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Boardwalk Empire Fact or Fiction: The Downfall of Al Capone

al capone time magazine1 226x300 Boardwalk Empire Fact or Fiction: The Downfall of Al CaponeThe IRS, Elliot Ness, the Untouchables and Al Capone

By Matt Goldstein

Despite the legend of Elliot Ness and the Untouchables, most of the charges that the famed government agents brought against Capone barely stuck.  The book and movie entitled the “Untouchables” are actually greatly exaggerated.  The men deserving the credit for finally putting Capone behind bars are the IRS.  After the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the President of the United States and the federal government went after Capone with a vengeance and rightfully so. 

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was perhaps the most egregious and violent gangland hit in the history of modern crime.  Al Capone’s men disguised themselves as police and entered rival Bugs Moran’s warehouse headquarters.  The faux policemen told seven members of the North Side Gang to line up against the wall and promptly executed them.        

al capone 1024 300x168 Boardwalk Empire Fact or Fiction: The Downfall of Al CaponeThe gangland murders were completely outrageous, even for the unprecedented violence of the 1920’s.  Capone was arrested in Philadelphia on weapons charges and did some brief time in the Eastern State penitentiary but that wasn’t the type of sentence the government was looking for.  After Capone was on the cover of Time Magazine in 1930, it’s speculated that Herbert Hoover was incensed.    

The IRS and Frank J. Wilson found a financial ledger related to the gang containing overwhelming evidence of tax evasion.  The government actually had the ledger for years but never really understood the significance of what they held in their possession.  Wilson and Prosecutor E.Q. Johnson prepared the tax evasion case against Al Capone and got a conviction. 

Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison and served 8, the majority of which were spent in Alcatraz.  While in Alcatraz, Capone was stripped of any contact with the outside world.  Paroled in 1939, Capone’s grip on organized crime was significantly if not completely diminished. 

Capone was suffering severe symptoms from syphilis which took a brutal toll on his mental and physical capabilities.  Capone spent many of his 10 last years’ mentally deficient and physically incapable.  Al Capone died from a heart in 1947 after suffering a stroke and contracting pneumonia.    


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