A Look At Russell Bufalino And Frank Sheeran's Relationship

In 1957, Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran had been working for crime boss Russell Bufalino for two years, but just as a driver. He was unaware of the exact nature of Bufalino's position at the head of a criminal organization running everything from drugs to prostitution to gambling to loan sharking in Pennsylvania and western New York. As he told his lawyer Charles Brandt in an interview used in the 2004 book "I Heard You Paint Houses," he would drive Bufalino around and "wait for him in the car while he did a little business in somebody's house or in a bar or restaurant,"  but never guessed what that "business" might have been. (Sheeran apparently wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed.)

But he finally put two and two together after a meeting of over 100 Mafiosos organized by Bufalino was raided by the police. After that, the nature of Russell Bufalino and Frank Sheeran's relationship changed. Or, that's how Sheeran told it. He claimed that Bufalino gave him quite the promotion. Let's take a look into what Sheeran said happened after that.

Sheeran claimed to have been a hitman for Bufalino

After the raided mobster party known as the Apalachin Meeting, Sicilian-born Bufalino was facing deportation back to Italy, but he got a little help from his newest hired muscle. In "I Heard You Paint Houses," Sheeran said that he helped Bufalino evade deportation by getting him a crooked lawyer who bribed Italian officials to get the government of that country to refuse to accept the mobster. "America had to keep him," Sheeran said.

Bufalino apparently appreciated the favor and changed Sheeran's job description from driver to hitman, or, in their mobster parlance, house painter. He also connected the Irishman with a particular employer that same year. According to All That Is Interesting, Bufalino introduced him to labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, and Sheeran said he killed dozens of people for the president of the Teamsters Union. However, as these things tend to go, a couple decades later, when the Mafia no longer needed Hoffa, Bufalino reportedly ordered Sheeran to take the union leader out. Sheeran claims to have whacked Hoffa, but no hard evidence has ever been found to corroborate the claim. So the truth about Russell Bufalino and Frank Sheeran's relationship may never be known for sure.