Lake Orion near

Detroit. If I had been in on the thing on Sunday I would have used a pay

phone, not my own phone. You don’t survive as long as I did by making

calls about importantmatters fromyour own phone. I wasn’tmade with

a finger. My father used the real thing to get my mother pregnant.

While I was in my kitchen standing by my rotary wall phone getting

ready to dial the number I knew by heart, I gave some consideration

to just how I was going to approach Jimmy. I learned during my years

of union negotiations that it always was best to review things in your

mind first before you opened your mouth. And besides that, this call

was not going to be an easy one.

When he got out of jail on a presidential pardon by Nixon in 1971,

and he began fighting to reclaim the presidency of the Teamsters,

Jimmy became very hard to talk to. Sometimes you see that with guys

when they first get out. Jimmy became reckless with his tongue — on

the radio, in the papers, on television. Every time he opened his

mouth he said something about how he was going to expose the

mob and get the mob out of the union. He even said he was going to

keep the mob from using the pension fund. I can’t imagine certain

people liked hearing that their golden goose would be killed if he got

back in. All this coming from Jimmy was hypocritical to say the least,

considering Jimmy was the one who brought the so-called mob into

the union and the pension fund in the first place. Jimmy brought me

into the union through Russell. With very good reason I was concerned

for my friend more than a little bit.

I started getting concerned about nine months before this telephone

call that Russell was letting me make. Jimmy had flown out to

Philly to be the featured speaker at Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night

at the Latin Casino. There were 3,000 of my good friends and family,

including the mayor, the district attorney, guys I fought in the war

with, the singer Jerry Vale and the Golddigger Dancers with legs that

didn’t quit, and certain other guests the FBI would call La Cosa

Nostra. Jimmy presented me with a gold watch encircled with diamonds.

Jimmy looked at the guests on the dais and said, “I never realized

you were that strong.” That was a special comment because

Jimmy Hoffa was one of the two greatest men I ever met.

Before they brought the dinner of prime rib, and when we were getting

our pictures taken, some little nobody that Jimmy was in jail

with asked Jimmy for ten grand for a business venture. Jimmy reached

in his pocket and gave him $2,500. That was Jimmy — a soft touch.

Naturally, Russell Bufalino was there. He was the other one of the

two greatest men that I ever met. Jerry Vale sang Russ’s favorite song,

“Spanish Eyes,” for him. Russell was boss of the Bufalino family of

upstate Pennsylvania, and large parts of New York, New Jersey, and

Florida. Being headquartered outside New York City, Russell wasn’t in

the inner circle of New York’s five families, but all the families came to

him for advice on everything. If there was any important matter that

needed taking care of, they gave the job to Russell. He was respected

throughout the country. When Albert Anastasia got shot in the

barber’s chair in New York, they made Russell the acting head of that

family until they could straighten everything out. There’s no way to

getmore respect than Russell got. He was very strong. The public never

heard of him, but the families and the feds knew how strong he was.

Russell presented me with a gold ring that he had made up special

for just three people — himself, his underboss, and me. It had a big

three-dollar gold piece on top surrounded by diamonds. Russ was big

in the jewelry-fencing and cat-burglar world. He was a silent partner

in a number of jewelry stores on Jeweler’s Row in New York City.

The gold watch Jimmy gave me is still on my wrist, and the gold

ring Russell gave me is still on my finger here at the assisted-living

home. On my other hand I’ve got a ring with each of my daughters’


Jimmy and Russell were verymuch alike. They were solidmuscle from

head to toe. They were both short, even for those days. Russ was about

5’8″. Jimmy was down around 5’5″. In those days I used to be 6’4″, and

I had to bend down to them for private talks. They were very smart

from head to toe. They had mental toughness and physical toughness.

But in one important way they were different. Russ was very low-key

and quiet, soft-spoken even when he got mad. Jimmy exploded every

day just to keep his temper in shape, and he loved publicity.

The night before my testimonial dinner, Russ and I had a sit-down

with Jimmy. We sat at a table at Broadway Eddie’s, and Russell

Bufalino told Jimmy Hoffa flat-out he should stop running for union

president. He told him certain people were very happy with Frank

Fitzsimmons, who replaced Jimmy when he went to jail. Nobody at the

table said so, but we all knew these certain people were very happy with

the big and easy loans they could get out of the Teamsters Pension

Fund under the weak-minded Fitz. They got loans under Jimmy when

he was in, and Jimmy got his points under the table, but the loans were

always on Jimmy’s terms. Fitz bent over for these certain people. All

Fitz cared about was drinking and golfing. I don’t have to tell you how

much juice comes out of a billion-dollar pension fund.

Russell said, “What are you running for? You don’t need the


Jimmy said, “It’s not about the money. I’m not letting Fitz have the


After the sit-down, when I was getting ready to take Jimmy back to

theWarwick Hotel, Russ took me aside and said: “Talk to your friend.

Tell him what it is.” In our way of speaking, even though it doesn’t

sound like much, that was as good as a death threat.

