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This Week In Illinois History: The End Of Al Capone (October 17, 1931)

Al Capone at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in 1934.
FBI Case Records on Al Capone
Al Capone at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in 1934.

On October 17, 1931, Al Capone was convicted of five counts of income tax evasion. The notorious Chicago gangster had been charged with evading taxes from 1924 to 1929. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, fined $50,000, and ordered to pay $215,000 in back taxes. This marked the end of 32-year-old Capone’s reign, and it had nothing to do with the murder and mayhem he’d perpetrated over seven years as Chicago’s top gangster.

Al Capone was born in 1899 and in his teens became a small-time gangster in Brooklyn, New York. He moved to Chicago in 1919 and began running gambling and prostitution rackets. Then Prohibition started, making alcohol the most lucrative underworld enterprise. Several gangs fought for control of Chicago’s bootlegging business, but by 1925, the 26-year-old Capone was head of Chicago organized crime.

He was flamboyant, always appearing in fancy suits and jewelry and smoking the finest cigars. He courted the press and mocked law enforcement, even after the St. Valentines Day Massacre of 1929, which garnered national attention.

But in 1927, the Supreme Court had ruled that illegally earned income was still subject to federal income tax. The IRS used Capone’s extravagant lifestyle to prove that he earned far more than reported on his tax returns.

Capone served only seven years of his sentence, partly because he was suffering from syphilis, which allegedly gave him brain damage. He died at his estate in Palm Island, Florida, in 1947 at age 48.