Today in History: Al Capone heads to prison

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'This Day in History': 10/17/1931 - Al Capone Sentenced


Love him or hate him, Al Capone is a legend. The infamous mobster remains a household name more than half a century after his death.

On this day 84 years ago, the gangster was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion. His prison term marked the beginning of the end for Capone and his crime syndicate, which reigned supreme over the 1920s and 1930s.

Born in 1899 Brooklyn, New York to an immigrant family, Alphonse Gabriel Capone was destined for a life of trouble-making. Capone joined his first gang after being expelled from school at age 14. There, he earned his nickname "Scarface" after a fight left him with a sliced cheek.

After packing up and heading to Chicago in 1920, Capone found himself in the company of crime boss Johnny Torrio. Capone soon was helping Torrio run his crime empire, the Chicago Outfit. Illegal enterprises run by the gang included alcohol smuggling, gambling and prostitution. The Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, outlawed alcohol and provided a lucrative business opportunity for gangsters.

Upon Torrio's retirement in 1925, the reigns to the Chicago Outfit were passed onto Capone, who had become known for his cunning mind and brutal behavior. Capone profited heavily from bootlegging, raking in millions from his illegal activities.

Capone and his team were always on a mission to be at the top of the crime game and were constantly wiping out the competition, in any way possible. Capone solidified his spot as the head honcho of all gangs in the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929. There, Capone's mob machine-gunned seven members of a rival gang by posing as police. The FBI called the event "the culminating violence of the Chicago gang era."

See photos of the legendary mobster:
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Al Capone
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Today in History: Al Capone heads to prison
TO GO WITH STORY AL CAPONE LEGADO ** FILE ** Chicago mobster Al Capone is seen at a football game in Chicago on Jan. 19, 1931. Sixty years after Capone's death, the world's most famous gangster still draws a crowd in Chicago and visitors from all over the world come to search for anything Capone, who died Jan. 25, 1947. (AP Photo/File)
Photograph of Alphonse Gabriel 'Al' Capone (1899-1947). Infamous American gangster who attained fame during the Prohibition era in America. Dated 1945. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1900: Al Capone Fingerprints (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1932: The king of gangsters Al Capone, Photograph, March 5th 1932 (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images) [Der Gangsterk?nig Al Capone, Photographie, 3,5,1932]
(GERMANY OUT) 1899 - 1947, Gangster USA (Photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images)
circa 1930: Italian-American gangster Al Capone (1899 - 1947) with US Marshal Laubenheimer. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Photograph of the American gangster Al CAPONE on his yacht between 1925 and 1930. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) US gangster bosser Al Capone and his attorney Teitelbaum. 1931 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
American gangster Al Capone ('Scarface') (1899 - 1947) poses for a portrait, showing off the scar that earned him his nickname, circa 1920s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH STORY AL CAPONE LEGADO ** file ** Chicago crime boss Al Capone, center, in the custody of U.S. Marshals, leaves the courtroom of Federal Judge James H. Wilkerson in Chicago on Oct. 24, 1931, during his tax evasion trial. While Chicago officials shun any association with the famous Chicago gangster, visitors still flock to the city searching for anything to do with Capone, who died 60 years ago on Jan. 25, 1947. (AP Photo/File)
Surrounded by bodyguards, Al Capone, aka Scarface (R), smiles as Chicago Cub's player Gabby Hartnett (L) signs an autograph for Capone's 12-year-old son Albert (Sonny) Capone, during a baseball match, in 1930. At right behind Capone is Phil D'Andrea, Capone's bodyguard and constant companion. America's best known gangster Al Capone died from a heart attack at home 25 January 1947, after spending 8 years in jail. (Photo credit should read OFF/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1926: Gangster Al Capone and an unidentified man, likely bail bondsman Isaac Roderick, sit together in discussion in Chicago, 1926. From the Chicago Daily News collection. (Photo by Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)
circa 1925: Mugshot of American gangster Al Capone (1899 - 1947) smiling in a jacket and tie, Miami, Florida. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Al Capone and attorney William F. Waugh, Chicago, Illinois, 1929. (Photo by Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)
Al Capone (1899 - 1947) signing Uncle Sam's $50,000 bail bond in the Federal Building, Chicago. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 22: Ganster Alphonse 'Al' Capone poses for a mugshot on his arrival at the Federal Penitentiary at Alcatraz on August 22, 1934 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Al Capone, hiding handcuffs under his hat, is leaving the Atlanta Court after the hearing of his request for release,, November 1932,, United States,, National archives. Washington, . (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)
TO GO WITH STORY AL CAPONE LEGADO ** FILE ** The casket containing the body of Chicago mobster Al Capone is carried to its final resting place at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago on Feb. 4, 1947. While Chicago officials shun any association with the famous Chicago gangster, visitors still flock to the city searching for anything to do with Capone, who died 60 years ago on Jan. 25. (AP Photo/File)
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By 1930, Capone was gracing the top of the FBI's Most Wanted list. However, Capone had always evaded jail time by a series of manipulative tactics that included intimidating witnesses and bribing city officials. That was until 1931 when federal agent Elliot Ness finally nailed the mobster.

Ness and his team of officers known as "The Untouchables" were one of many Capone's enemies. The government agents had been breaking up Capone's bootlegging businesses for a while, but were never able to make the charges stick. However, Ness began to think outside the box and was able to nail the notorious mobster with tax-evasion charges in 1931.

Capone began his 11 year prison sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, but was transferred to maximum security Alcatraz prison after accusations swirled that he was manipulating the system and getting preferential treatment. Capone was released in 1939, due to good behavior, having spent the past year suffering from syphilis in a hospital.

Al Capone lived out the rest of his life with failing health problems that also included gonorrhea before dying in 1947 at his Palm Island, Florida home. He was 48 years old.

See photos of Capone's crazy "gangster" mansion:
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Al Capone's 'Gangster Mansion'
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Today in History: Al Capone heads to prison
Al Capone's grandniece Deidre Marie Capone, 72, toured the mobster's former mansion on Palm Island. The home is for sale for $10 million. She learned to swim in the pool as a seven-year-old child. (Chuck Fadely/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
Al Capone's grandniece Deidre Marie Capone, 72, toured the mobster's former mansion on Palm Island. The home is for sale for $10 million. She learned to swim in the pool as a seven-year-old child. (Chuck Fadely/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
Spiral stairs are featured in the pool house at Al Capone's Palm Island villa. Capone's grandniece Deidre Marie Capone, 72, toured the mobster's former mansion on Palm Island. The home is for sale for $10 million. She learned to swim in the pool as a seven-year-old child. (Chuck Fadely/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
A downstairs bathroom in Al Capone's mansion still has the faux gold faucets, as seen September 7, 2012. Capone's grandniece Deidre Marie Capone, 72, toured the mobster's former mansion on Palm Island. The home is for sale for $10 million. She learned to swim in the pool as a seven-year-old child. (Chuck Fadely/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
This is an aerial view of the home of gangster Al Capone in Miami Beach, Fla., seen Oct. 24, 1931. (AP Photo)
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