|Courier-Post, Dec. 13, 1988|
Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, a longtime New Jersey labor racketeer and suspect in the 1975 disappearance of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, died December 12, 1988, while in federal custody in California.
Provenzano was moved from the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc, California, to Lompoc District Hospital for treatment of congestive heart failure. He died at the hospital following a heart attack. His remains were transported back to his family in New Jersey for burial.
Breaking with its own recent policy, the Roman Catholic Church permitted a Funeral Mass for the longtime crime figure. A church official explained that Provenzano requested Catholic Last Rites while he was in the hospital, made his Confession and obtained Absolution at that time. Those actions, the official argued, restored him as a member of the church.
At the Provenzano family's request, Father George Rutler was brought in from Manhattan to celebrate the mid-morning December 27 Mass at St. Andrew's Church in Clifton, New Jersey. Less than a mile from Provenzano's longtime home, 47 Lockwood Place in Clifton, St. Andrew's had also been the site of Provenzano's 1961 Catholic wedding ceremony with second-wife Marie-Paul Migneron (they were officially married earlier in a civil ceremony). Father Rutler's funeral homily focused on religious themes and did not discuss the details of Provenzano's life.
"May God give him merciful judgment and forgive all his sins," the priest said. "May he gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven and be happy forever in the presence of the eternal king."
The service was attended by less than one hundred people. Provenzano's widow was conspicuous in the small crowd. She wore a fur coat, walked stiffly and was supported between two men as she entered the church. Provenzano's first-wife, Eunice Butts Provenzano, was not noted at the service.
After a one-hour Mass, Provenzano's bronze-colored casket was loaded into a hearse, which led a procession of black limousines on a dozen-mile journey to Saint Joseph Cemetery in Hackensack. The casket was placed at the family burial plot, where Provenzano's Sicilian immigrant parents had been interred. Just before noon, after the last of the mourners had left, the casket was lowered into the ground.
Provenzano was born May 24, 1917, in New York City, to Rosario, a subway construction laborer, and Giuseppa Dispenza Provenzano. The family home was located at 27-29 Monroe Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Tony Pro attended Public School 114 but did not finish grade school. At age fifteen, he went to work as a driver's helper. He became a truck driver at age eighteen.
About five years later, he moved from Manhattan to Valley Stream, Nassau County, Long Island. He soon married Eunice Butts. During the 1940s, the Anthony Provenzano family grew to include two children - years later, Eunice told authorities that these were children of her cousin and were informally adopted by her and her husband. The family relocated to Huntington Station, Suffolk County, in 1945.
Anthony separated from Eunice about 1950, moving to 70 Catalpa Avenue in Hackensack, New Jersey. She filed for divorce in April 1961, charging desertion, and was awarded a final divorce decree at the end of May. The divorce seemed timed to permit Provenzano's second marriage. The FBI noted that a couple who testified for Eunice in the May 1961 divorce seemed to be the same people who witnessed Tony Pro's application for a marriage license in June 1961.
Records indicate that Provenzano was living with Marie-Paule Migneron in a seven-room home on Clifton's Lockwood Place for several years before their marriage.
He began working as a full-time organizer for Local 560, based in Union City, New Jersey. Around 1956-1957, he began living with Marie-Paule Migneron at 47 Lockwood Place, a seven-room house, in Clifton, New Jersey.
His rise to the position of local president was quickly followed by an arrest for bribery and increase scrutiny from law enforcement. In 1959, he was called to testify before the U.S. Senate's McClellan Committee and pleaded the Fifth Amendment forty-four times. He was indicted in 1961 for taking a $5,000 bribe from a Hoboken trucking company to ensure labor peace. The cases against him were unsuccessful.
Though repeatedly charged with criminal offenses related to his union role, including bribery, extortion and the murder of a rival, he continued to win reelection and to gain power over time. At a Teamsters convention at Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1960, Hoffa named Provenzano as one of 13 vice presidents of the Teamsters International. Provenzano also became leader of regional Teamster Council 73. He was widely considered the second most powerful leader of the Teamsters.
Provenzano was convicted June 11, 1963, of extortion. He was sentenced the following month to seven years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He remained free during his legal appeals, which continued to May 1966. He entered the federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, on May 6.