At the Warwick Hotel I told Jimmy if he didn’t change his mind

about taking back the union he had better keep some bodies around

him for protection.

“I’m not going that route or they’ll go after my family.”

“Still in all, you don’t want to be out on the street by yourself.”

“Nobody scares Hoffa. I’m going after Fitz, and I’m going to win

this election.”

“You know what this means,” I said. “Russ himself told me to tell

you what it is.”

“They wouldn’t dare,” Jimmy Hoffa growled, his eyes glaring at mine.

All Jimmy did the rest of the night and at breakfast the next

morning was talk a lot of distorted talk. Looking back it could have

been nervous talk, but I never knew Jimmy to show fear. Although one

of the items on the agenda that Russell had spoken to Jimmy about at

the table at Broadway Eddie’s the night before my testimonial dinner

was more than enough to make the bravest man show fear.

And there I was in my kitchen in Philadelphia nine months after

Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night with the phone in my hand and

Jimmy on the other end of the line at his cottage in Lake Orion, and

me hoping this time Jimmy would reconsider taking back the union

while he still had the time.

“My friend and I are driving out for the wedding,” I said.

“I figured you and your friend would attend the wedding,” Jimmy


Jimmy knew “my friend” was Russell and that you didn’t use his

name over the phone. The wedding was Bill Bufalino’s daughter’s

wedding in Detroit. Bill was no relation to Russell, but Russell gave

him permission to say they were cousins. It helped Bill’s career. He

was the Teamsters lawyer in Detroit.

Bill Bufalino had a mansion in Grosse Pointe that had a waterfall in

the basement. There was a little bridge you walked over that separated

one side of the basement from the other. The men had their own side

so they could talk. The women stayed on their side of the waterfall.

Evidently, these were not women who paid attention to the words

when they heard Helen Reddy sing her popular song of the day, “I Am

Woman, Hear Me Roar.”

“I guess you’re not going to the wedding,” I said.

“Jo doesn’t want people staring,” he said. Jimmy didn’t have to

explain. There was talk about an FBI wiretap that was coming out.

Certain parties were on the tape talking about extramarital relations

his wife, Josephine, allegedly had years ago with Tony Cimini, a soldier

in the Detroit outfit.

“Ah, nobody believed that bull, Jimmy. I figured you wouldn’t go

because of this other thing.”

“Fuck them. They think they can scare Hoffa.”

“There’s widespread concern that things are getting out of hand.”

“I got ways to protect myself. I got records put away.”

“Please, Jimmy, even my friend is concerned.”

“How’s your friend doing?” Jimmy laughed. “I’m glad he got that

problem handled last week.”

Jimmy was referring to an extortion trial Russ had just beat in

Buffalo. “Our friend’s doing real good,” I said. “He’s the one gave me

the go-ahead to call you.”

These respected men were both my friends, and they were both

good friends to each other. Russell introduced me to Jimmy in the

first place back in the fifties. At the time I had three daughters to


I had lost my job driving a meat truck for Food Fair, when they

caught me trying to be a partner in their business. I was stealing sides

of beef and chickens and selling them to restaurants. So I started

taking day jobs out of the Teamsters union hall, driving trucks for

companies when their regular driver was out sick or something. I also

taught ballroom dancing, and on Friday and Saturday nights I was a

bouncer at the Nixon Ballroom, a black nightclub.

On the side I handled certain matters for Russ, never for money, but

as a show of respect. I wasn’t a hitman for hire. Some cowboy. You ran

a little errand. You did a favor. You got a little favor back if you ever

needed it.

I had seen On The Waterfront in the movies, and I thought I was at

least as bad as that Marlon Brando. I said to Russ that I wanted to get

into union work. We were at a bar in South Philly. He had arranged

for a call from Jimmy Hoffa in Detroit and put me on the line with

him. The first words Jimmy ever spoke to me were, “I heard you paint

houses.” The paint is the blood that supposedly gets on the wall or

the floor when you shoot somebody. I told Jimmy, “I do my own carpentry

work, too.” That refers to making coffins and means you get

rid of the bodies yourself.

After that conversation Jimmy put me to work for the International,

making more money than I had made on all those other jobs put

together, including the stealing. I got extramoney for expenses. On the

side I handled certain matters for Jimmy the way I did for Russell.

About the Author

Charles Brandt

Born and raised in New York City, Charles Brandt is a former junior high school English teacher, welfare investigator in East Harlem, homicide prosecutor, and Chief Deputy Attorney General of the State of Delaware. In private practice since 1976, Brandt has been president of the Delaware Trial Lawyers Association and the Delaware Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates. He has been named by his peers to both Best Lawyers in America and Best Lawyers in Delaware. He is a frequent speaker on cross-examination and interrogation techniques for reluctant witnesses. Brandt is the author of a novel based on major cases he solved through interrogation, The Right to Remain Silent. He is also the co-author of Joe Pistone’s Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business and of Lin DeVecchio’s We’re Going to Win This Thing: The Shocking Frame-Up of a Mafia Crime Buster.

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