Scarface: The Life of Al Capone

Born Alphonse Gabriel Capone on January 17, 1899, Al Capone was a first-generation American born to two Italian parents who immigrated to the United States only a few years before his birth. He had a rough childhood growing up in Brooklyn, New York, as he never finished his education after being expelled for hitting his teacher in the face. She worked as a barber for some time and then as a bookkeeper she married and even gave birth to a child. However, money was tight, and he often ended up committing crimes, eventually rising through the ranks of the local Five Points gang, which focused mostly on racketeering and saloon running. Meanwhile, as a salon bouncer, Capone made the mistake of catcalling the wrong woman. It turns out that the person accompanying him was his brother, and he did not hesitate to stab Capone in the face with a knife or bottle opener, as accounts differ. Somehow, it disfigured the mobster's cheek so much that he got the nickname Scarface.

When Capone attracted much heat, after becoming a man of interest in the two murders, he was urged to move to Chicago to work under big-time crime boss Johnny Torrio, who was helped to run his local brothel. Someone was needed to do it. However, Capone must have had a lot of fun at his job, and contracted what would later prove to be a debilitating case of syphilis. Meanwhile, Capone found considerable opportunities in the bootlegging business following the ratification of the 18th Amendment, which outlawed alcohol and began an era known as Prohibition. After Torio is shot in an ambush, he hands over the entire operation to Capone, who was only 26 years old at the time.

By his mid-20s, Capone was running the show using violence and intimidation to keep the competition away from his bootlegging and gambling rackets and to obtain incredible amounts of money. Historians estimate the total to be over $100 million, which would be over $1 billion in today's money. Those riches came at the cost of many lives, however, especially during the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, when his dacoits wore fake police uniforms and killed seven people. While he was never convicted, he is also highly suspected of being responsible for at least some of the bombings that rocked Chicago during the 1920s. However, he was better at hiding his murders than he was at hiding his money, and eventually, the I.R.S. Capone's tax return was tapped by the Justice Department to conduct a little investigation. Apparently, he was not paying Uncle Sam all the taxes he owed on his illegal ventures, and he was convicted of several acts of tax fraud and for violating Prohibition in 1932.

Amazingly, for all his loss to the world, Capone only served seven years before being released because of his cognitive decline as a result of syphilis. He lived the remainder of his years in Florida, suffering from a mental condition too low for his fully achieved independence, before dying of heart failure at age 48.

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