Al Capone was possibly the largest and most feared mofia boss
America has ever seen. This 1920s gangster made his mark on the world
through organized crime during the Prohibition era. He is solely attributed
with Chicagos reputation as a lawless city.
Alphonsus Capone was born on January 17, 1899 in Brooklyn, New
York. As a child he was a member of the Brooklyn Rippers and the Forty
Thieves Juniors kid gangs. Capone quit school at age fourteen in the sixth
grade. He worked a few odd jobs in Manhattan in a bowling alley and a
candy store. Then Capone took a position as a bouncer in Frankie Yales
Brooklyn dive and the Harvard Inn. While working at the Inn he was
attacked by a man and received the facial scars that would give him the
Capone met Anne Mae Coughlin at a dance in 1918. Later that year
on December 4, 1918 she gave birth to their son, Albert Sonny Francis.
Less than a month later they were married.
Capone became a member of the Five Points gang in Manhattan.
During this time he hospitalized a rival gang member in a fight. Feeling the
heat from the conflicting group, he moved his family to Chicago. He began to
work for John Torrio, an old partner and mentor of Yale. Capone was soon
helping to manage Torrios bootlegging business. He quickly gained the
respect of Torrio and became his number two man. After being shot by an
opposing gang member, Torrio left Chicago. Capone became boss of the
outfit. Torrios men respected Capone and trusted his business decisions.
They referred to Capone as the big man. In the next five years he
expanded his industry of crime. Capone controlled speakeasies, nightclubs,
brothels, gambling houses, and much more. His bootlegging provided the city
of Chicago with alcohol during prohibition. Capone had a reported income of
$100,000,000 a year.
Capone had an intricate spy network throughout Chicago. Crooked
police men let him prepare for liquor raids and some of his other men made
him aware of assassination plots. He would use hotels as his headquarters
and front businesses for a hideout. Capone was always good at successfully
knocking off his enemies when they became too powerful. Although he killed
men himself, it was much safer for his henchmen to do his dirty work.
Capones men would rent an apartment across the street from their target and
gun him down when he stepped outside. These operations were quick and
precise, and Capone always had an alibi.
On St. Valentines Day, 1929, four of Capones cohorts entered the
liquor headquarters of George Bugs Moran. Two of these men were
dressed as police. Morans men, thinking this was a police raid, dropped
their guns and put their hands against a wall. Using two Thompson machine
guns and two shotguns, Capones men killed six gang members and an
unlucky friend. More than 150 rounds were fired into the gangsters. Moran,
who was most likely the real target, was across the street. Capone, as
always, had an alibi; he was in Florida.
Eliot Ness was assigned to shut down Capones illegal industry. Ness
and his men found ways to beat Capones spy network. They received the
sobriquet Untouchables, because they never took a bribe. The
Untouchables were made up of young, brave officers fresh out of police
training school. Ness used these officers because he didnt know which of
the men already on the police force were moles for Capone. Soon they were
shutting down breweries and intercepting bootlegged products regularly.
Frank Wilson of the IRS, who was assigned to focus on Capone, found a
record of Capones income. Wilson also discovered that Capone never filed
an income tax return or made a declaration of income. Capone owed
$215,080.48 in taxes. Now the government had sufficient evidence to indict
him of the felony of income tax evasion and other various assessment
Capone thought he could plea bargain with the judge, but The
Honorable Judge James A. Wilkerson made no deals. Although Capone tried
to bribe the jury, Wilkerson changed the jury panel at the last minute.
Capone was convicted of only five of the twenty-three charges brought
against him. Capone was sentenced to eleven years in prison. He was first
sent to Atlanta federal prison where he quickly took over. A typewriter,
mirror, and desk furnished the luxury cell from which he ran his outfit on the
outside. After word of Capones easy life in prison got out, he was moved to
Alcatraz. Here he would receive no special treatment.
While incarcerated he showed signs of syphilitic dementia. After his
release he stayed in a hospital for a short period of time. His mind and body
deteriorated to the point where he could no longer run the outfit. Capone
later had an apoplectic stroke which was presumably unrelated to the
syphilitic dementia. Although Capone appeared to be recovering from the
stroke, the weakened man fell victim to pneumonia. On January 25, 1947,
Alphonsus Capone died of a cardiac arrest. He was laid to rest in the Mount
Olivet Cemetery in Chicago between his father and brother.
Al Capone.World Book Encyclopedia.1983 Edition.
Al Capone.Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia.1999 Edition.
Bardsley, MarilynCrime Library: Al Capone.
History Files: Al Capone.
Alphonsus Capone, aka Scarface
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