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Tony 'Big Tuna' Accardo turned to a life of crime in his early teens, and quickly rose to infamy as a soldier in Al Capone's Chicago Crime Syndicate.
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Organized crime boss. Born Antonino Leonardo Accardo in Chicago, Illinois, on April 28, 1906. He grew up in an Italian neighborhood on the West Side, the second of six children born to Francesco Accardo, an immigrant shoemaker, and his wife, Maria, both of whom emigrated from Sicily, Italy, during the late 1890s.
At the age of five, Tony began grade school at the James Otis Elementary School, not far from where he lived. But by 1920, when Accardo was 14 years old, school no longer held any fascination for the young boy. His parents, Francesco and Maria, were not impressed with his progress, either. As was a common practice at the time, Accardo's family filed a delayed birth record affidavit stating that Tony was born in 1904, which made him the legal age to drop out of school and begin work. His first job was as a delivery boy for a florist, and he later worked as a grocery clerk. According to law-enforcement authorities, those two jobs probably constituted his only legitimate employment.
Nearly two years later, on March 22nd, 1922, police arrested him for a motor vehicle violation. This started what would be the first of a long list of criminal activity for Accardo. In 1923, Accardo was fined $200 for disorderly conduct at a local pool hall where prominent mob figures were known to hang out. He was then convicted of disorderly conduct two more times in the next year. It was then that his violent antics caught the eye of notorious mobster Al Capone.
Around this same time, Accardo joined the Circus Cafe Gang, named for the group's local hang out, The Circus Cafe. Other members of the gang included Claude Maddox, "Tough Tony" Capezio and Vincenzo De Mora, later known as "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn. The group of criminals became allied with Al "Scarface" Capone, and his Chicago Crime Syndicate.
While still in his teens, Tony used his legitimate job as a truck driver and delivery boy to tote illegal moonshine for Capone from family-run stills in Little Sicily to speakeasies around Chicago. With this humble introduction to crime, Accardo progressed to muggings, pick pocketing, burglary, car theft, armed robbery and assault. In the next several years, Accardo was in trouble with the authorities more than eight times, yet he never once spent a night in jail.
Accardo's close friend and fellow Circus Gang member, Vincenzo DeMora, was soon promoted to Capone's personal gang, where he was employed as a hitman. As Capone's syndicate grew, he enlisted yet more soldiers, and turned to McGurn for new recruits. McGurn suggested Tony Accardo who, through his quick thinking and loyalty, soon earned a promotion to bodyguard for Capone.
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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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