Al Capone Biography And Information

Biography of Al Capone, Chicago crime boss during prohibition.

When one thinks of the city of Chicago, Ill. the museums, hospitals, universities and present day inhabitants are seldom thought of. Instead, the organized crime gangs and their notorious "bosses" of some eighty years ago are most often brought to mind. Names like O'Bannon, Malone, and Moran and of course the most notable of all the crime bosses of the roaring twenties, Al Capone.

Contrary to popular belief, Alphonse Capone was not Italian born. His father Gabriele Capone and mother Teresina immigrated from a small village south of Naples, Italy to America in 1894 with their two sons Vincenzo (James) and Raffaele (Ralph). Teresina was pregnant when they immigrated and gave birth to Salvatore (Frank) soon after arriving.

Moving to Brooklyn, Gabriele acquired a job at a local grocery until he was able to open his own barbershop. In 1899 Gabriele and Teresina's fourth son, Alphonse Capone was born on January 17, 1899. Later children were Amadeo (John), Ermino (Mimi), Umberto (Albert), Matthew, Nicholas, Rose and Malfalda.

While the Capones had Italian first names, after Gabriele became an American citizen in 1906 all the children adopted American names and were know by such to the outside world.

After several years working in the grocery, Gabriele was finally able to open his own barbershop at 69 Park Avenue in Brooklyn. It was in this neighborhood Al Capone attended public school until he was expelled for hitting a female teacher at fourteen. He never returned.

It was during this same year Gabriele Capone moved his family to a new home at 21 Garfield Place. It was in this area he would come into contact with his future, crime boss Johnny Torrio.

Johnny Torrio was a "gentleman gangster" with specific ideas and codes of honor concerning his business enterprises. He was famous for being a numbers racketeer but did keep a good income from whores and brothels coming in on the side.

As a youngster, Al Capone earned extra money running errands for Torrio while earning the Boss' trust. Capone was also observing the way to run the business while maintaining an outward show of respectability until Johnny Torrio moved to Chicago.

With Torrio's influence removed, Al Capone fell in with some of the street gangs of the time. First it was the South Brooklyn Rippers and eventually the Five Point Juniors. His crime career at this time was simple vandalism, stealing cigarettes or alcohol and fighting other gangs.

For the most part Al Capone at this time was a dutiful son who went to work to help the family's income. His first real job was in a munitions factory. Later he became a paper cutter.

Eventually though, Al Capone came into contact with Frankie Ioele (Yale) who unlike Torrio, didn't worry about respectability or honor. Instead he built his organization on fear, callousness and physical brutality. He hired Al Capone to be the bartender of his bar, the Harvard Inn when Capone was eighteen. It was from working in this bar Capone earned his nickname of "Scarface."

He reputedly told a female customer, "Honey, you have a nice ass and I mean that as a compliment." Unfortunately her brother was her companion and took exception to the unwanted attention. During the ensuring fight, the brother took out a knife and cut Al Capone three times in the face.

The brother was a friend of Frankie Yale and complained about Capone's behavior. In the end, Capone was forced to apologize for his insult and learn to control his temper.

Having no hard feelings over the incident, Yale taught Capone the fine points of "Protection plans" to local businessmen, extortion and loan sharking.

At nineteen Capone met and fell in love with Mae Coughlin, an Irish girl and they married shortly after their son Albert Francis Capone was born on December 4, 1918. Unknown to his parents, "Sonny" as he was known was infected by congenital syphilis.

Wanting a respectable life for Mae and Sonny, Al Capone moved to Baltimore where he acquired a job as the bookkeeper of a construction firm. The aura of respectability lost its charm when Johnny Torrio contacted Capone in 1921 and offered him a job. At twenty-two, Al Capone became Torrio's main man for managing the many brothels and eventually became his partner.

With his change in finances, Capone bought his family a home at 7244 Prairie Ave in Chicago. While modest, it was large enough to allow his mother and younger brothers and sister to come live as well. Brothers Frank (Salvatore) and Ralph became part of the growing empire. Capone himself was more interested in gambling and taking control of the Hawthorne Race Track but wasn't against making money by other means.

Opening a brothel (The Stockade) in the outskirts of Chicago in a town called Cicero, Capone set brother Ralph up to manage it while Frank became the front man to payoff the politicians and policemen in the area. Frank wouldn't hold the job long though. While walking down a Chicago street, a group of policemen approached him with their weapons drawn. The only known fact concerning the incident was that within moments bullets riddled Frank Capone's body while the police called it self-defense. It was with considerable restraint that Al Capone chose not to begin an all out war against the Chicago Police Department.

Shortly after brother Frank's death, Al Capone left all semblance of respectability behind. A man named Joe Howard had beaten up Capone's best friend Jack Guzik over a loan.

It was because of the "faulty memory" of witnesses that Capone wasn't convicted of killing Howard after being called a "dago pimp."

While only twenty-five, Al Capone became a prominent figure in Chicago's organized crime. He wasn't the only one though.



Dion O'Banion owned a thriving florist shop but was also one of the biggest names in the bootlegging business. Flamboyant but untrustworthy, O'Banion became a thorn in Capone's side. In one instance O'Banion killed a man outside of Capone's Four Deuces gambling joint and the ensuing trial dragged Capone into unwanted attention.

O'Banion also set up Torrio to be arrested by the police. He had promised Torrio he would move to Colorado if Torrio agreed to buy O'Banion's Sieben Brewery. O'Banion took the money and left while the police were waiting to raid the brewery. Torrio went to jail, O'Banion kept the money and the Brewery was shut down permanently.

