The most well-known Mafia family in the United States was the Chicago family of Al “Scarface” Capone. The Mafia is one of America’s most notorious illegal organized crime groups. The roots of the Chicago Mafia spring from the world’s most well-known Mafia group, the Sicilian Mafia. Law enforcement agencies first reported the existence of an American Mafia in 1891 in New Orleans, but it is believed they were actively operating for many years before that. In 1920, when Prohibition came into being, it offered Mafia members a grand opportunity to expand their operations and to make huge profits by selling bootlegged alcohol to millions of people who apparently didn’t want to give up their liquor.
By the end of the 1920s, Al Capone “was said to be ruling the entire bootlegging business from Canada to Florida.” Capone got his start in the Chicago area from feared underworld figure Johnny Torrio, an Italian immigrant who most likely was connected to the Sicilian mob. In 1920, when Prohibition was still young. Torrio was inspired to take advantage of what he saw as an opportunity to make big money selling outlawed liquor. He as well had high hopes of controlling that business in Chicago. He just needed to get rid of the competition. He believed that a well-disciplined gang of men good with guns and fists could take care of rival bootleggers by intimidating them and by persuading speakeasy proprietors that life might not be comfortable for them unless they bought Torrio liquor. But Torrio needed someone to lead his men.
Torrio picked Alphonse Capone, a member of New York’s notorious Five Points ring and the protégé of a friend of his, to do that job, offering Capone half of the profits of the bootlegging trade and a good income if he would come to Chicago and take care of the competition. By 1925, Capone had seven hundred men at his disposal and controlled all 10,000 speakeasies in Chicago. ” Capone controlled speakeasies, bookie joints, gambling houses, brothels, horse and racetracks, nightclubs, distilleries, and breweries with a reported income of $100,000,000 a year. Capone controlled the Mafia for about eleven years, from 1920 to 1931.
Capone gained more and more finesse in the management of politics and politicians as the profits from beer and “alky-cooking” piled up. He had installed his own man as Chicago mayor, had his agents in gambling resorts and in each of the one hundred and sixty-one bars, and had established his own personal headquarters in the Hawthorne Hotel. Capone controlled politicians and police, putting many of them in power. During Chicago city elections in 1924, he brought in two hundred gunmen to make sure that his candidates won.
As is the way with all gangs, control didn’t come without bloodshed. Capone’s men used sawed-off shotguns and Thompson submachine guns. There were many ways of getting rid of a rival gang member, such as renting an apartment across from the rival’s residence and waiting for him to come out, then gunning him down, or using a car to run him off onto the curb and shoot him. Capone’s tactics worked well. ” One by one, Capone’s rivals died violent deaths.” In 1929, seven of George “Bugs” Moran’s North Side gang were killed by more than 150 bullets by Capone’s men. It was Capone’s most notorious killing, and it is known as “the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.”
“Although Capone ordered dozens of deaths and even killed with his own hands, he often treated people fairly and generously.” He was the first to open soup kitchens after the 1929 stock market crash, and he ordered merchants to give clothes and food to the needy at his expense.”
The government was unable to catch Capone because of all his connections and all the politicians he had put in power on his behalf. He also had an extensive spy network. It wasn’t until 1931 that Capone was caught and indicted for tax evasion. There were no charges for all of his other crimes. He was caught because a cash receipts ledger showing profits from a gambling house was found and contained his name. His sentence was ten years in federal prison and one year in county jail. He was sent to Atlanta, the toughest federal prison, where he took control and obtained special privileges. He furnished his cell with a mirror, a typewriter, rugs, and a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. When it became known that Capone had taken over the Atlanta prison, he was sent to Alcatraz. He wasn’t able to take control there, and had no knowledge of the outside world. While serving his time in Alcatraz, signs of syphilitic dementia became evident, and he spent the rest of his time in the prison hospital.
After he completed his sentence, Capone returned to his Palm Island home, where he lived a quiet, relaxed life. “His mind and body continued to deteriorate so that he could no longer run the outfit.” He died in 1947 at the age of 48 from a cardiac arrest.
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