Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Al Capone: Chicago's Most Infamous Mob Boss

Ness Infuriates Capone

On another government front, Eliot Ness was becoming increasingly successful at finding and shutting down Capone's brewing business.  He and his Untouchables had impressively documented thousands of Prohibition violations that would be used against Capone if the tax case failed.

Ness wanted very much to humiliate Capone publicly as well as to put him in jail. The murder of his one of his friends was the catalyst to a plan to openly embarrass Capone. From his many successful raids on Capone breweries and other liquor operations, Ness had accumulated some forty-five trucks of various types, most of which were new. The government had contracted for a new storage place for Nesss vehicle collection that would eventually be sold at public auction. Until then, it was necessary to move the trucks to the new garage.

Ness hit on an idea to strike a psychological blow to Al Capone pride, something few intelligent people ever attempted.  Ness had all of the trucks polished to a fine shine. Then he arranged for a group of drivers to operate the convoy of trucks. When everything was ready, Ness made his boldest move.

He called Capones headquarters at the Lexington Hotel and bullied his way into getting Capone himself on the phone.

"Well, Snorkey," Ness called him by the nickname only Capones close friends used," I just wanted to tell you that if you look out your front windows down onto Michigan Avenue at exactly eleven oclock youll see something that should interest you.

"Whats up?" Capone asked, curiosity in his tone.

"Just take a look and youll see," Ness said just before he slammed down the phone.

The motorcade came to the Capones Lexington Hotel headquarters at eleven oclock in the morning. Moving very slowly, it passed a bunch of Capones gangsters milling around outside the hotel. Ness could see the wild gesticulating and confusion on Capones balcony.

This was a big day for Ness and his team. "What we had done this day," he told people later, "was enrage the bloodiest mob in criminal historyWe had hurled the defiance of "The Untouchables" into their teeth; they surely knew by now that we were prepared to fight to the finish."

Ness had certainly succeeded in making Capone angry. Right after the parade, Capone stormed through his suite shrieking and breaking things up. Not only had Ness succeeded in enraging Capone, but, more importantly, he was making a significant dent in Capones business. Millions of dollars of brewing equipment had been seized or destroyed, thousands of gallons of beer and alcohol had been dumped and the largest breweries were closed.

Wiretaps on Capones lieutenants revealed how bad things were getting. The mob had to cut back its graft and payments to the policemen. Beer had to be imported from other areas to supply the speakeasies that used to buy Capones beer. Things got even worse when they raided a gigantic operation that was supplying 20,000 gallons a day.

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