One of the most famous American gangsters, Al “Scarface” Capone, gained notoriety as the leader of the Chicago mafia during the Prohibition era. Before he was convicted for tax evasion in 1931, he had a personal fortune estimated at $100 million and was responsible for countless murders. Alphonse Garbriel 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 at a candy store. Then Capone took a position as a bouncer in Frankie Yale's 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 nickname “Scarface”. Capone met his wife, Mae, in 1918 while at a dance. She later gave birth to their son, Albert Francis “Sonny” Capone, on December 4, 1918. The couple was married less than a month later. Capone eventually 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 Johnny Torrio, an old partner and mentor of Yale. Capone was soon helping to manage Torrio's bootlegging business. He quickly gained the respect of Torrio and became his number two man. When Torrio was nearly killed in 1925, he decided to step down and hand over his legacy to Capone. In the next five years, Capone expanded his industry of crime by eliminating his rivals. He controlled speakeasies, nightclubs, brothels, gambling houses, and much more. One of Capone’s biggest profits was bootleg whiskey. He teamed up with his old friend Frankie Yale in New York to smuggle huge quantities into Chicago. The bootlegging ring made Capone rich, and it provided the city of Chicago with alcohol during the prohibition era. Capone kept out of the public eye as much as possible, but when his friend and fellow gang member Jack Guzik was assaulted, Capone tracked down the attacker, and killed him in a bar. Due to lack of evidence, Capone was never convicted, but the publicity surrounding the case gave him a notoriety that he had never had before. When Torrio handed over his business to Capone, he moved his headquarters from the Four Deuces club to the luxurious Metropole Hotel and the Lexington Hotel. His new status prompted him to begin a crusade to become more visible. He often socialized with the press and was spotted at places like the opera. Capone was very different from other mobsters who actively avoided the public eye. He was always nicely dressed, and set out to be viewed as a respectable businessman and a pillar of the community. Capone was well respected in Chicago until an incident called the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred. On Valentine’s Day, 1929, it is believed that Capone ordered a massacre of seven men in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. The massacre was thought to be the Outfit's effort to strike back at Bugs Moran's North Side gang. He spent a short time at Eastern State Penitentiary for the suspected murders. Though no one was ever convicted for the crime, photos of the victims shocked the public and damaged Capone’s reputation.
1929 was the same year that Bureau of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness began an investigation of Capone and his business, attempting to get a conviction for Prohibition violations. Another agent working with Ness suggested prosecuting Capone for income tax evasions, because they had more evidence to show to the court. In 1931, Capone was indicted for income tax evasion and several violations of the Volstead Act. When Capone tried to bribe and threaten the jury, Ness’ team, The Untouchables, found out and switched the jurors out with one from another case, successfully stopping Capone’s attempt to get himself out of trouble. Capone was sentenced to eleven years, the longest sentence ever given for income tax evasion. He spent the majority of his sentence in the famous Alcatraz prison. Capone was paroled on November 16, 1939, and returned to his home in Palm Island, FL. He never returned to organized crime, spending the rest of his life in Palm Island with his family. Capone died on January 25, 1947 from a heart attack at the age of 48. Alphonse Capone was possibly the largest and most feared mafia boss America has ever seen. He made his mark on the world through organized crime. As one of the most famous American gangsters of the 20th century, Capone has been the subject of numerous articles, books, and films. Capone's personality and character have been used in fiction as a model for crime lords and criminal masterminds ever since his death. He was an original, one-of-a-kind man who set trends, broke laws, and changed a generation.