Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Al Capone: Chicago's Most Infamous Mob Boss

Public Enemy #1

George E. Q. Johnson
George E. Q. Johnson
Although Al didn't understand it at the time, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and the subsequent ocean of publicity, some of which glamorized Capone and some of which demanded justice, catalyzed the government forces against him.  After just a few days in office, Herbert Hoover pressured Andrew Mellon, the Secretary of the Treasury, to spearhead the government's battle against Capone.

Mellon commissioned a two-pronged approach:  to get the necessary evidence to prove income tax evasion and to amass enough evidence to prosecute Capone successfully for Prohibition violations.  Once the evidence was collected, the Treasury agents were to work with the U.S. Attorney, George E. Q. Johnson to initiate prosecution of Capone and the key members of his organization.

Eliot Ness Prohibition Agent ID
Eliot Ness Prohibition Agent ID

The man charged with gathering the evidence of Prohibition violations --bootlegging --was Eliot Ness, who began to assemble a team of daring young agents like himself.  The biggest effort was led by Elmer Irey of the IRS Special Intelligence Unit, who redoubled his ongoing efforts shortly after Hoover's mandate.  While there was doubt that Capone could be successfully prosecuted for Prohibition violations in Chicago, regardless of the weight of evidence, Mellon felt sure that with the Sullivan ruling the government could get Capone on tax evasion.

Capone was, at least initially, unaware of the forces put in motion against him and generally did not let concerns about federal agents interfere with business. In mid-May, 1929, Capone went to a conference in Atlantic City  where gangsters of all types from all over the country met to talk about cooperation rather than mutual destruction. 

To keep violence and rivalry to a minimum, they divided up the country into "spheres of influence."   Torrio became head of an executive committee which would arbitrate all disputes and punish renegades.  The conferees had decided that Capone should surrender his Chicago criminal empire to Torrio to divvy up on his own terms.  Capone had no intention of going along with carving up his empire or turning it over to Johnny Torrio.

 

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