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Eliot Ness was a law enforcement official in Chicago, best known for his efforts to enforce Prohibition as head of "The Untouchables."
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Eliot Ness was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 19, 1903. Ness joined the Bureau of Prohibition in 1927, assembling a team of Prohibition enforcement personnel known as "The Untouchables" to combat the activities of gangster Al Capone. Ness's career in law enforcement ended in 1944. Following a stint in business and a run for the Cleveland mayorship, Ness sank into debt. He died on May 7, 1957, in Coudersport, Pennsylvania.
Organized crime fighter Eliot Ness was born on April 19, 1903, in Chicago, Illinois. Ness stands as the man most often recognized for destroying the multimillion-dollar breweries operated by Al Capone. Also responsible, in part, for Capone's arrest and conviction of tax evasion, Ness was instrumental in ceasing the power Capone had over the city of Chicago.
Ness was also responsible for turning around Cleveland, Ohio, in the mid-1930s, when the city was overcome with crime and corruption. Weeding out 200 crooked police officers and bringing fifteen other officials to trial for criminal behavior, Ness set many precedents. One such milestone was Ness's efforts to correct Cleveland's traffic problems, establishing a separate court in which all traffic cases were heard.
Eliot Ness attended the University of Chicago at 18 years of age majoring in commerce, law, and political science. He graduated in the top third of his class in 1925 and was hired as an investigator for the Retail Credit Company. He moved on to the Chicago branch of the U.S. Treasury Department in 1927 where he became an agent. Ness was transferred to the Justice Department in 1928 to work with the Prohibition Bureau, responsible for cleaning up the practice of bootlegging. During the 1920s, bootlegging grew into a multi-million dollar business for Chicago's gangsters.
Working in Chicago's Justice Department, Ness received an assignment to serve with a special unit designed to bring down notorious mobster Alphonse Capone. The Italian gangster's reputation had even reached Washington, D.C., and President Herbert Hoover was furious upon hearing reports of the rich gangster breaking the law with his tax evasion and bootlegging practices. Heading the task force assigned to the Capone investigation, Ness and nine other agents successfully seized and halted operations of breweries run by Capone, one of Ness's most recognized achievements. Capone was eventually sentenced to 11 years in prison.
After the special force assigned to Capone was dissolved, Ness was chosen as the chief investigator of the Chicago Prohibition Bureau until the Prohibition era ended. From there, he moved to Cincinnati's Justice Department where he was responsible for locating and destroying moonshine operations in the hills and mountains of Ohio, Kentucky, and parts of Tennessee. After several months, Ness landed a new job in December of 1935 as the investigator in charge of the Treasury Department's Alcoholic Tax Unit in northern Ohio. At age 32, he was the youngest in Cleveland history to claim that title.
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