The conviction legally barred Provenzano from participating in union business for the length of his sentence plus five years. But, during that time, his brother Salvatore became president of Local 560 and Council 73, and his brother Nunzio became secretary-treasurer of Local 560, allowing Tony Pro to maintain control over the region's Teamsters.
Falling out with Hoffa
Provenzano was paroled from Lewisburg in November 1970. He immediately became close with Frank Fitzsimmons, who Hoffa had selected to succeed him as Teamsters International president. Fitzsimmons made Tony Pro's brother Salvatore Provenzano a vice president and general organizer for the International the following year.
At the end of 1971, Hoffa was released from prison through a commutation from President Nixon. The former Teamsters president began to maneuver to regain control of the union. Mending fences with the powerful and well connected Tony Pro was necessary.
When last seen on July 30, 1975, Hoffa was reportedly on his way to a meeting with Provenzano at a restaurant outside of Detroit. Hoffa's wife told authorities that she was aware of threats made by Provenzano against her husband and against their grandchildren.
The investigation of Hoffa's disappearance focused on Provenzano and his aides within Local 560. An informant indicated that Salvatore and Gabriel Briguglio and Thomas and Stephen Andretta, all connected to Local 560, knew what happened to Hoffa. A grand jury in Detroit was unable to resolve the matter.
End of the road
In December of 1975, the five-year ban on Provenzano union activity ended. Salvatore Provenzano resigned as Local 560 president. Nunzio Provenzano moved from secretary-treasurer to president and immediately appointed Tony Pro as the new secretary-treasurer.
Almost immediately, Tony Pro was indicted for conspiring to arrange a financial kickback from a Teamsters pension fund loan. About half a year later, he was charged, along with Salvatore Briguglio and others, with conspiring in the 1961 kidnapping and murder of union rival Anthony "Three-Finger" Castellito. Castellito had been a leader of a dissident faction within the Teamsters local. He vanished on July 5, 1961. Investigators with an Organized Crime Task Force later learned that Castellito had been severely beaten by Provenzano underlings and garroted to death.
Provenzano's career was quickly coming to a close. Two cases for racketeering conspiracy went against him in 1978 and 1979. The first, tried in New York's Southern District, resulted in four-year prison sentence. The second, tried in Newark, New Jersey, federal court, resulted in a twenty-year sentence.
Tony Pro managed to remain free during his legal appeals until late in 1980. His prison terms and the final stage of his life began on November 18, 1980.
- "Anthony Provenzano," Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 100-12-5957, birth May 23, 1917, death December 1988.
- "Anthony Provenzano, mobster, suspect in Hoffa disappearance," Camden NJ Courier-Post, Dec. 13, 1988, p. 18.
- "Anthony Provenzano, New Jersey crime figure," Morristown NJ Daily Record, Dec. 13, 1988, p. 13.
- "Tony Pro's name appears on tape," Passaic NJ Herald-News, Jan. 7, 1970, p. 2.
- California Death Index, 100-12-9557, death Dec. 12, 1988.
- Donnelly, Frank H., "Anthony Provenzano aka Tony Pro," FBI Report, file no. 92-7195-2, NARA no. 124-10221-10186, Dec. 20, 1963.
- Edelman, Susan, "100 attend 'low-keyed' funeral for 'Tony Pro,'" Hackensack NJ Record, Dec. 18, 1988, p. 1.
- Kelly, Mike, "The legacy of Tony Pro," Hackensack NJ Record, Dec. 13, 1988, p. B1.
- New York City Birth Index, certificate no. 26086, May 24, 1917.
- Pienciak, Richard T., "Tony Pro indicted" 'I'm just a truck driver,'" Bridgewater NJ Courier-News, Dec. 11, 1975, p. 1.
- Social Security Death Index, 100-12-5957, death December 1988.
- United States Census of 1930, New York State, New York County, Assembly District 1, Enumeration District 31-22.
- United States Census of 1940, New York State, New York County, Enumeration District 31-74.
- Windrem, Robert, "Two sides of 'Tony Pro,'" New Brunswick NJ Home News, June 24, 1976, p. 1.
- Yost, Pete, "Stephen Andretta faces grand jury in Detroit," Bridgewater NJ Courier-News, Dec. 11, 1975, p. 1.