The Conviction of Scarface

On October 17, 1931, Alphonse Capone, legendary mob boss of the Chicago area, was convicted of five counts of federal tax evasion. Capone was a career gangster who, according to the New York Times, went from “the lowly position of a $75-a-week punk for Johnny Torrio, head of Chicago’s gangsterdom and master panderer, to undisputed control of all the illegal sources of revenue in the city and its suburbs.” This career involved violation of prohibition laws, murder, prostitution rings, bribery, and trafficking of narcotics. In the end, Capone was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.

Al Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York to Italian immigrants. At the age of 14, Capone left school and joined the South Brooklyn Rippers, a teen gang. By 16, he was a member of the Five Points Gang and fell under the tutelage of legendary mob boss, Johnny Torrio. It was around this time while working at a mob-run brothel, Capone got into an altercation with another man and ended up with a knife wound across his cheek. This is what gave him his infamous nickname: Scarface.

In 1919, following a series of violent events, Capone and his family escaped to Chicago where Torrio was working in the Colosimo mob, which ran brothels around the city. The following year, Prohibition was passed, and a new business opportunity opened itself up to the mob. When Colosimo refused to participate in bootlegging, Torrio had him killed. Torrio and Capone teamed up to create the Chicago Outfit, running an incredibly profitable bootlegging business. After Torrio’s retirement, Capone found himself in charge. He expanded the Outfit’s prostitution, bootlegging, and gambling businesses, and through massive bloodshed, expanded the gang’s territory. Throughout it all, Capone avoided jail by paying off city officials and intimidating witnesses.

Capone’s notoriety peaked after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, in which seven members of a rival gang were brutally shot outside a Lincoln Park garage. It was around this time that the FBI started investigating Capone. The IRS eventually found evidence that Capone had not paid his federal income taxes for the years between 1924 and 1929. In 1931, he was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in federal prison and fined $50,000. Capone served two years in Atlanta, but when it became clear that he was still able to run the Outfit from prison, he was moved to Alcatraz in 1934. Capone was released in 1939 with dementia, a symptom of his advanced syphilis. He died in Florida in 1947 at the age of 48. Upon the occasion of his death, the New York Times wrote, “Though ‘Scarface Al,’ once Public Enemy No. 1, died in bed in the midst of luxury, his career ended in mental and physical horror. Among the funeral wreaths his old gangster associates will doubtless shower on his bier there should be at least one inscribed, ‘The wages of sin is death.’”

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