Authorities from Oakland County obtained a search warrant Tuesday and were looking for evidence in Hampton Township, prosecutor David Gorcyca said. Authorities say a convicted murderer who helped police find the body of another long-vanished man earlier this year now claims Hoffa is buried in the yard.
The search warrant was executed Wednesday morning, but authorities ran into complications "because of an above-ground pool over the dig site," Gorcyca said. They were still digging and draining the pool in the early afternoon.
"We're skeptical, but feel we need to check it out," Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told the Detroit Free Press from the home's back yard.
Hoffa, 62, vanished on the afternoon of July 30, 1975, from a parking lot in a Detroit suburb in Oakland County. Hampton Township is located a few miles northeast of Bay City, near Michigan's Thumb.
Authorities said the informant, an inmate named Richard Powell who is imprisoned for killing his landlady in 1982, led a team to the spot. He lived in the home in the 1970s.
Bay County Undersheriff Joel Luethjohann said Powell told investigators in March that he buried the body of a missing Bay City man in the crawl space beneath the same home.
Acting on that information, state police investigators found the body of Robert A. Woods, who had been missing for nearly 30 years.
Powell had long claimed a role in the Hoffa case, but authorities had not taken him seriously.
He told The Bay City Times in a 1984 prison interview that in the 1970s he was involved with gangsters in an auto theft ring and was assigned to drive a motor home containing a body to northern Michigan. He said someone else supposedly came to dispose of the body, which was wrapped in a rug.
Powell changed the story earlier this year, telling officers that Hoffa's body was buried at his former home, where the above-ground pool now sits. Authorities decided to follow up on the lead in part because Powell's claim about Woods' body had proven true.
At the time he vanished, Hoffa was on his way to a meeting with Anthony Provenzano, a New Jersey Teamsters boss, and Anthony Giacalone, a Detroit Mafia captain.
Investigators believe Provenzano and Giacalone had Hoffa killed to prevent him from regaining the union presidency after he served time in federal prison for jury tampering.
Hoffa took charge of the Teamsters in 1957. He earned the loyalty of his members with contracts that improved their standard of living dramatically. It was under Hoffa that the Teamsters won their first national trucking contract.
He also earned the enmity of Robert F. Kennedy, who accused him of corruption and mob connections, first as counsel to a congressional committee investigating the unions, then as attorney general in his brother's Cabinet.
In 1967, Hoffa went to jail, sentenced to 13 years for jury tampering and fraud, but he refused to give up the Teamsters presidency. After he quit the job in 1971, then-President Nixon pardoned him, and he began agitating to get his job back.
Last August, Gorcyca had said no state criminal charges would be filed and only a deathbed confession or cooperation of a witness would solve the mystery.
Hoffa's son James Jr. is now the Teamsters president. Messages left with him and his sister, Barbara Crancer, of suburban St. Louis, were not immediately returned.