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Al Capone, born Alphonse Gabriel Capone, also known by the nickname “Scarface,” was a notorious American gangster and businessman who rose to fame during the Prohibition era in the 1920’s. Born on January 17, 1899 in Brooklyn to Italian immigrant parents, Capone was a bright student but struggled with the strict discipline of the Catholic school. After leaving school at age 14, Capone worked odd jobs before playing semi-professional baseball.
Capone began his criminal career in New York as a member of the Brooklyn Rippers and the Five Points Gang under the influence of his mentor, Johnny Torio. While working as a bartender, Capone was slashed three times across the face, thus earning the nickname “Scarface.” In 1919, Capone moved to Chicago to work for Torio as a bouncer. Capone served as Torio’s right-hand man in the organized crime business until Torio handed control of the organization to Capone upon his retirement in 1925.
At age 26, Capone became the boss of one of the most powerful criminal empires in the country. Capone’s empire was built on bootlegging, gambling, extortion, and he controlled much of the illegal activity in Chicago. Capone was known for his use of brutal enforcement tactics, with rivals often falling victim to violence. Despite his criminal activities, Capone was a media sensation and his antics were often covered in the press. He was known for a lavish lifestyle and his public philanthropy, often donating money to charitable causes and building hospitals in the city.
Capone’s criminal activities eventually caught up to him. He served time in Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary for carrying a concealed weapon. Upon his release, the FBI labeled him “Public Enemy Number One.” Based on his luxurious lifestyle and spending habits, and his inability to prove his income, Capone was indicted by a federal grand jury for tax evasion. Found guilty at trial in 1931, he was sentenced to 11 years in a federal prison. Capone served his sentence at Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary and later at Alcatraz before being released in 1939 due to poor health. After his release from prison, Capone retired to his Florida mansion where he lived until the age of 48.
Capone and his wife, Mae Josephine Coughlin, were married in 1918. Together, they had one son, Albert Francis “Sonny” Capone.