Born April 26, 1906, in Chicago, Illinois, to a shoemaker and his wife, Antonino Leonardo Accardo dropped out of grade school and quickly dedicated himself to a life of organized crime. Accardo came to infamy as a hitman for Al Capone who allegedly participated in the Valentine's Day Massacre. Never convicted of his crimes, Accardo denied any ties to the mob until his death in 1992.
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.
Working for 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.
Shortly after his membership into Capone's group, Accardo was indicated in the 1929 St. Valentine's Day massacre. On February 14 of that year, Accardo and four other gangsters disguised themselves as policemen. Then, they allegedly raided the SMC Cartage Company garage on North Clark Street, killing six of seven rival gang members inside. The seventh died later in hospital. Although law enforcement officials could never tie Accardo to the murders, he was seen in the lobby of Capone's headquarters, the Lexington Hotel on Michigan Avenue, with a machine gun.
Accardo was allegedly involved in other violent murders, including the brutal killing of two traitors to the Outfit that he beat to death with a baseball bat, earning him the nickname "Joe Batters." He was also tied to a hit on a former associate of Capone's named Frankie Yale, who was gunned down in Brooklyn, New York, by machine-gun fire.
In 1931, shortly after Capone was jailed for income tax evasion, Accardo was reputedly given his own gang, who helped control the Capone family's gambling operations in Florida and Chicago. That same year, Accardo made No.7 on the crime commission's Public Enemy list.
In 1943, Accardo's other close friend, Paul "the Waiter" Ricca, allegedly assumed control of the entire Capone crime family, and appointed Accardo as underboss. Watching other bosses go to jail over racketeering and extortion, Accardo encouraged Ricca to pull the organization away from these methods of income. Instead, he moved the outfit into slot and vending machines, counterfeit cigarettes, illegal wire services, and global narcotics smuggling. When Las Vegas expanded, Accardo made sure the casinos used only his slot machines and that bookmakers used his wire service to supply racing information to other bookies. His business decisions made the Chicago Syndicate millions in profits.
Accardo allegedly took over as mob chief when Ricca retired in 1968, but he would always deny it, saying that he was never involved with the mob. Federal wiretaps and other sources of intelligence, however, revealed that Accardo was deeply tied to the Chicago Syndicate.
Investigations and Death
After Accardo's retirement, IRS agents began to probe deeply into his lavish income and its potential sources. He was indicted in 1960 of tax evasion, and was subsequently convicted, sentenced to six years in prison, and fined $15,000. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago later overturned the conviction, however, citing prejudicial media publicity that occurred during Accardo's trial.
Accardo was also a three-time target of the U.S. Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations into the mob, but the boss invoked the Fifth Amendment guarantee more than 172 times, preventing self-incrimination. At his last appearance before the committee in 1984, he denied any role in the Chicago mob. "I have no control over anybody," Accardo testified. He did acknowledge his friendships with a number of high-profile organized-crime figures in Chicago, but said he had "never been a boss."
Before his death, Accardo divided his time between Palm Springs and an estate in the Chicago suburb of Barrington. He died May 27, 1992, of heart and lung disease, making him one of only a few mobsters who died of natural causes. Accardo was entombed in the mausoleum at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in the suburb of Hillside in Chicago, Illinois.
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