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Al Capone

(1899—1947) American gangster

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US gangster who built up a notoriously successful criminal empire in Chicago during the 1920s.

Capone was born in Naples but grew up in Brooklyn, New York. A member of the infamous Five Points gang, his special talents came to the attention of Chicago vice king John Torrio, whom he joined in 1919. Capone, employed as bodyguard to the leading Mafioso James Colosimo, was known as ‘Scarface’ because of a scar on his left cheek – the legacy of a gangland brawl.

Prohibition had opened up vast new opportunities for Chicago criminals and Capone took full advantage of them, controlling illicit stills, organizing liquor distribution, and bribing police and politicians. In 1924, Torrio was badly wounded in a gangland attack and Capone took over as head of Torrio's organization. He ruthlessly extended his ‘business’, buying off or eliminating competition from rival Chicago gangs. His earnings from liquor, prostitution, gambling, extortion, and other rackets rocketed to an estimated 30 million dollars per year. But gang warfare in the city intensified, and on St Valentine's Day, 1929, members of Capone's gang lined up five rival mobsters and gunned them down. A doctor and a reporter also died. Capone himself, staying at his Miami estate, was never implicated. In 1931, however, he was found guilty of nonpayment of taxes and sentenced to jail. He was released in 1939, suffering from general paralysis as a result of advanced syphilis. He spent his last years in Florida, slowly deteriorating, and was buried in Chicago.

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