In this installment, the spotlight is on Alphonse "Al" Capone, a notorious gangster and another prominent Alcatraz inmate. Surprisingly, the gang leader was arrested not for his mobster activities. Read on to find out what actually brought him to "The Rock!"
Speak of gangsters, thugs, and criminals and you will surely hear the name “Al Capone.” One of the best known figures in the dark realm of crime and infamy, American gangster, bootlegger, and racketeer Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone started his “career” in organized crime early. At 14, Capone was expelled from school after hitting a lady teacher in the face. He decided to drop out of school altogether and earn himself some money by taking odd jobs in Brooklyn. Soon, the young Capone started joining small-time gangs such as the Bowery Boys and Junior Forty Thieves.
After this, he advanced to more powerful groups such as the Brooklyn Rippers and the infamous Five Points Gang. It was during this period that he met Johnny Torrio, an Italian-American mobster who served as a mentor to the future gang leader. Also, this was the time where Capone got into a fight that scarred the left side of his face, earning him the moniker “Scarface.” He hid this scarred side whenever he was photographed.
Capone reached the turning point of his gangster career when he left New York for Chicago, after he was recruited by Johnny Torrio. There, he became a member of the Chicago Outfit, a crime syndicate associated with the American Mafia. Capone became involved with various illegal activities and atrocities such as bootlegging (smuggling of alcoholic beverages), bribery, operation of illicit businesses, and murder.
In 1925, Torrio turned over the Chicago Outfit operations to Capone after being severely injured in an assassination attempt by rival gang Northside Mob. The Chicago Outfit became one of the most notorious and powerful gangs under Capone’s leadership. He was able to earn vast sums that allowed him to bribe officials and intimidate witnesses, essentially rendering him immune to criminal charges. That was, until the Bureau of Prohibition began probing into the businesses of the wealthy kingpin.
Investigations revealed that Capone committed income tax violations, which the government considered a satisfactory ground for conviction. Bribery did not save him from arrest at the time, as his attempts to do so were discovered by the Bureau’s agent. In 1931, he was charged with tax evasion and Prohibition law violations, and was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment. He was detained in Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary in 1932, but after obtaining special privileges, he was moved to Lincoln Heights Jail.
Capone was transferred to Alcatraz in 1934, and was subjected to tight security. His communications with colleagues were also cut off, causing major decline in his earnings and influence as a gang leader. During his jail time in Alcatraz, he had an altercation with an inmate, who stabbed him with a pair of shears. Although he recovered from the minor wound, his health started to deteriorate when his neurosyphilis (contracted in his younger days) progressed. In the final year of his incarceration, the once dangerous crime boss became nothing more than a confused and disoriented man crippled by illness.
After his term in Alcatraz ended in January 1939, Capone was transferred to Terminal Island’s Federal Correctional Institution in California to serve a year-long term for contempt of court, but was paroled several months later. He returned to his Palm Island residence after a brief hospital confinement. Capone died in early 1947 from cardiac arrest.
For more mug shots and stories on the most prominent gangsters and criminals, don’t forget to check the rest of Portraits of Infamy installments!