Al Capone is perhaps the best-known gangster of all time and by far the most powerful mob boss of his era. His mob dominated the Chicago area from 1925 to 1931, when he was imprisoned for tax evasion. This was the only crime the courts could prove against him. He went to jail at Alcatraz for eight years until he became very ill with syphilis and died from the disease in 1947.
Al was born somewhere in Brooklyn on January 17, 1899 but nobody really knows for sure.
Capone grew up in a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn N. Y. He attended school through the sixth grade. He received his nickname Scarface during these years as the result of a knife attack from the brother of a girl he insulted which left three scares. Soon after, Capone joined the James Street gang, which was headed by a man named Johnny Torrio. In 1920, Torrio asked Capone to go and work with his uncle who controlled the city’s largest prostitution and gambling ring at the time.
Later that year the Prohibition act came into effect and Capone became interested in selling illegal whiskey and other alcoholic beverages. Torrio’s uncle did not agree with this idea, but in the next month he was shot and killed. Capone and Torrio took over his diseased uncle’s business and added illegal alcohol. After Torrio was gunned down and almost killed by a rival gang, he retired from the underworld, which left Capone to run the empire alone.
At the age of 26, Capone was managing more than 1,000 employees, with a payroll of more than 0,000 a week.
During this time Capone became so rich that he gave out free food to the unemployed, this also made him look very good to the people of Chicago. By 1927, Capone was making $105,000,000 a year from various illegal operations (the average law-abiding US citizen was bringing home just $2,400 in pay a year). Capone was a marked man by this point, and after attempts at his life by rival gangs, he struck back with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on February 14, 1929. It might have been the greatest violent act that had ever occurred during the Chicago gang era, as seven members of Bugsy Moran’s mob were killed with machine guns by Capone’s mob posing as police officers. The massacre was credited to Capone’s mob, although Capone himself was in Florida and no one was ever charged with the murders. By this time Capone’s days as a free man were numbered, because an IRS investigator, Elmer L. Irey, had built a case against him strong enough to convict him on tax evasion charges.
On the first day of the income tax trial, which began on October 7, 1930 Capone and his Lawyers were confident because they had previewed the list of jurors and knew the names and addresses of all of them. At the last minute, the Judge on the case was changed from Judge Edwards to Judge Wilkerson, who came to the courtroom with a new set of jurors. To reduce risk of juror tampering, the Judge kept the trial as short as possible and quarantined the jury at night. During the trial, the prosecutors documented Capone’s huge spending and evidence of enormous income. The prosecution also included proof that Capone was aware of his obligation to pay federal taxes but failed to do so. After nearly nine hours of court, the jury found Capone guilty of three felonies and two misdemeanors, relating to his failure to pay and file his income taxes between the years 1925 and 1929. Capone simply said to this “The income tax is a lot of bunk. The government can’t collect legal taxes from illegal money.” Capone believed to be responsible for at least 300 murders and ended up just being charged for tax evasion. Judge Wilkerson sentenced Capone to serve eleven years in prison and pay $80,000 in court fees and $210,000 in back taxes. The penalty was much more severe than Capone had ever expected.
During this time the Chicago Crime Commission (CCC) issued its first Public Enemies List which had 28 names on it, and Alphonso Capone’s name was at the top of the list. Known as Public Enemy Number 1, he had become the symbol of the prohibition era. Capone was sentenced to Atlanta’s Federal prison for 11 years. In 1934 he was transferred to Alcatraz prison in San Francisco. He was paroled in 1939. Following his release, he never returned to Chicago. He had become mentally incapable to return to the “mob life.” He spent the rest of his life in his Palm Island mansion with his wife and immediate family, far away from anybody else. In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist both concluded that Al Capone had the mental ability of a twelve-year-old child. He died due to a stroke and pneumonia on January 25, 1947 because of his ongoing struggle with syphilis.