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A child from an Italian immigrant family, Al Capone, also known as "Scarface," rose to infamy as the leader of the Chicago mafia during the Prohibition era.
Al Capone - Taking Him Out (4:57)
Al Capone - Rise to Power (2:59)
Al Capone - Random Facts (2:00)
Al Capone - Sentenced (0:35)
Al Capone was a famous outlaw and leader of the Mob in Chicago. It took Eliot Ness and the secret six of Chicago to take down Al Capone on tax evasion.
Al Capone rose to power with a deadly combination of raw brutality and brainpower. "Scarface" wanted to be loved, but wasn't afraid to murder anyone that crossed him.
Al Capone is best known as the Prohibition-era leader of organized crime in Chicago, however, there's more than meets the eye to this criminal mastermind.
Deadly gangster Al Capone was sentenced to jail for tax evasion in 1931.
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One of the most famous American gangsters, Al Capone, also known as "Scarface," rose to infamy as the leader of the Chicago mafia during the Prohibition era. Before being sent to Alcatraz Prison in 1931 from a tax evasion conviction, he had amassed a personal fortune estimated at $100 million and was responsible for countless murders.
"I got nothing against the honest cop on the beat. You just have them transferred someplace where they can't do you any harm. But don't ever talk to me about the honor of police captains or judges. If they couldn't be bought they wouldn't have the job."
"They've hung everything on me except the Chicago fire."
"Sure, and some of our best judges use my stuff."
[His response after being asked whether he was a bootlegger.]
"If the United States government thinks it can clean up Chicago by sending me to jail, well, it's all right with me. I guess maybe I owe the government this stretch in jail, anyway."
"Today I got a letter from a woman in England. Even over there I'm known as a gorilla. She offered to pay my passage to London if I'd kill some neighbors she's been having a quarrel with."
"Nobody's on the legit. Your brother or your father gets in a jam. What do you do? Do you sit back and let him go over the road without trying to help him? You'd be a yellow dog if you did. Nobody's really on the legit when it comes down to cases."
"I thought that you folks liked tourists. I have a lot of money to spend that I made in Chicago. Whoever heard of anybody being run out of Los Angeles that had money?"
"I've lost a million and a half on the horses and dice in the last two years. And the funny part is, I still like 'em, and if someone handed me another million I'd put it right in the nose of some horse that looked good to me."
"Public service is my motto. Ninety percent of the people of Cook County drink and gamble and my offense has been to furnish them with those amusements. My booze has been good and my games on the square."
"Al I ever did was sell beer and whiskey to our best people. All I did was to supply a demand that was pretty popular."
Many New York gangsters in the early 20th Century came from impoverished backgrounds, but this was not the case for the legendary Al Capone. Far from being a poor immigrant from Italy who turned to crime to make a living, Capone was from a respectable, professional family. His father, Gabriele, was one of thousands of Italians who arrived in New York in 1894. He was thirty years old, educated and from Naples, where he had earned a living as a barber. His wife Teresina (Teresa) was pregnant and already bringing up two sons: 2-year-old son Vincenzo and infant son Raffaele. The family moved to a poor Brooklyn tenement where Alphonse Capone was born on January 17, 1899.
The young Capone's home was far from salubrious. He lived in a squalid tenement, little more than a slum, near the Navy Yard. It was a tough place given over to the vices sought by sailor characters that frequented the surrounding bars. The family was a regular, law abiding, albeit noisy Italian-American clan and there were few indications that the young Al Capone would venture into a world of crime and become public enemy number one. Certainly the family's move to a more ethnically mixed area of the city exposed the young Capone to wider cultural influences, no doubt equipping him with the means to run a notorious criminal empire.
But it was Capone's schooling, both inadequate and brutal at a Catholic institution beset with violence that marred the impressionable young man. Despite having been a promising student, he was expelled at the age of 14 for hitting a female teacher, and never went back.
It was then that Capone met the gangster Johnny Torrio which would prove the greatest influence on the would-be gangland boss. Torrio taught Capone the importance of maintaining a respectable front, while running a racketeering business. The slightly built Torrio represented a new dawn in criminal enterprise, transforming a violently crude culture into a corporate empire. Capone joined Johnny Torrio's James Street Boys gang, rising eventually to the Five Points Gang. In a youthful scrape in a brothel-saloon, a young hoodlum slashed Capone with a knife or razor across his left cheek, prompting the later nickname "Scarface."
Torrio moved from New York to Chicago in 1909 to help run the giant brothel business there and, in 1919, sent for Capone. It was either Capone or Frankie Yale who allegedly assassinated Torrio's boss, Big Jim Colosimo, in 1920, making way for Torrio's rule. As Prohibition began, new bootlegging operations opened up and drew in immense wealth. In 1925 Torrio retired, and Capone became crime czar of Chicago, running gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging rackets and expanding his territories by the gunning down of rivals and rival gangs.
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Bootleggers, smugglers, drug dealers, hit men—all these occupations are the provenance of mobsters, who operate in ethnic, family and business networks. Mobsters' real life crimes, and Hollywood's fascination with them, has earned them a special place in the American imagination. From Al Capone's Chicago crime ring to Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas racket, these mobsters have made their names notorious from coast to coast.
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