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Tag: Al Capone

Prohibition and the Rise of the American Gangster

As Prohibition commenced in 1920, progressives and temperance activists envisioned an age of moral and social reform. But over the next decade, the “noble experiment” produced crime, violence, and a flourishing illegal liquor trade.

The roots of Prohibition date back to the mid-19th century, when the American Temperance Society and the Women’s Christian Temperance League initiated the “dry” movement. In 1917, Congress passed a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to implement nationwide Prohibition.

After the 18th Amendment was ratified in 1919, Congress followed with the National Prohibition Act. Commonly referred to as the Volstead Act, the legislation outlawed the production, distribution, and transportation of alcohol. Prohibition officially went into effect on January 16, 1920.

But while reformers rejoiced, famous gangsters such as Al Capone capitalized and profited from the illegal alcohol market.

From Los Angeles to Chicago to  New York, organized crime syndicates supplied speakeasies and underground establishments with large quantities of beer and liquor. These complex bootlegging operations used rivers and waterways to smuggle alcohol across state lines. Eventually, other criminal enterprises expanded and diversified from the bootlegging profits.

As organized crime syndicates grew throughout the Prohibition era, territorial disputes often transformed America’s cities into violent battlegrounds. Homicides, burglaries, and assaults consequently increased significantly between 1920 and 1933.

In the face of this crime wave, law enforcement struggled to keep up. Although three Federal agencies were … [ Read all ]

The Taxman Cometh: U.S. v. Alphonse Capone

Al Capone—the quintessential American gangster—headed the nation’s most notorious organized crime syndicate for more than a decade during Prohibition.

Through smuggling, bootlegging, and a variety of other criminal operations, his “Chicago Outfit” was able to dominate America’s illegal liquor trade throughout the 1920s. But did you know that Al Capone was never convicted of violating the National Prohibition Act?

In 1931, Capone was indicted for income tax evasion for 1925-1929. Despite his immense wealth, he had never paid taxes or purchased any assets in his own name.

So when the Internal Revenue Service’s Special Intelligence Unit uncovered cash receipts from a gambling operation linked to Capone, the evidence served as the foundation for a Federal case. The prosecution charged that he owed over $200,000 in unpaid taxes stemming from gambling profits.

Unable to strike a plea bargain with prosecutors, Capone attempted to bribe jury members. The presiding judge, however, responded by quietly changing the jury panel prior to the trial.

On October 18, 1931, Capone was found guilty on five counts of tax evasion. A month later he was sentenced to 11 years in Federal prison, fined $50,000, charged $7,692 for court costs, and ordered to pay his back taxes plus interest.

Following seven and a half years in prison (four and a half spent on Alcatraz), Al Capone was released in 1939. His incarceration … [ Read all ]