O'Banion met his end while preparing a floral arrangement in his shop on November 10, 1924. O'Banion was a consummate hand shaker and on that day three known gangsters came in the shop. Thinking they were there to pick up flowers for the funeral of another prominent gangster he went to shake their hands. One of them pulled O'Banion off balance and six shots rang out. While there was a great deal of speculation concerning the triggermen, no one ever went to trial over the murder. It did leave O'Banion's territory wide open for Capone to move in but also made powerful enemies of O'Banion's friends. These friends included Hymie Weiss and Bugs Moran.

Torrio felt a change of climate would be beneficial to his health while Capone simply raised the security level around himself. Over the next two years, Moran and Weiss would fail in over a dozen assassination attempts against Capone.

In 1925 Torrio felt it was safe to return to Chicago only to be the target of a hit as soon as he and his wife returned to town. Walking from his car towards his apartment building, Weiss and Moran opened fire. They shot Torrio in the chest, neck, right arm and groin but miraculously the elderly man survived. The true miracle came about when one of the men (reportedly Moran) held his gun to Torrio's head and pulled the trigger only to hear the click of an empty firing chamber.

Four weeks later Torrio pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine months in jail for the Sieben Brewery raid. During his jail sentence Torrio informed Capone he was planning on leaving Chicago and turning his vast empire over to Al.

Capone's eventual downfall began when the Supreme Court ruled in May 1927 that even bootleggers had to report and pay income tax. They went on to say that while reporting tax on illegal business income was self-incriminating, it wasn't unconstitutional. It became known as the "Sullivan Ruling." The Supreme Court's ruling left Al Capone open to investigation by a special unit of the IRS working under the direction of Elmer Irey.

Not caring about Irey or the Sullivan ruling, Capone continued to run his business out of his $1500 a day suite of rooms at the Metropolitan Hotel. He opened the Cotton Club in Cicero and patronized the jazz musicians of the day. Also purchased a Miami estate at 93 Palm Island.

In 1928 Capone moved his offices to two floors of the Lexington Hotel. He was also having problems with his old time mentor Frankie Yale over the delivery of whiskey shipments. Yale's story told of raids and hijacking while Capone believed Yale was using these stories to raise the price and limit the supply of whiskey.

On July 1, 1928 Frankie Yale was driving his car on Forty-fourth street when another car crowded him off the road. Bullets from revolvers, shotguns and a tommy gun ended the Yale problems for Capone.

Farsighted, Capone saw an end to Prohibition and began to look into other operations. In doing so, he once again made an enemy of Bugs Moran. Capone's plan to murder Moran became history as the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre."

The would-be assassins dressed as policemen and arrived in a stolen police car and lined seven of Moran's men against a brick wall. While these seven were killed, Moran, the main target hadn't even been there. Of course, neither was Al Capone. He had an airtight alibi in Miami but the event drew national attention including that of President Hoover. It was Hoover who pressured Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury to go after Capone.

Mellon's plan was to attack Capone on two fronts. One front was by way of income tax evasion and headed by Elmer Irey, the other by treasury agents gathering evidence for prohibition violations. These treasury agents were headed up by Eliot Ness and would become known as "The Untouchables"

Meanwhile two treasury agents went undercover and became trusted men in Capone's organization. These men would eventually prove to be the key players in Capone's downfall.

They were able to get information to Ness concerning bootlegging shipments, breweries, jury and witness payoffs and such but it was the undercover agent posing as "Graziano" that proved to be the key.

A Capone employee told Graziano that the taxmen had the evidence to take out Capone but they were too stupid to know it. Taking a chance, Graziano pressed for more information. He was told ledgers confiscated by the police years earlier for the Hawthorne Smoke shop had all of Capone's financial transactions for the years 1924-1926. Graziano was even told the name of the bookkeepers that kept the ledgers. They were Leslie Shumway and Fred Reis.

Tracking Shumway down in Miami and Reis in Peoria, Illinois, both men agreed to cooperate if given maximum protection by the government. While the IRS built its case, Eliot Ness was collecting evidence of thousands of prohibition violations against Capone.

On June 5, 1931 the grand jury indicted Capone with twenty-two counts of tax evasion for a sum of over $2,000. A week later indictments were handed down on the evidence Ness had gathered.

If the treasury department won its case, Capone was looking at up to 34 years in jail. He had his lawyers approach U.S. Attorney Johnson in the hopes of making a deal. Capone promised to plead guilty if the treasury department would promise a light sentence of no more than five years.

Both sides found this agreeable but didn't take into account Judge Wilkerson who would be ruling over the case. His statement, "The parties to a criminal case may not stipulate as to the judgment to be entered" came as a surprise to Capone. When it became clear the plea bargain wasn't to be honored, Capone withdrew his guilty plea and his trial was scheduled to begin October 6, 1931.

When Judge Wilkerson received word Capone's people were bribing and threatening potential jurors, the judge told the prosecutors to continue with their case, he would handle the rest.

At the beginning of the trial Capone walked into court sure of the outcome. His assurance disappeared as Judge Wilkerson ordered his jury panel to be sent to another judge's court and the jury panel in there to be brought back to his own.

The jury was sequestered for the night to prevent tampering and in the end Alphonse Capone was sentenced to eleven years, $50,000 in fines and court costs of $30,000.

Serving only six years, five months of his time and rapidly failing in health due to the advanced stages of syphilis, Alphonse Capone died January 25, 1947 at the age of forty-eight.

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